Centrally located in London’s dazzling theatre land in Piccadilly, Bali Bali has been serving authentic Indonesian food for decades.

A modest-looking, family-run restaurant with about 10 tables, its menu offers an extensive range of spicy as well as milder dishes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Their Beef Rendang – beef cooked in chili and coconut milk – must be one of the most authentic in London, tender, textured slow-cooked beef in a deeply aromatic and rich sauce.

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Rendang beef. Photo: Jennifer Wong

Other classics such as Sambal Goreng Terong, or spicy aubergine cooked in chili and tomato sauce, and Kangkong Belacan, or water spinach with shrimp paste, bring out the flavors of delicately seasoned fresh vegetables.

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Kangkong Belacan. Photo: Jennifer Wong

Their Rendang lamb in chili is certainly a fiery feat for the brave-hearted, whereas house specials such as Nasi Goreng and Daging Semur – beef cooked in Indonesian sweet soy sauce – preserve the Indonesian take on soy-based dishes.

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Rendang lamb. Photo: Jennifer Wong
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Bali Bali owner Zulfan. Photo: Jennifer Wong

According to Zulfan, the owner, the restaurant has a loyal following. It is also well-known in the Indonesian community and regulars include embassy staff and Indonesian students. The restaurant also offers competitive pre-theatre menus and cater for group events or corporate celebrations, which also help to spread their reputation within the community.

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Nasi Goreng. Photo: Jennifer Wong

Despite the dominance of chain restaurants and eateries, there is a endearing quality about family-run restaurants like Bali Bali. Zulfan says the recipes have been passed down from one generation to the next, with a focus on fresh ingredients and slow cooking. Proud of his Indonesian heritage, he plays an active role in running the business, from sourcing ingredients to making sure that the food meets the expectations of customers. He knows his regular clients by their name.

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Kue Dadar. Photo: Jennifer Wong

The list of desserts include Lapis Legit, or Indonesian layered cake, a popular choice. Kue Dadar, an Indonesian pancake served with coconut milk, is a satisfying conclusion to a meal.

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Bali Bali restaurant, London. Photo: Jennifer Wong

Address: 150 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8HL.
Reservations +44 (0)20 7836 2644