Saturday, 20 December 2008
Hare & Tortoise (first review), 11-13 The Brunswick, BrunswickSquare, London, WC1 1AF
Strange name? Check.
Long queues? Check.
Location within a student housing development? Check.
We’ve found ourselves a Chinese fast-food style restaurant. Technically speaking, it’s not really a fast-food restaurant. However, the establishment doesn’t quite encourage long, chat-filled dinners either because it relies on volume of business, and you’re volume, so keep your volume down, they keep their volume up.
When dining here, I suggest this itinerary:
Queue up - 30 mins or more depending on when you’re there
Sit down – where you’re asked to – 1 min
Choose from menu - 20 seconds (menu isn’t that large)
Wait for food while eyeing up other people’s meals – 15 mins
Eat your meal – 5 mins
But yet, if there are consistently long queues here, they must be doing something people like, you reckon? I reckon.
The food is so cheap, so nice, and so much. You care about service? Best go to Nando’s then.
I’ve been to this restaurant many, many time and I like it many, many much. The 2 favourites here (according to the waitress), and according to me are the Penang Prawn Noodles and the Curry Laksa.
Penang Prawn Mee £6.25
For those of you wanting a bit more description, Penang Prawn Noodles is a Malaysian dish. Penang is an island in Malaysia, also known as the Pearl of the Orient. I’m not sure who else calls it this aside from the Tourism Ministry, but I suppose the phrase has been said enough times for me to know it. As the name says, there are prawns in this dish, primarily used in making the soup stock. The soup itself tastes prawny and spicy, and is used as a base for vermicelli noodles, garnished with prawns, and some greens.
The main ingredient which makes this dish either a superstar or an extra is the chilli dipping sauce that comes with it, called the sambal belacan (pronounced ‘chan’) No, not the WHOLE word, just the last bit of the word). You take a little bit of the sauce, take a spoonful of the soup, mix that together (on the spoon perhaps), add some noodles and smoosh it goes.
Curry Laksa £5.95
The curry laksa is a soupy version of curry, with noodles. Not so much rogan josh, more, potato and chicken curry. The version at Hare & Tortoise is the nicest I’ve had in England, and that’s saying alot.
It could also say that I’ve not had too many curry laksas.
The soup is coconuty, spicy, and infused with the taste of the chicken, prawns and squid in the dish.
I kinda jumped straight to the main meals there, but we had some starters too. When I’m in a restaurant, the number of items I order is correlated to the price of the item. In Hare & Tortoise, the mains are reasonably priced, ranging from £4.95 to £7.95. The starters though, are slightly less value-for-moolah. The cheapest item is edamame at £2.60, while the most expensive item is prawns and vegetable tempura at £5. This makes the main dishes very orderable, and the starters, not so much.
Soft-shell crabs, deep-fried at £3.20 each. That sounds quite pricey, but one crab is quite large, probably enough to be shared by two. The batter was tasty and the crabs were very juicy even when fried. I put some into the curry soup and that was mm mmm yum.
Salmon sashimi, 7 pieces for £5.80. This isn’t a Japanese restaurant, so if the sashimi isn’t swimming to you, don’t call the waiter over to complain. Each slice was thick, which made it nice to chew on, but not immensely tasty. Waiter, this fish isn’t swimming.
This is what the menu called ‘spicy wing sticks’, 4 for £3.80. I’m not sure where the stick went during dinner, but the it wasn’t on the plate.
I’ve been here many times now and find the food to be consistent, as consistent as the queues for this restaurant so if you’re intending to try it out, it’d be best to go around 7-ish if on a weekend.