The Hare And Tortoise, Brunswick Centre, WC1.
Where do you go for comfort food? That quick pick-me-up, that stuff your face feeling. A meal that you know will always be of the same quality and will always fill you up and make you feel better afterwards. I go to the Hare and Tortoise (amusingly renamed The Hairy Tortoise by acquaintances of mine), and I eat their Malaysian Chicken Curry and Rice. Fifteen minutes later – the time it takes for them to ladle a bowl full of the soupy curry, fill a place of nice sticky, nutty rice out and fanny around pretending they have cooked it – I make an absolute mess eating it.
The presentation is simple. Bowl of curry, plate of rice – a reversal of many oriental eateries. The soup is thin, with big chunks of on the bone chicken and a few potatoes (never enough potatoes for my liking). They do give you a spoon, but this is primarily used for spooning your curry on to the rice. At which point the sticky rice absorbs the thin juice and you take your chopsticks and start shovelling. Occasionally you pause for a piece of chicken, trying to fillet it with the chopsticks (an impossible task). Later the fingers get involved, or you try and work out how much of the bone you can happily crunch in your mouth. Last night I introduced the place to two friends, who all ate as I did. Exactly. Copying my style (which for all I know is the completely wrong way of eating it). The table was left with the odd puddle of the soup after an overzealous bit of pouring, but the waitress seemed rather buoyed up by this.
I probably eat this meal every other week these days, and long gone are the days when I would eat anything else in there. The rest of the cuisine isn’t a million miles away from Wagamama’s – though I have friends who swears by their Char Siu Duck (she won’t eat anything else there) or the Zhi Zhi Chicken (ditto). I have had Malaysian Chicken Curry elsewhere, and it has never tasted this good, but then this might be as authentic as Chicken Tikka Masala. I don’t care. This is not fine dining, it is pure self indulgence, and in the concrete canyon of the Brunswick Centre is a little piece of contentment for me. Slurp away.