Restoran Safreen is a short 18 floor lift ride down from the apartment where we are staying. It appears incredibly chaotic but is the slickest restaurant operation I have seen in a very long time. It’s not really a restaurant, more a food hall where you go to get food when you’re hungry. There are no menus but they seem to have anything you want.
The restaurant is open air on two sides, has formica topped tables and 5 or 6 separate chef stations around the room so everything is freshly cooked a few feet away from your table. We estimate they could cater for 120 when full! Waiters seem to manage a section each.
We were greeted as we walked in and immediately asked if we wanted ‘Chicken biriani, very nice!’ It took a bit of effort to get them to reveal that they also did chicken tandoori so we had one of each. They were superb! The tandoori chicken and freshly rolled naan were prepared and cooked at the tandoor station, while the biriani was served from a pre-cooked hot station which we now think is probably self service. We also had two pakoras and a large bottle of water and the total bill was less than £5.
When we went back the next day we insisted on having something different so I had Indian chicken fried rice (they also do Chinese or Malay) and Sean had mutton fried rice. They don’t write the orders down but just tell the chefs what to prepare. Then they put a slip on the table with the bill but you can add to it and pay when you’re ready. The chef stations seem to be: tandoori; fried rice and noodles; tom yum (Chinese soups and broths?); burgers; breads and pancakes; precooked curries. Looking round we’ve seen people eating fried rice topped with fried eggs, various noodle dishes, soups, burgers, toasted sandwiches, pancakes and breads in all shapes and sizes, fish curry . . . and all sorts of colourful juices and exotic teas (no alcohol). When we go back we’re going to try and gain access to the self-service section. It’s a bit of a challenge but all the food is so fresh and so good we’re happy to eat what we’re given. And it’s an education and entertainment watching the waiters flying about, shouting orders, seeing what other diners eat and how (fingers, spoons, whatever).
Our lovely hosts, Sarah and Rhys, took us to Safreen this evening, which was great as they are local and know how to order. We had delicious roti, a fried noodle dish and rojek, mixed exotic vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce. For pudding we had roti tissu, a sugared roti standing up in a cone shape like a tissue emerging from a box, and ABC, a concotion of crushed ice, rose water, jellies, beans and sweetcorn.
There are often hard boiled eggs on the table in case you fancy one, and Sarah and Rhys said at breakfast time there are banana leaf wrapped packages of coconut rice and side dishes on each table for the taking so that might be tomorrow’s task.
Incidentally, this is the first time on our travels we’ve encountered people smoking indoors.