While there’s nothing exotic about East/West’s location, a messy shopping centre on the edge of Chinatown, it could hardly feel any more Asian. The neighbouring stalls selling cutesy toys and kitschy accessories set the scene, but the authentic Indonesian cooking steals the show. There’s no menu as such, just a choice of the four or five dishes picked for that day. And at this price – a tenner will comfortably feed two people – it really is a steal.
In a kitchen tucked behind the kind of wooden pushcart used by street food vendors in Jakarta, the convivial owner prepares a faithful version of bakso, a Javanese soup of spongy meatballs in a clear, flavoursome broth. Other dishes are prepared off-site and heated upon order, but there’s no doubting their freshness and authenticity. Nasi padang combines coconut rice with several items including rendang (tender, flaky beef simmered for six hours in coconut milk), sayur lodeh (a spicy vegetable stew), batagor (fried fish dumplings) and several varieties of sambal (chilli sauce). If the spice is overbearing, a dessert of glutinous black rice in coconut cream makes a cool finish. Be prepared to wait at peak times – there are only three tables.