Dine Online - the UK Restaurant
Tiger Lil's, 16a Southside
NB: All prices are shown in
One of the most
popular stands at any County Show
in the summer is
manned by the local fire brigade.
They heat up a chip pan until it
catches light: dull orange flames
are almost obscured by black smoke.
Next they ask the crowd what you
should never do next,
and an eager chorus of kids screams chuck
water onto it!. Obligingly, a
fully fireproofed firefighter staggers
forward, dressed up like an astronaut,
and flings a pail of water over the
pan. A spectacular ball of fire explodes
skywards, to rapturous delighted
shrieks from the crowd. Now I can
see why Tiger Lil's is so
popular. Not sheltering demurely
behind a glass screen like a recording
studio control room - as at Vong,
or safely out of reach to one side
- as at Quaglino's, but right in
yer face the flames leap and flash
from the sizzling woks at Tiger Lil's.
The orange fire dances round the
plain cream walls, and the lurid
up the faces of the woksters who are like pirates in their dark blue bandanas.
The stainless steel range is pretty impressive. Each of the three chefs has
two woks sitting on burners that look set to propel a minor version of Apollo
XV into space. If you want to see hard work, these three pirates are impressive.
Their names are Shadrak, Mishak and Abednigo, and they live in the fiery furnace
amidst an apotheosis of squid and beef teriyaki. Overhead is a vast (and spotlessly
clean) stainless steel canopy with huge extractor ducts. Heaven knows the environmental
damage to Clapham Common; storks have not been seen there since Tiger Lil's
pyrotechnic emissions began a few years ago.
OK, but what of the food? You assemble a plateful of ingredients from 16 prepared
vegetables and about a dozen different fish and meat slivvers, take it up to
your nearest pirate who cooks it with amazing speed and dexterity in the sauce
of your choice.
There are lots of rather beautiful girls who bring out the drinks, and very
engagingly advise you how best to proceed. The trick is to heed their advice
and do not pile up your plate with every conceivable ingredient. I began with
seafood: green lipped mussels, squid and tofu-based fish cakes. I thought some
black fungus and mushrooms would go well with the oyster sauce, plus a little
coriander and ginger. The result was very impressive, the fishy flavours were
well defined, but I might even try curried coconut sauce next time. Rice is
brought to your table in a neat dispenser, it was sticky and tasted nutty and
You can go up with your bowl as many times as you like. In the meantime the
lovely girls have refreshed your table. Next, I thought I'd have a mainly vegetable
course, so this time I did pile up my plate, but with various types of green
vegetables, working on the principle that they would reduce down in the heat.
Wind dried sausage and teriyaki sauce somehow managed to get into the equation.
It was tasty but I got it just a bit wrong. My third go was better: pork, mung
beans, fried bean curd, aubergine with chives, two colour cabbage with black
and white roasted sesame seeds. This time I demanded black bean sauce and garlic.
Fantastic - I had invented the definitive fusion cuisine... watch out Pacific
Rimmers, I must open a restaurant!! My attempts at luring Long John Wokker
to an upmarket new bar in Soho ended in embarrasment and recriminations, so
I settled for a dessert of white chocolate cheesecake in warm chocolate sauce
instead. I was prepared for the worst, expecting the usual confected gloop.
It did look a bit yukky, but it tasted pretty good, and we polished it off
An evening at Tiger Lil's is entertaining, experimental, fairly noisy, with
an interesting mixture of buzzing humanity to observe. Friendships are forged
amongst foodies in the queue for the raw ingredients. Unlimited returns to
the woks cost Stg 11.00, and desserts cost 3.50. If you choose carefully, you
could have three, four or as many well differentiated courses as you could
manage for under 15.00. You certainly can't complain at that. We drank Cobra
beer by the 330ml bottle at Stg 2.70, and a fresh, light bottle of South African
House Red for Stg 8.90.
Where to find your Tiger Lil
Apart from 16a Southside Clapham Common, SW4 (tel: 020 7720 5433) there
are two other branches, one by the bend in the King's Road at number 500
(tel: 020 7376 5003) and at 270 Upper Street, Islington N1 (tel 020
7226 1118). But if you're thinking of going up to the frozen wastes of
North London, take plenty of warm clothing and don't forget your passport!