I love this place. It’s a kind of Por Kee but better known and with an easier name (a friend of mine failed to find any information out about Por Kee when I asked her to google it; turns out she was searching under ‘Porky’).
Singaporeans of my grandparents’ generation had this restaurant on speed dial and, I am told, made regular use of the takeout service if they wanted to eat wonderful Chinese food (but without the sweat of cooking it) from the comfort of their own home. The much maligned term ‘Chinese takeaway’ that’s used so much in the UK to describe low grade Chinese food you buy to eat at home, simply doesn’t translate accurately in this context. Westlake is all about proper, and properly delicious, Chinese food that is eaten by a 98% Chinese clientele who know: there isn’t a grain of fried rice or a lemon chicken in sight, thank goodness.
You can of course eat at the restaurant if you prefer. I do. I hate the faff of the inevitable reheating that any takeaway always seems to demand. Try for an outside table though: inside is very cold and…um…green. The last thing to do is remember to bring your own wine; the corkage is a mere $5.
Anyway, I have been given this old Westlake menu by a friend who’s a self confessed hoarder and has hung on to it for about 20 years. She knows I love this place and I’ve been pouring over it closely to see what’s changed…
Interestingly, there’s one dish on the menu that is actually cheaper now than it was 20 years ago, which is pretty incredible. Westlake’s now famous braised pork with pau (pictured below) has gone DOWN $4. I’m actually not a huge fan of this dish, but plenty of people are, so if you’re a Westlake first timer you should try it – a kind of flabby pork slice in gravy that you sandwich in a very soft white roll.
I’ll be ordering a large plate of it next time for the simple reason that it’s a genuine bargain. The photo below compares the two menus and their prices: the whiter menu of today charges $13 for a small serving of ‘Braised Pork with Pau’, $24 for a large helping (top line); the antique menu lists the small serving as being $10 but – here’s the thing – the large portion as costing just $20.
Pleasingly, almost all the other old favourites are still being served (prawn with black pepper, chicken with dry chilli and last but not least – my favourite – beancurd with minced pork and chilli). Prices have been gently increased for these along with every other dish, with most going up around $5-$10 which, when you consider the time lapse and the cost of rent in today’s world, is more than reasonable.
If you are still unsure of how good the food is here, this joint has, in my opinion – it’s hugely personal and everyone is different – the best chilli crab in Singapore (see main picture at the very top of this post). Containing just the right ratios of chilli/sweetness/saltiness/tomato, it also has plenty of crab in it, which may sound like a pre-requisite but it’s amazing how many places serve this dish with hardly any crab meat…just lots of sauce. Add a side order of fried mantos (fried buns) and you are in food heaven, as well as in need of a serious work out the next day.
The hot and sour soup (above) is also excellent but sadly there are no cereal prawns – just butter prawns which, while good, are nothing compared to my crunchy, oaty friends.
But, all in all, this place rocks and most certainly deserves to be supported and enjoyed for another 20 years – if not more.
The Westlake website can be viewed here.
Pork pau and hot and sour soup images courtesy of Westlake