All reader reviews by Master Shake

Bali Bali

What follows is the story of an incredible journey – a journey which, in the space of only a few hours, took tree very ordinary individuals from the depths of despair to culinary heaven.

It was Friday 15th June, 2007 – I remember it as if it were just last week. Climatically, it could only be described as a glorious day; the sun beamed intensely in the clear blue sky, though those who basked in its splendor on the streets below were soothed by a refreshing breeze. The mood in our office that morning, however, was slightly darker. It had been a tough week and stress levels were now at fever-pitch. Nowhere was this more evident than in Miss C’s now all-too familiar reaction to incoming electronic correspondence – open e-mail, read, make potty-mouthed comment. Stupid mistakes were also creeping into our work. With a look of resignation, Mr B simply fell off his chair as he swiveled and swooped in an attempt to rescue a stray piece of paper from the manky carpet. My day had gotten off to a mediocre start when I inadvertently head-butted a piece of office furniture on arrival at the office, and things got worse when I was told “thanks for nothing” by an irate customer whom I thought I gone out of my way to help. Clearly we needed succor and it was decided that a damn good feed was the only answer.

But where could we turn in our lunch-hour of need? It was Miss C who uttered the immortal words “Bali Bali” and in that very moment I knew that things were going to turn out OK. I was aware that the restaurant was held in high esteem by reviewers on, and I had harboured a desire to sample its delights for a considerable time. The timing was now perfect for a full frontal assault. We battered our way through the hordes of tourists, office workers and other assorted vagrants, and before long we arrived at 150 Shaftesbury Avenue.

From the bedlam of the mean streets we stepped into a relative haven of tranquility. The staff greeted us enthusiastically and we were seated promptly. Menus were presented without fuss and our drinks order was taken swiftly. We had some idea of what we were going to order having perused the menu available on the restaurant’s website. The set-lunch looked as though it represented good value for money and, as it transpired, that was certainly the case. Miss C, the cheapskate, chose from Special Lunch Menu A (three courses for £5.95), whilst Mr B and I selected from Special Lunch Menu B (two courses, £6.95). Unfortunately, we proved to be rather unadventurous in our choice of starter, with all three of us opting for the Lumpia (crispy spring roll). Generous in size, and accompanied by a fine chilli sauce, this was, however, a fine opener to our meals.

For mains, Miss C went for the Mee Hoon Goreng, vegetarian-style, which was much to her liking. She later described the dish as “nice” which, as far as the perpetually grouchy Miss C is concerned, is a hell of a compliment. Mr B, seemingly reading my mind and forcing me to choose an alternative dish, ordered the Kuzi Ayam (deep fried-chicken topped with chilli sauce). I stole a piece of this from his plate when he was distracted by a well-endowed woman passing by the window. The meat was tender and the sauce did not overpower the flavour of the chicken. I had requested the Sambal Daging Goreng (sliced beef cooked in chillies and spices) and it proved to be an inspired choice. Served with onions and tomatoes, this dish provided a taste sensation. As a fan of spicy foods, I wouldn’t say it was overly hot and, in fact, it would probably have been acceptable to most palates. A generous helping of boiled rice accompanied the dishes ordered by Mr B and myself, and at one stage it looked as thought I would be defeated by my portion. However, one thing I’m not is a quitter and I battled back to, metaphorically at least, lick the plate clean.

Miss C ended her meal with an old favourite, namely Pisang Goreng (more commonly known as banana fritters). Again, this was ample in magnitude and Miss C did her level best to tuck it all away, but she was canny enough to throw in the towel at the right moment.

The food was excellent, and the service was also of a high standard. Each dish was brought out promptly on completion of the previous, which is perfect for the lunch crowd who might have limited time before heading back to the grindstone. The waiters and waitresses were attentive and friendly but were by no means over-bearing. Although not full at the time of our visit, the atmosphere in the restaurant was good. Perhaps, like us, other diners had turned up with high expectations and were delighted when these were met.

All in all, this was a highly enjoyable gastronomic experience and I doubt if that will be the last time that I will eat in Bali Bali. Highly recommended!

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9

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