Recovering from the first of my two birthday dinners this morning.
There's no shortage of smart restaurants around my mother's new place in Chelsea Green. There's a buzzing tapas bar called Café Bodega, a pair of pricey Italian eateries called Pelicano and Elistano (!) respectively and of course, Tom Aikens. I can remember little else about our meal there a couple of year's ago other than the fact that the chef's snooty wife was the head waitress , and that most of our fellow diners were blokes in dark suits. Not somewhere I'd rush back to.
Last night I was dead set on a slab of vaca and enthusiastically recommended The Gaucho Grill on Sloane Avenue. Unfortunately, when we eventually got there at nine we were told that we'd have at least an hour to wait for a table. "Why not try Awana next door? It's Malaysian..."
Awana opened on the site of Zen Chelsea last year. It has some of the faults of Belgravia's The Mango Tree Thai, also owned by one Eddie Lim − in particular the unctiousness of the personnel. They're the kind that compete to fill up your wine or water glass after almost every sip you take, and then return to their holding station at the edge of your peripheral vision. When I dropped my mobile a couple of them literally dived to pick it up it before I could reach it.
The tables are a bit on the small side, so the well-dressed table-waiting pack spends a lot of time fussily moving things around to make space for the arriving peppery marvels. Those wine glasses (see pic) are one of the best things about Awana. The food also looks pretty foxy too: I can thoroughly recommend the Lamb Shanks that my mother picked.
To drink I chose the Spanish red , as I do, and it turned out to be a deliciously smooth Manchego tempranillo from the Marques de Riscal. The teak interior is swishly modern, and a whole lot more sympathetic to its customers than the equivalent decoration around the corner at Tom Aikens. It must be a great place to come for an evening drink.
There was a long table full of beautiful, silky-haired young women sipping Chardonnay right behind me: probably a sort of sophisticated Hen party, though of course they might also have been the new intake for the Chelsea Buddhists' association.