It Doesn't Get Much Sweeter Than Ping Coombes's 'Comfort Food'. And Not In A Good Way.

Chi Kitchen, Marylebone ★★☆☆☆

Robert Greene
By Robert Greene Last edited 8 months ago
It Doesn't Get Much Sweeter Than Ping Coombes's 'Comfort Food'. And Not In A Good Way. Chi Kitchen, Marylebone 2

Comfort food, Oxford Street and a Masterchef winner; our invite to sample Ping Coombes's new breakfast menu (‘Ping’s Comfort Food’) at Chi Kitchen sounds promising on paper. The menu, Ping tells us, is inspired by her Malaysian roots. And although none of the recipes featured on MasterChef, they are all dishes which she regularly consumes; up to three times a week she says.

We start off with some tea, sweetened with condensed milk. We are told we must drink it while it’s really hot or ice cold, otherwise it is “a little sickening”. Not being a fan of sweetened tea, we are apprehensive; sugar is one thing, condensed milk is something else. Sipping the hot brew, we exchange concerned looks. “A little sickening” is an understatement, the drink is stomach-churning. We push it aside and request a pot of green tea, minus the condensed milk thanks.

Our first course is eggs and kaya (coconut jam) toast. A large slice of brioche-like bread is served, with a generous coating of kaya. The so-called “perfectly cooked soft eggs” are certainly soft, though perfectly cooked is debatable; the runny yolk is swimming in the near-translucent egg white.

We whisk the egg with our fork and add a dash of soy sauce, following our waiter’s instructions. We then dip the bread into the egg, which Ping tells us is the perfect sweet and savoury combination. The bread is definitely sweet, and the soy sauce eggs are salty, but we’re not overly enthused by the combination. And that’s primarily because the jam, much like the tea, is far too sweet. We finish the eggs, but leave the bread largely untouched.

The main course is Hainanese chicken with rice and chilli sauce. The poached chicken, while tender, is surrounded in fat. Dissecting the meat is like filleting a fish; a frustrating exercise. The vegetarian option of fried noodles and vegetables lacks imagination; something of an afterthought we suspect. We are relived, nonetheless, by the absence of sugar.

But it’s not long before our teeth are aching again. Our palate cleanser is a mango and orange shot: liquid sugar topped with a sweet raspberry purée. Pleasant, but would have been better appreciated had our sugar receptors not already been assailed.

Dessert is Kuih Dadar, a pandan pancake filled with, you guessed it, coconut palm sugar. The naturally-coloured green batter is sticky and quite nice, but the coconut filling is one hit of sugar too many.

Had the breakfast been sold as an afternoon tea we may have been more receptive to it, but a sugar crash at midday is not our cup of (condensed milk-free) tea.

Ping Coombes's Comfort Food, Chi Kitchen, Debenhams, 334-348 Oxford St, Marylebone, W1C 1JG

Last Updated 01 February 2018