What looks like ten-years’ worth (and counting) of melted candle wax on the floor just inside the doorway is a strange quirk of an otherwise large and elegant room, though low ceilings and a paucity of lighting can make the place seem quite dark. Emchai is an established restaurant, with Malay and Chinese dishes to the fore and a long-standing local reputation, but was surprisingly empty on a Saturday lunchtime.
Starters (averaging £6) and mains (£7) differ very little in cost, though from our recent experience it seems that starters are better value. Beef in rendang curry was tender, as if slow-cooked, but the brown slick of sauce lacked depth, tasting mainly of soy and desiccated coconut. Kung po chicken – part of a cheap weekend lunch deal – was unremarkable.
The food could have been from any average Chinese takeaway in London, were it not for the starters: crisp battered prawns with a nice wallop of wasabi, and a small plate of moreish soft-shell crab – both beautifully presented and executed. Service was gracious and welcoming.