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Tiger Lil's, 16a Southside Clapham Common

NB: All prices are shown in pounds sterling

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 glow lights 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 authentic.

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 rapidly.

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!

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