The restaurant: Zheng, 4 Sydney St, Chelsea, London SW3 6PP
I’ve been making a mental list of foods you shouldn’t have delivered. Dumplings, steamed buns, burgers and sourdough pizzas have all arrived past the optimal eating time or below the optimal eating temperature. Salt and pepper squid arrived unforgivably soggy a few weeks back; the transit had compromised the crunch. Faith and delight were restored when I delved into a piled up plate of the crispy, spiced, spring onion-smattered stuff at Chelsea’s Zheng. With a mental note against Deliveroo squid, we relaxed into an evening of Malaysian cuisine.
Zheng Chelsea opened in 2017, following the success of its sister restaurant in Oxford in 2015. It’s restaurant, much to the delight of other critics, is named after a Chinese admiral, who at the age of 10 was taken prisoner and made into a eunuch, and later went on to discover America before Christopher Columbus, allegedly. Despite its Chinese namesake, the food is mostly Malaysian. The place is upmarket: it’s minutes away from South Kensington tube, but far enough that you’ve escaped the tourists and chain restaurants by the station. Inside is dark and slick with lime, velvet banquettes and black, dark wood furnishings. Wednesday is quiet with a steady flow of customers throughout the evening.
If you can’t decide what to order, the chef can surprise you with a meal tailored to your food preferences. Alternatively, as we did, ask about the best thing on the menu — that’s how we wound up with the salt and pepper squid for starters. Steamed chicken dim sum were delicate and meaty, but we favoured dunking the crispy duck dumplings into a dish of soy sauce. Rendang beef, a slow-cooked spicy beef and coconut dish, also came recommended. The meat was tender, having absorbed liquid and flavours, leaving its sauce a good, thick consistency. The coconut cooled the spices, ensuring the dish had a kick but wasn’t overwhelmingly hot.
A gut feeling had me order the steamed sea bass from a lovely list of seafood dishes that included crispy cereal king prawns, asam padas (fish fillets cooked in a South East Asian gravy) and X.O. sauce scallops. Steamed sea bass lay face down in sticky soya sauce with spring onions strewn across it with a lonely flower left beside it. Its rich and saltiness was balanced by a bowl of fluffy, steamed white rice. Stir-fried choy sum was stacked up and topped with chopped peanuts was our leafy side dish of choice. While it was a tasty and healthy, conscience-clearing addition, it could have benefitted from a drizzle of oyster sauce rather than a pool.
With a good dose of food, flavour and richness, Zheng left us feeling full and satisfied. Nothing aired on the side of too greasy or unhealthy and the wealth of dishes gave us a great insight into Malaysian cuisine. Zheng is cool and chic, without feeling intimidating – an ideal spot for date night.
To book, call 020 7352 0957 or visit ZhengChelsea.co.uk
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