Posts Tagged ‘indian’

Resto 26 Bhatti, Covent Garden

May 28, 2017

Half three in the afternoon is a bit of a weird time to go to for a curry but we’d been to a concert and hadn’t had lunch. On our way to Dishoom (which we knew would be open) we were surprised to see that Bhatti, which screams trad Indian, also had its doors open. So we took a punt.

Two other diners and the waiter were the only other souls in the room. Most of the other restos on this stretch of Great Queen Street have gone upscale but Bhatti has stuck to it guns and retains a whiff of the 1970s in its décor. The menu is solid British Indian staples at pretty reasonable prices for this location but how was the cooking?

Mixed. My starter of aloo chat was some watery spuds and lettuce in an insipid sauce. Reports from across the table on the state of the onion bhaji were not encouraging. However, the main of a chicken jalfrezi delivered the required heat if not being altogether a taste sensation. Good naan bread and okra compensated slightly but it was rather disappointing that two chilled mugs couldn’t be wrangled for our Kingfishers – I had to settle for the warm one.

Service was good and it was obvious that they only had a skeleton crew on for the afternoon crowd. I would hope that things improve once the evening session gets started but if you want the trad Indian in this part of London it’s a better option to hang on if you can till The India Club starts cooking.

5/10

#Food #London

Resto 23 Cinnamon, Soho

April 19, 2017

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Between the library and a gig at the Wigmore we were looking for a bit of spice. Soho’s Kingly Street being on the way we took a chance on Cinnamon, which from the outside looks rather too carefully put together in the Bills/Dishoom tradition. I was wrong to have doubts.

It was early evening so the room wasn’t too busy but it soon filled up with mostly local workers and a smattering of tourists. The menu promised classic Indian dishes with a twist (eff). But my eye was immediately drawn to the drinks – £4.80 for a pint of Stella in this part of town is a definite draw! We got stuck in to that while selecting the food.

We shared a plate of lamb shami kebab to kick off – four balls of good stuff with a couple of sauces went down a treat. For main I had an ox cheek vindaloo with masala mash and a dhal to share. The ox cheek vindaloo was a star turn – a good helping of crumbly cheek in a seriously spicy sauce. The masala mash was rather blown away by it and felt a bit unnecessary. I would have preferred a bit more thickness to the dhal but it also had a seriously deep flavour. With an excellent naan to scrape up the juices I demolished the whole lot and wanted more.

The service was excellent throughout and I was completely won over from my initial scepticism. Cinnamon delivers a superior experience to Dishoom at a better price on the same street. And who wouldn’t be happy with that?

8/10

#Food #London #Soho

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #100 Diwana, Drummond Street

November 28, 2016

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At the end of a fun day of Movember walking (and it’s not too late to donate should you wish to do that thing) a bunch of us made our weary way back to Drummond Street from Kings Cross at the insistence of a vegan friend. Something I was happy to comply with but not entirely to the gruntlement of the more carnivorous amongst us (‘Where’s the chicken?!’ went a querulous cry.).

We were a convivial group though and once we’d negotiated our way to a big table up top of Diwana with carry outs from Sainsbury’s (they’re happy for you to bring your own as long as you put a bit of corkage on top of the bill) we settled in nicely. Diwana doesn’t go big on luxurious furnishings. In fact I suspect the room has little changed since it opened but don’t let that put you off. The food is very good, in fact the best of the South Indian bunch as far as I’m concerned.

First up for me were a few samosas which I despatched tout de suite. The main event was a Raza (sp?) Dhosa which was a big old crêpe wrapped around some tastymushy vegetables. The service was slightly chaotic but I’d say that was more due to the nine folks in various stages of booze on our side of the relationship rather than any slackness on the Diwana staff’s part.

7/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #93 Ragam, Fitzrovia

November 7, 2016

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Another Friday another north London curry, this time in the company of departmental colleagues. Ragam was new to me and they do things a bit differently here. So as well as poppadoms for a starter (with one of our party making a bold gambit of a four per head order! (We quickly scaled it back to a more modest three.)) we had some puri style cashew nuts which were curious but not especially an improvement on your bare naked nut.

Beer comes in the variety of Kingfisher, Cobra and another one whose name escapes me. Possibly because I had two of it. It was from a bottle and tasted better than either of the others so I’d recommend it if only I wasn’t suffering in the memory department. Did we have starters? No, we didn’t, I was already running late and so we went straight into the mains. With no jalfrezi available I was thoroughly confused so plumped for a chicken dansak. It was yum. Also good was the kerala paratha which was crispy and munchable. The culinary appeal of ladies fingers divided the table but I scoffed a great deal of them.

The service was excellent and on the whole Ragam gives as good product as Gaylord round the corner but without the expense.

7/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #91 Taste of India, Drummond Street

October 24, 2016

Coming to review a restaurant when the intervening 48 hours have seen a bacchanalian 60th birthday party and a 6 hour police assisted face off with somebody with mental health issues (not mine (this time at least!)), one could be forgiven for not exactly remembering the details of the cuisine on Friday night. Especially as that occasion was an end of season cricket social that inevitably involved a real ale lead in of several hours.

Fortunately my choice of dish at the trad Friday night Indian is as constant as the North Star. Taste of India is a blaze of light on the Drummond Street curry furlong and was selected over the excellent veggies to be found there to satisfy the carnivores amongst the team. We were a raucous-ish table of twelve but the service was remarkably good given the ‘confused’ state of some of us, and a fair amount of badinage going across the linen. I glanced at the couple next to us and felt a mild pang of pity for what they were about to have to listen to.

We had a poppadom starter (two each), which came with a four piece chutney backing group. Well, they were fine but they didn’t last long. My stomachbrain was then wondering where the hell the onion bhaji was. But the jalfrezi arrived soon enough with good sized chicken bits and the refreshing blast of unmediated chilli. On the side was the usual carb overload – rice, aloo, naan – but also some good vegetable involving okra, cauliflower, mushrooms and other unspecified stuff which was at the other end of the table and beyond my arsedness to reach.

Did we have coffee? I don’t think so. The Kingfishers were admirably chilled, the last dregs slipping down surprisingly well with a complimentary mint. Taste of India does what you want a traditional Indian to do and it does it well enough.

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #81 Bombay Spice, Marylebone

September 24, 2016

We’d had a day at the cricket and with playing slowing to the end of the day the likelihood of Middlesex taking the title seemed to recede. Well, I got that wrong!* Cricket, watching or playing, makes me thirsty. And once a few pints of bitter have gone down thoughts inevitably turn to curry.

We could’ve found more glamorous Indian restaurants in Marylebone but we decided to take a punt on Bombay Spice as an Old Skool venue. Curiously sited immediately next door  to another Indian restaurant (not exactly making a Curry Mile) BS’s décor was reassuringly lived-in and had waiters to match.

Well, the test of this type of restaurant for me is the Onion Bhaji-Jalfrezi one-two. The Bhaji was fine, as was a vegetable samosa. Poppadoms had arrived suspiciously quickly  before this (with some distinctly average chutney) but a cold Kingfisher delivered at speed was a welcome thing.

The food was okay. Across the table the Madras looked to have come from exactly the same receptacle as the Jalfrezi except that the ‘frezi had added raw chilis (not especially fresh ones by the look of it but delivering the required heat). Some people see this as a scam, that one sauce can serve so many purposes, but to me it’s not a problem. For example, when I go to listen to a Philip Glass symphony I don’t really bother to work out exactly which one it is. I like that shit and he keeps churning it out so whether it’s the 2nd or the 3rd is really quite immaterial since they all sound basically the same.

So if I want Indian cooking with more subtlety I know where to get it, I know it’ll cost more (in Marylebone at least, these things are geographical) and I make sure that I haven’t blasted my tastebuds with Burton’s finest all day before I get there. Having said that I wouldn’t say that Bombay Spice is worth making a detour to go to – the cooking isn’t on a par with similar places not too far away.

But there was another comparison with Philip Glass! They looped the same piece of Indian music, about four minutes long, for the duration of our meal. Sergio’s of course were the masters of minimalism thus far this year but Bombay beats Italian with a smack-down for such commitment to repetition. For which it gets a point off. I’m not anti-music, I just wish people would think about it.

5/10

*Middlesex won the title on the last day with a thrilling winning hat-trick by TR-J.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

 

 

 

Review #78 The India Club, Aldwych

September 7, 2016

We were two hungry chaps in search of cheap eats near Covent Garden. Rush hour reminded me of a previous occasion when I’d ducked into the India Club and found myself moving from one of the earth’s most crowded spots into a nostalgic pool of sepia tranquility. So we did that. Except we had to wait because the Indians don’t start cooking till 6 o’clock. We took another turn in the Lyceum Tavern across the road then returned with our hunger sharpened even more.

You’ll find the India Club within the Strand Continental Hotel. Go upstairs and on the first floor you have the bar. You might want to stop off here and mingle with the eccentrics over a G&T but if you really can’t wait ascend another storey to the restaurant. Don’t forget to pick a pair of Cobras to take with you though otherwise you’ll have to go back downstairs to get them.

A sole diner was munching when we arrived, his gaze focused on a point many miles away. Around the walls pictures of Indian legends look down upon the room – Gandhi and  Jinnah I spotted easily, others were more difficult to identify. I believe the restaurant opened in 1949 and I don’t think it’s had a refurb in the intervening seventy or so years. Formica tables, functional flatware and a paper napkin slimmer than graphene are the way the IC rolls. You’re not in Dishoom now, this is the real thing. Or at least a mid-20thC Anglo-Indian reality.

The waiter dropped a heavy hint that we should take the set menu. We complied and thus the spicy conveyor belt was set in motion. First up a poppadom each with four chutneys – mango (hot and sweet), onion (really, just onion and nothing else), lime (my personal favourite) and coconut (which I think we should have saved for the dhosa). We cracked open the Cobras and tucked in.

Next was a plate of battered onion and chilli – the chilli with a real kick, just done whole with the seeds left in. The Cobra took the edge off a little. Dhosas were thick yet light and to be honest I was already starting to get full but also the aroma from the kitchen was keeping me hungry so when the main courses arrived I still had the capability.

There was a beefy curry and a butter chicken, neither of them overly spicy and a little underpowered on the flavour side. The dhal was better, as was the sag aloo. Did we really need pilau rice AND bread?! Probably not but we ate them anyway, paid the bill and staggered back to the bar under the momentum of our own protuberant stomachs.*

7/10

*One tip for the gents – go to the Gents, you get a great little view of the rear of Kings College. One of those unexpected little pleasures is a smallest room with a view. Daddy of these is of course the Lloyds Building where you can ease yourself (to borrow from the Nigerian) while gazing over the City. Another that I miss is that which was to be found while watering the porcelain in the Old Red Lion on Whitechapel High Street. You could watch the District Line trains meandering their way into Whitechapel Station and think to yourself, ‘Aren’t I lucky to be in a pub and not in a tube carriage.’

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To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

 

Review #67 Shikara, South Kensington

August 7, 2016

Pre-Prom and looking for spice South Ken didn’t seem all that promising, its independent trade having largely succumbed to the crushing onslaught of the chains since I first used to come to SK when my children were wee bairns. But we found Shikara tucked away in Rue de Bute and rolled the dice.

The room is pleasant enough and Bute Street itself is fairly quiet, although I’m not sure that the lonely pavement table looks all that appealing. We chose to stay indoors. The offer is your standard tandoori fare. Chef’s specials up front, jalfrezi/biryani/dhal in the middle, veg, sundries then the filthy English stuff – Madras/Vindaloo/Chips – hidden away at the back.

A starter of shami kebab was a bit disappointing with not enough spice for my taste. The poppadoms though were excellent with a good selection of chutneys. A main of one of the chef’s specials was ok but again not as spicy as I was hoping. I guess this shows the value of cultivating your local curry house – you get to learn what they mean by mild, medium and hot. Visiting an Indian at random you don’t have the time to work out what’s good for your palate.

The service was friendly and there was the usual Cobra-Kingfisher face off which provoked the thought of why aren’t Indian restaurants getting into the craft beer game? While I’m sure there are commercial incentives for them to live within the C-K duopoly (although I’ve sometimes seen Heineken on offer too) it’s a shame that local brews seem to be the domain of your Dishooms rather than reaching down to the independent sector.

So we rolled out of Shikara content but not wowed. Which is okay, the bill was reasonable for the area. Stephen Osborne doing the Britten Piano Concerto at the RAH on the other was utterly sensational.

6/10

To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #63 Gaylord Restaurant, Fitzrovia

July 20, 2016

So it’s 34C and the hottest day of the year so far, you’ve just finished a two hour walk in jacket and tie through central London lecturing about death and destruction in 1940s London and you’ve half slaked your thirst with a couple of cold ones in Ed Murrow’s local.

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What are your options? I don’t know about you but I had one thing on my mind – curry. And I knew where to get it.

I’ve had my eye on the Gaylord for a while. It looks like a relic of a bygone era, kind of like a luxury Standard Tandoori where you could imagine Imran Khan hanging out with Both in the ’80s after a charity match.I wasn’t disappointed.

We were there before opening time and I think they were having their staff meeting but it didn’t seem to matter as we seated ourselves and sorted out some cold water. Picture windows gave a great view onto the commuters hurrying by in the heat outside while inside the Gaylord the atmosphere was chilled by the air con. Floor to ceiling paintings of various oriental scenes were kitsch without being nauseating.

Poppadoms are served straight up as part of the cover charge (yep, that retro) and I scanned the luxuriously printed menu – each page on its own bit of hardboard. Well, with some mains coming in at £20 plus I could tell I definitely wasn’t in the Standard anymore but then again we were in the heart of expenses land and it was a nicely appointed room.

A shared mixed non-vegetarian starter was a satisfyingly smoky lamb shish, crab cake and various other bits that I wish I’d had to myself they were so good. But then I might not have had enough room for the main event – a ground goat curry. I wasn’t sure if by ground goat they meant a low-altitude rather than a mountain goat but no, this was goat minced and mixed with a perfect blend of spicy heat that I could have eaten another bowl of quite easily. But on the side, mmm, we had a black lentil dal that was the real deal. Thick and rich with butter, perfect for scooping up with crispy brown raita and naan. Even the pilau rice was a cut above.

All in all the food was the best Indian I’ve had in London for quite a long time. Cobras came in at nearly seven quid a pint mind, so you have to pay for the quality. But judging from the fact that the rest of the clientèle was almost entirely South Asian it’s clear that they know their market and deliver the goods.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #58 King Baba, Leamington Spa

June 29, 2016

Between the sublime of Italy’s disposal of Spain and the ridiculous of England’s football disgrace we dined at the court of King Baba. Baba’s digs are by no means palatial, in fact his monarchical style tends to the stripped back Scandinavian vibe with an Indian twist rather than plush oriental splendour. But that suited us as we had only a one hour window in which to lay in some ballast before the mayhem began.

The room was deserted, the residents of Lem already for the most part luxuriating in sporting lagerland. This disgruntled our waiter whose idleness prompted bouts of conversation in between bringing us Cobra (the only beer on draught), poppadoms (disappointing chutneys) and dishes of onion bhaji (v good) and various curry (my Rezalla needed more heat).

He opened by apologising for the emptiness of the room, bemoaning the fact that the Euros had destroyed the post-work trade, then went on to do some entertaining trash talking of the curry house across the road (‘Millennium Balti, out of date now innit? They’re cheaper but they’re crap, don’t go there’). As he came to clear away the starters he started a new jeremiad about the Italians beating the Spanish, in whom he’d invested heavily at Ladbroke’s. My advice that you should never bet against the Italians when they’re unfancied for a tournament was met with incredulity – ‘They’ve won nothing for years mate, Spain should have had them!’

He retreated as we munched through the mains, another brace of Cobras going down easily, especially with some very high quality naan to soak up the juices. Bowing to our inevitable departure to catch the Iceland game he didn’t try to persuade us to dessert but did give us some parting gambling advice, ‘Get on England to win in extra time, I’ve doubled up.’

Baba may be King but he presides over an impoverished realm.

7/10


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