Nancy Lam opened her Lavender Hill restaurant in 1986 with only eight tables. Interacting with force-of-nature Nancy was said to be all part of the intimate, teasing experience of her Indonesian cooking.
I never went there, despite liking her when we met at restaurant gatherings where she wore her TV celebrity lightly, if noisily.
Recently I read that she had expanded Enak Enak – meaning yummy yummy – so one day she could hand it on to her daughters, and I thought I must put right the omission.
Any idea of visiting incognito disappeared when I entered the restaurant, skulking behind the others, and Nancy bore down upon me, arms wide open, shouting: “Hello, goddess.” At least that’s what I thought she said. Customers looked rather horrified.
We were given the table of our choice, which was towards the back of the extended premises opposite the service counter where two of those aforementioned daughters, Yang Tze and Yang Mei – as doe-like and docile as Nancy is brash and vociferous – were waiting by the food lift to distribute the dishes to the new lines of tables accommodating 70.
On a Tuesday evening only a few were occupied. Perhaps not enough people realise that, after closure for expansion, Nancy’s back in town.
The food is very good, worth the price. Items like satay, invariably traduced elsewhere, have carefully and intricately composed sauces. Barbecue spare ribs are cut small from fleshy bones, finished over the char-grill and served in a spicy sauce.
Vegetables in batter deserve the description tempura and Nancy’s fragrant herbal soup would, I venture, outdo Jewish penicillin (chicken soup) in the efficacious stakes. Even the prawn crackers are proper ones.
Of the various main courses we tried, I would point you towards a beautifully spiced lamb curry; Thai Penang pork spiked with lemongrass; chicken with Thai basil, a strange liquorice flavour you have to grow to love; the vegetables with tofu, which are bright and crunchy; and the superb halibut cooked vividly in ginger, garlic and coriander.
Nancy’s home-made sorbet is made from fruits from her garden. It’s good and not too sweet. The sorbet can also accompany a pancake stuffed with coconut and brown sugar.
This confection doesn’t have a naughty name like some, such as virgin squid or cock-sucking cowboy (shot). In fact our table, disappointingly, lacked cheekiness, but at the other end of the restaurant a chap called for the bill, saying: “Bring it quick, your food has made me horny.” Gales of laughter from Nancy. The daughters, due to inherit, looked on demurely.