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Although Newcastle has its own wonderful China Town, quite a lot of the places in it serve up unidentifiable meat in gross, gloopy shmuck that has a really unnaturally sticky shine to it. So, finding an authentic and delicious Asian is quite an achievement. Finding one that’s also got a BYOB policy is the best news ever. You get to eat great food and keep costs down by getting merry on cheap booze that you bring yourself. What more can you want in life, eh?
So with a bottle of wine in arm, Jade and I walked down to Chilli Padi, a new Malaysian ‘bistro and Asian kitchen’ on Leazes Lane. It’s a pretty uninspiring place in terms of appearance; it looks more like someone put a couple of tables inside your local takeaway than the kind of place that’s going to serve up some superior grub. (It does do takeaway too, which is fantastic news.) Not actually in China Town, but down a dingy alley between St. James’ Park and Eldon Square, it sits next to the leery neon sign of Madison’s Bar and Lounge. But, no bother, because the food inside makes up for its basic aesthetics.
This being the first meal I had eaten since having flu for a week, and because we decided we’d have to try lots of things so that I could write about them, Jade and I ordered enough food for about four people. The menu is so extensive though that we barely scraped the surface of it, so there’s plenty left for future visits. Inside, many of the other customers were asian, which is always a good sign for the food ahead. It lived up to the premise.
What came first sounded very bizarre on the menu, but got my vote for being the best bit of the meal. It was a dish called Salad You Tiaw, described as ‘stuffed prawns in Chinese doughnuts topped with homemade salad sauce’. What?! Prawns, doughnuts, and salad sauce?! Sounds ‘orrible, no? I don’t know how, but no. So unbelievably tasty, in fact. Whole prawns, with a perfect amount of bite to them, were encased in super light, crispy-on-the-outside pastry and drizzled with, yep, salad sauce. It was somehow the perfect complement – do not ask me how, but all I can say is it worked and it worked wonderfully. Slightly sweet, slightly sour – nom.
Then more prawns, salt and chilli ones. Deep fried king prawns tossed in salt, chilli and spices, served on ground chillies and garlic flakes. For £5.50, it was a super generous serving that tasted as good as it looked.
Next up some gyozas, which also came with an unexpected sauce – vinegar, rather than soy. Again, it somehow worked magically, and the gyozas were steamed then fried to perfection.
The only slightly disappointing part of the meal were the spring rolls, which were nothing to write home about, with only a small amount of filling in them.
The last two dishes salvaged the spring roll error though – beef flank rendang and chicken satay skewers.
The rendang had huge chunks of flaky beef flank simmering in a creamy, spicy coconut sauce, and the satay skewers were huge and moist with a delightfully textured satay sauce on the side.
And then, mingled in the middle of the ‘snack’ section, we notice the most amazing surprise. ‘French Toast – Hong Kong style french toast filled with peanut butter and fried in egg batter till golden brown. Topped with butter and caramel syrup.’ For £3.20! It winked at us. We ordered it. It was so unecessary, but so good. I’ve no idea how it crept onto the menu, but I’m very glad it’s there.
(Pic of very happy Jade.)
Most main dishes were around £8, and the sharing ‘snacks’ (not at all snack-like in size) were around £4-5. You could grab a bottle of booze from the Tesco across the road, and have a fabulous meal there for under a tenner easily.
We spent £18 each, but ate enough for about four people. A normal meal would be half that. It took a half hour walk home, a half hour lie down on the sofa, and another half hour of pretending to be having fun when actually feeling like I’d eaten enough for a week, before Jade and I were able to recover from how much we ate.
Don’t do that, it makes you feel terrible, but do go and order a normal amount at Chilli Padi. Enjoy.
P.S. Ignore the ‘Western’ section on the menu, it’s for pansies.