I’ve never knowingly met Lisa or Pann, but I’m assuming they are great people. I get this feeling from the air of caution I received after I went to eat there. Friends who have been regularly curious to know what I thought; some asking me to be nice, one suggesting I don’t write about it if it isn’t entirely positive. After having dinner there I received a message presumably from Lisa or Pann thanking me for my support. They really must be lovely.
They’ve moved from a little cafe in the Jewellery Quarter to The Pig and Tail around the corner. It’s quite nice in there; bright blue and well lit, the chairs are comfy and the drinks arrive briskly. The food menu veers all over South East Asia, and we order dishes notionally from Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan.
First pointer; take the seaweed crisps over the prawn crackers. Seaweed glued to what looks like filo pastry and deep fried, it’s salty and umami, it’s possibly the greatest beer snack ever invented. And should you find yourself having beers here order the spiral curry puffs – a pasty to you – that are huge generous things and a bargain to boot at £3.50 for two. There are your beer snacks sorted. You’re welcome.
The rest is, in all honesty, a mixed bag. Our table enjoys the subtle sweetness of the pandan leaf-wrapped chicken, and quite liked the simplicity of the deep fried chicken wings. A bao is a disaster, flaccid and flat, and the braised pork inside is a wobble of fat and tasteless meat. Whilst the pandan chicken comes across as interesting and different, the bao feels like it’s been crowbarred into place because they think it needs to be here. They should stick to what they know best.
And that’s the same with the mains. Take the nasi goreng and you’ll leave happy; good fried rice with a nice amount of spice, chicken, a fried egg too pale to be free range, pickles, and an excellent sambal. It’s filling and another bargain at £8.80. A sambal chicken is similar but some how feels less spicy. A friend had a bowl of noodles in a dark and gloopy sauce that she says tastes of little. I try it. It tastes of little.
So how do you score such a meal? With great difficulty. Go for a beer and have the pasty and the seaweed crisps, or the pandan chicken and nasi goreng as a larger meal and you’ll have a great time. Veer outside of that and well, you’re on your own. But you should go. It’s clear that Lisa and Pann are beloved in the area and I’m fully behind supporting that, so frankly who cares if it never blew me away.