Roti King Battersea review: a masterful Malaysian eatery
This casual roti restaurant outclasses its developed-to-death Power Station home
The surroundings of the new branch of the hit Malaysian diner Roti King couldn’t be more different than those of its sister site. There, a stone’s throw from Euston – surely London’s ugliest rail station – queues regularly snake around the drab grey block, flocking into its basement for a cheap and cheerful bowl of steaming laksa or fluffy roti canai.
Site two’s home is a different story, sitting under the arches close to Battersea Power Station. It’s part of a huge redevelopment project in the area that accompanies the recent opening of the glossy new Northern line tube station nearby.
The walk from the tube is currently littered with building materials, construction barriers and portable zebra-crossing lights, but none of that distracts from how faceless the development is (complete with a high-end organic supermarket and tiny, box-ticking public spaces). It’s as broken-in as a new pair of Dr. Martens, and bears so little of London’s character that if it weren’t for the iconic power station looming above, you could believably be walking through any other city in the world, a cityscape of nowhere.
A relief, then, to escape inside Roti King, unfussy with its noisy aircon unit, shiny aluminium pipes splayed across the ceiling, underlighting illuminating fake feature plants, and intermittent trains rattling overhead. At the brewery next door you’ll be paying upwards of £13 for two pints, but here that money equates to a hearty meal – I’m already sold.
That’s before I’ve had a bite to eat from this glorious menu: with my dining partner, I order something from each of the five sections. We find the service extremely quick and attentive on the restaurant’s opening night, with our nasi goreng arriving within just a few minutes – comforting soy-darkened rice piled high, flecked with prawn, chicken, select veg, and a glob of red chilli paste on the side for optional punch.
Next up, the kangkung belecan, an elegant side dish pairing kangkung or “water spinach” (a crunchy green classed as an invasive weed in the US) with belecan, a flavoursome paste made with fermented shrimp. It’s a moreish umami treat, but definitely one to share due to the generous portion sizes.
Needless to say, at Roti King the masterfully prepared roti canai is a must-have – soft flatbreads with a scrunchy surface area optimised for dhal-scooping. We order the vegan roti dhal, which is excellent, but remains the only explicitly vegan option on the menu (there is more to be done before the restaurant can legitimately call itself “vegan-friendly” as it has been doing, but there are plenty of decent options for vegetarians).
We opt for a second roti dish in the form of the chicken murtabak, a stuffed roti with an artless egginess; for me, the vegan roti dhal is the better of the two. The star of the show today, though, is the kari laksa, a noodle soup with a deep coconut warmth and packed with interest: prawns crunchy and light, tofu pillowy as though poached, and briny fishballs taut like a flexed muscle. It’s superb.
I’ve already pointed out the value here, but it bears repeating – with drinks, our meal came to just £30 a head. The best news of all for long-time fans, though, is this site’s USP. While currently accepting walk-ins only, it will eventually be possible to book tables here as well as queuing for one, meaning less time spent in the new-build theme park outside. No bad thing.
Roti King Battersea, 16 Arches Lane, Battersea Power Station, London, SW11 8AB; rotiking.com