The Kuala Lumpur Café was voted the best restaurant in Leeds by LeedsLive readers, so naturally we went to see if he was worthy of the title.
The Malaysian restaurant won the Leeds Loves Awards in May, with our readers voting in 10 categories celebrating the best of the city’s wonderful hospitality industry.
The unassuming little restaurant is the definition of a hidden gem as it is tucked away in a side street of Headingley, just off Otley Road at Bennett Road. Blink and you’d miss it, it really is a very small establishment.
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Walking in feels like stepping into a broom closet. The counter is right outside the door and a few tables are crammed downstairs.
We went up the stairs (where you have to watch your head for the ceiling!). There were about four tables upstairs. There were various decorations hanging, banners left over from the jubilee, fake wreaths and plants on the tables.
Although it is small, this added to the appeal of the restaurant. There was quite a funky and hip vibe. It really fits Headingley. I felt relaxed there, the staff was super friendly and I just felt like I was going for a really authentic meal. Plus, it’s a “bring your own alcohol” restaurant, so you can’t go wrong.
The first thing that screams at you about the menu is how cheap it is, with starters usually around £4 and mains around ten. We went for a family meal, four of us having a three course dinner, and spoiler alert: the bill came to less than £70.
The presentation of the dishes and the taste were top notch. We decided to share a range of starters to start, each had very generous portions.
The vegan chicken satay had tons of nutty rich sauce and actually tasted pretty indistinguishable from the actual chick. Cheer. The spring rolls looked very appealing with a lovely golden color and ample size, they also tasted very nice – although perhaps this could have been done with cabbage or spring onions inside , rather than just a pasty vegetable paste.
I had chosen to try the Tofu Sambal, it was fried tofu with sambal, bean sprouts, cucumber and fried shallots. It looked like a creative dish and I had never tried tofu. The presentation was splendid, and it was quite satisfying but overall it had less flavor than the other dishes, quite bland on the other hand.
For my main course, I decided to go for the Kari Nyonya Peranakan prawn, a Malaysian curry with yellow lime. Each of the dishes was absolutely gorgeous. They came with coconut rice, fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, half a hard boiled egg, sambal and prawn crackers.
My prawn curry came with about six or seven meaty prawns. These were soft and tender – perfectly cooked. The sauce was spicy and fragrant. It had a full-bodied and overwhelming flavor. It was a real treat not only to have a delicious curry, but all the wonderful extra items that came with it. The rice had a subtle coconut flavor. The samba sauce was rich and had a pleasant mild spice.
My family was also very happy with their dishes, again they ordered fake meat which tasted very convincing. A dish with salmon was really well cooked, the fish falling delicately on the fork.
Dessert was a mixed bag. I ordered the Kuih Lapis, described as a Malaysian coconut cake, which turned out to be slices of a hot jelly dish. It wasn’t for me but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy the bright pink dish.
The Kuih Bakar was really nice, though. Described as a Malaysian cream cake, it was this delicate green pie that had a very light flavor and fluffy texture.
All in all a fantastic meal and pleasant atmosphere. Although I would add that the Kuala Lumpur Café could perhaps invest in more comfortable seating, the seating is all quite cheap and uncomfortable.
I’m not sure it meets the standards of ‘best restaurant in Leeds’, but you might have the best experience there and you’ll definitely feel relieved when you see the bill at the end. A great place to have tea with friends, especially if they are vegetarians.
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Vegan Chicken Satay x 2 – £8.70 (£4.35 each)
Tofu Sambal – £4.25
Spring rolls – £4.25
Nyonya Shrimp – £9.95
Salmon Kari Ikan – £9.95
Vegan Beef Masak Kicap – £9.55
Vegan Chicken Masak Mereh – £9.55
Kuih Lapis x 2 – £7.90 (£3.95 each)
Kuih Bakar – £3.95