Poor brand new Tuk Tuk! A simple place with a cute little name surely has a place on Portobello Road, no? Well, unfortunately, no. My husband and I tried the brand new satay place this weekend because it seemed easy and perfect for just what we needed. We needed a quick afternoon snack that also fit with my husband’s sometimes low-carb lifestyle. We slipped inside for what turned out to be an average experience with mediocre food.
The idea is great. Satays are for everyone when you have choices of steak, shrimp, tofu and vegetables, and many different dips to choose from. That was the gist of the simple, mix-and-match menu. There were some rice, salad, seasoning, dessert, and drink choices, too, but really Tuk Tuk kept in nice and simple.
Unfortunately, right when you walk into the place you’re confused. There’s a counter on the left and a place to order on the right, then additional seating downstairs. The menu takes a minute to read through and then you’re not sure where to stand or wait. You’re basically on top of people eating at the counter as you wait for your food, before you can retreat to additional seating.
There just isn’t a real flow to the place. It’s a long hallway with a ton of congestion at the front, and then just dead space in the back. I would have people order and take a number to their seating area (Nando’s style), to prevent the awkward waiting period, then bring the food to them. After the meal you’re not really sure what to do with your tray. My husband fumbled around and eventually figured out their disposal area. (Which is also in the main congestion area.)
So, aside from the lack of flow and the uncomfortable design, the food is not very good. The rice was fine, but the satays weren’t all that flavorful. We chose the Oriental Herb seasoning which didn’t taste all that strong on our Tuk n’ Try platter, which included shrimp, veggies and chicken. It was a decent amount of food for only £13.00, but I guess you get what you pay for. Aside from lacking flavor, I thought the chicken lacked cooking! In between the chicken pieces was a questionable pink color that made me uncomfortable. I let my husband eat those and I stuck to the veggies. The veggies and the rice. The sauces also fell flat. The dish came with three and the only one I truly liked was the Ginger & Coriander sauce. The peanut sauce was like the worst I’ve ever had and there was something not quite right with the sweet chili sauce. So really, what we were left with for the £13.00 was some shrimp, veggies, rice and ginger sauce.
The entire time we were there, a well-dressed man, who seemed to be the new owner, was running around making sure everything was up to his standards. If I try to picture him now I see him as a Frenchman wearing a cape. So now I see him flying with his cape everywhere to save the day and make sure his staff is filling each sauce to his imaginary line and facing all napkins parallel to the front. This man exuded micromanagement and his pride for this brand-new business. Unfortunately, while emphasis on detail is good, people just want an easy go and good food at a place like Tuk Tuk. If you miss the mark on that, nothing else matters.
They do get points for the little moist towelettes, though! But that’s about it right now. Hopefully they iron out these wrinkles before they’re as relevant as yesterday’s skewers.
Tuk Tuk Stick n’ Grill
233 Portobello Road
London W11 1LT