Sunday, 30 March 2014

Garuda - St Helen's Road

You may have walked past this one a few times and been put off by the location (I know I have).

Next to an empty building and some kind of convenience store, it never really jumped out at me as a 'must-try' restaurant. But on St Helen's Road, where Indian cuisine dominates, a genuine taste of Indonesia in Swansea sounded like it could be a welcome change!

Not the nicest of exteriors

I'd been convinced to give it a go by a friend of mine - the same one who informed me of the 'bring your own booze' policy. Sometimes I enjoy this, sometimes I don't - it depends on where you eat. Bringing your own can of beer to a posh restaurant, for example, can take the tone of the evening down. But as Garuda is quite 'rough and ready' (and that's not a bad thing) bringing my own beer felt right.

We decided to share a 4-pack of German lager, poured into tiny glasses!

As I mentioned, Garuda isn't a fine-dining establishment, and it shows in the simple interior. It's more of a cafe than restaurant in its decor, but the atmosphere was pretty lively and colourful, and comfortable to eat in.

Quite a basic restaurant design, but cosy enough

The menu isn't as extensive as other restaurants (especially Indians, where menus seem to go on for ten pages!), however the chef offers a few different dishes to give some choice.

To start we went for a portion of the Pergedel Java and the Vegetarian Pergedel. These are fritters made with potato and egg and filled with meat and vegetables. Hot and crispy, we found them very satisfying and a good warm up for the main courses.

The Pergedel Java

Unfortunately that warm-up cooled down quite quickly. In an overall enjoyable evening, the biggest negative was the wait for food.

Because the restaurant offers honest, tasty Indonesian food and has a good reputation, it gets pretty busy. And on the night we visited the place was basically full, with two large parties taking up a few tables.

Our wait for the main course was about an hour. One chef cooking for the whole restaurant is fine, but - like other restaurants seem to do if I'm in a big party - they could have taken care of the smaller tables before starting on the larger parties. The staff were apologetic though (unlike some restaurants I've been to!). Overall this is a minor quibble, but we did end up losing some interest in eating as we waited (and the canned beer flowed).

The tasty red curry and special fried rice

Thankfully, when the food eventually arrived we were very pleased with the quality. I had opted for the Thai Curry Ayam - a Thai red chicken curry - which was generously portioned, and full of flavour: salty and spicy in equal measure. There weren't as many prawns in the special rice as I had hoped for, but it did the job.

My dining partner went for the Krengsengan, which was a spicy lamb curry. I had a mouthful and found it aromatic and the meat superbly cooked - the lamb was falling apart it was so tender.

The service was very friendly and attentive enough, even though the main attention was with the bigger parties. And, as we finished our meals, Ani - the owner and chef - came out to say hello to all the tables individually - nice to see that she cares about her food.

With no drinks to pay for (or corkage charge) we ended up spending £20 each on our starter and main course, which is reasonable for the quality of the food. I'd happily return to Garuda again in the future to sample some more exotic Indonesian cuisine in a friendly environment.

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