Lunch at Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

Set amongst rolling hills of the beautiful Kentish countryside is the plush Indian restaurant Shampan at the Spinning Wheel. I was invited to review their new Indian A la Carte menu which boasts of interesting combinations created using locally sourced where ever possible.

Shampan is located about a  half hour drive away from Bromley South overground station. One gets the relaxing feeling of getting away from the fast-paced rush that one feels while travelling around London. When you first walk into Shampan at the Spinning Wheel the fireplace instantly put you at ease while the sleek modern leather couches create an atmosphere of luxury and comfort. Perfect for pre-lunch or pre-dinner drinks the lounge reflects the owner Sufian vision to recreate the oomph factor you would experience while say walking into a modern 5 star in Mumbai. Highly regarded for its cuisine, it’s carefully crafted menu created by Chef Sadek Miah Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, has won many awards and accolades namely the British Curry awards in 2012 and Newcomer of the Year in 2013. They also have been awarded a certificate of excellence for 2015 by TripAdvisor.

Posh interiors at the Shampan

                                                                                        Posh interiors at the Shampan

It was a warm summer’s day and I choose to cool down with a Virgin Mojito and followed it up with a refreshing ‘Apple Julep’. A large basket of fried poppadums sprinkled with a tangy dry masala powder which had the right hint of green mango was so moreish it was almost impossible to stop at one. A host of chutneys and dips accompanied the poppadums that were constantly replenished by the very smart staff. Since we had a very long wait before lunch as some guests lost their way, I had another mocktail this time it was an Almost Amaretto sour but it was far too sweet for my taste.

Refreshing Mocktails at Shampan

                                                               Refreshing Mocktails at Shampan

After a tour of the beautiful premises we were seated and served some delicious starters. I choose the banana wrapped tilapia with coconut and coriander – a fine balance of delicate flavours in perfectly cooked fish. I have tried similar dishes at many Indian fine dining restaurants and ever so often it is not exactly what I look for – either the green chutney is not as pungent as it should be or the fish is not as perfectly cooked – somehow it’s always the seemingly simple dishes that are the most difficult to produce to near perfection. For seafood fans this dish is one you must most definitely try!

 

Banana wrapped tilapia

                                                  Banana wrapped tilapia

A look at some of the other appetisers on our table :

Tempting array of appetisers at Shampan

Tempting array of appetisers at Shampan

I am quite sure I could have had another portion of the tilapia had it not been for the massive portion size of my main – grilled duck breast with goan curry sauce and cumin mashed potatoes. The duck was cooked well and the mashed potatoes were lovely with the grilled potatoes. The sauce was not what I had hoped for though, ideally a Goan sauce should have been spicier and richer but the tomato over powered the other ingredients. I loved the  panner and tadka dal though, which I mopped up with buttery aromatic tandoori naans (with another helping of the yum poppadums!) .

All this while I was eyeing the delicious curry and rice mains the other guests were tucking into – particularly the Punjabi red spiced chicken breast with sauteed vegetables and pilau rice. I also loved the sound of venison smoked and cooked in Jodhpuri spices with crips okra – ummm what a fabulous combination. Another delicious traditional main was the Kerala spiced king prawn with a thick coconut sauce served with a flavoured coconut rice – ultimate comfort food! The grilled mullet was main looked great and I tasted a little but again the tomato like broth surrounding it was not a hit.

Grilled duck breast with goan curry

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It was a particularly warm summer afternoon and we were served some fresh fruit smoothie’s – again very generous size serves and quite delicious too.

Fresh Mango and Strawberry Smoothies

                                            Fresh Mango and Strawberry Smoothies

A look at what the other guests enjoyed for their mains.

Tempting array of mains at Shampan

                                                                          Mouthwatering array of mains at Shampan

This is probably one of the most generous portion sizes of mains I have ever been served. Naturally that left no place for dessert which was an Indian dessert – samosa filled with gajar halwa with a dollop of delicious ice cream. I did not sample the samosa but did have some of the ice cream. The presentation of all the dishes especially the dessert was lovely and the service throughout was very courteous.

Desert selection at Shampan

                                                                                            Desert selection at Shampan

First opened in 2011, this destination restaurant has much more to offer than just great tasting Indian food and swanky interiors. It is the perfect venue for dreamy weddings and has a separate function room too called the Saffron Room with a lounge area called ‘The Mumbai Quarters’ – aptly so because when I first walked into to lounge area it reminded of some of Mumbai’s best loved posh five-star restaurants. The location offers ample parking space again ideal for business lunches or a family get together. The soon to be done up bridal suite promises to be just as lush as the rest of the venue. To book the venue for events or reserve a table you will find all the contact details on their website here.

Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

                                                                                                           Shampan at the Spinning Wheel

*With thanks to Humayun Hussain and Shampan for an invite. All opinions expressed are as always my own. No monetary compensation was provided for a positive review.

 

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Chakra – Indian Fine Dining in Notting Hill

I am on vacation in India but I have a bunch of passionate foodies hard at work in London, sampling the best that the city has to offer, so that you,my readers can continue to get the latest reviews,news and views from the world of food  – after all someone’s got to continue doing all the hard work while I party ;). A few days ago my buddy Harish, who is also a passionate foodie went to Chakra to sample their menu and this is what he thought . Having just returned from a two week-long vacation in India, the flavors of my real home were ever present on my palette reminding me of the good times spent navigating the gastronomical haunts of both Delhi and Mumbai. Expectations were thus pretty high when Flavia, an Italian colleague of mine from work, and I made our way to the swanky Indian restaurant in Notting Hill called Chakra for dinner this last Wednesday. We arrived for our 8 pm seating and were promptly shown to our table, amidst an already buzzing restaurant which clearly indicated its popularity amongst the locals. The interiors were dim, the décor modern and the music modern; all adding to the distinct vibe of this favored Notting Hill establishment. A plate of spicy mini “papads” accompanied by a sweet mango chutney made their way to our table first. The appetizer was crispy, not too oily and very flavorful just perfect to set the stage for the meal to follow. Chakra poppadums An amuse bouche followed the “papad” plate.  Rajma Galouti – mini red kidney bean kebab with yogurt chutney. This was particularly disappointing, as it was cold and lacking any flavor. Having seen previous reviews, I knew that the dish was dressed down. A part of the meal the management team can safely omit from the offer. Chakra Rajma Galouti Appetizers followed and Flavia and I decided to get a mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters.  We decided to go down the more traditional selection path and got ourselves a portion each of the Malai Kebab Ke Dande, tender chicken breast pieces marinated in yogurt and fresh cream grilled to perfection in the clay oven, Tandoori Paneer, gorgeous chunks of cottage cheese marinated in yellow masala and cooked just right and finally the Chakra specialty, The Lahori Kebab. These succulent skewers of lamb seasoned just right, just melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more. Simply scrumptious. Chakra 3   Chakra 4   Chakra 5 Chakra is fairly unique in its offerings of the main course. Strangely it offers up the vegetarian options in half portions (sides) with the similar option lacking from the non-vegetarian options. Needless to say there was plenty to be thankful for, for what we were about to be served was an absolute delight. Chakra 6 Central to our order was a Blackened Cod Fish. Tender, well marinated and again cooked to perfection. By the beaming smile on Flavias face and the mutterance of approval in Italian I knew she was pleased. Frankly so was I. I can safely say that the tandoori Black Cod marinated with lime juice & a cracked pepper yoghurt marinade is reason enough to visit Chakra. Chakra 7 The supporting cast to the Chakra Black Cod performed appropriately as well.  The Butter Chicken (perfect blend of a delicate tomato based gravy and shredded chicken), The Kali (black) Dal (black lentils which were buttery yet not overwhelming) Zeera Aloo (sautéed tender baby potatoes with cumin seeds, ginger and chili) and Chakra Saag (paneer tossed with spinach, petit pois flavoured with ginger & nutmeg & fenugreek) accompanied by Tandoori Rotis (Indian bread) were just wonderful. At this point in the meal I am usually loosening my belt, being stuffed to the brim. But somehow the meal at Chakra did not end up having a similar effect. The concept of sides is simply brilliant and allowed the Flavia and myself to experience the full spectrum of offerings at Chakra. I say we have a wined with this concept. Chakra 8 Chakra 9   We had eaten like royalty. The Nawab of Hyderabad himself at this point would have been twirling his moustache and rubbing his belly experiencing nothing but utter satisfaction. But no Indian meal is complete without the essential “sweet dish” (dessert). Flavia chose the Gulab Jamun (3 Indian sweet dumplings in sugar syrup, accompanied by vanilla ice cream) and I the Mango Kulfi. The Jamun’s were sensational; Piping hot with just the right texture, sugar syrup seeping through and all. They brought back fond memories of my recent wonderful trip to Delhi. That is what good food is supposed to do; excite all the senses and throw up a flashback or two, of good times spent with those near and dear. This was the perfect end to a perfect meal. On our way out I asked Flavia what she thought of Chakra. She instantly replied “I must go to India and eat”. If this is the response that this Notting Hill establishment (Chakra) can generate from one who hails from one of the most gastronomically gifted countries of the world then I can safely say this. “If you haven’t been to Chakra yet, you must do so now”. Experience the true flavors of India, without leaving Notting Hill, London. **** In my book of great eats. *With  thanks to Humayun Hussain and Chakra for the invite. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review.

Go Goa with Indian Zing’s Goan Inspired Christmas Menu – a Review

A short walk from Ravenscourt Park Tube station, this Indian restaurant is at the end of a high street with far too many restaurants n close proximity to each other. But clearly Indian Zing seems to be favoured over the others as a few minutes after we strolled in there late on Monday evening it was heaving with hungry customers.

I was invited to review the Christmas Menu and seeing Pork sorpotel, Pork Vindaloo and a Turkey Jalfrezi on their Goan Christmas Menu, I couldn’t turn down a week day trip to a part of London that is not quite on my way back home from work.

We were greeted warmly by the maître d’ Rahul who got us a ‘welcome drink’ shortly after we were seated. This warming soupy broth of tomatoes, coriander and some other secret ingredients was just what we needed on a chilly evening.

While we selected our wine and starters, we were pleasantly surprised to have the owner-Chef Manoj Vasaikar stroll in for a chat. Like us he is a Maharashtrian from Mumbai and I guess one the reasons we immediately warmed up to him. Of course it is Chef Manoj’s down to earth demeanour that puts one at ease from the word go. The love for food and his passion to serve fresh food cooked using quality ingredients carefully sourced becomes evident as he shares the inspiration behind the new Goan Inspired menu and as we chatted away a small part of me seemed to drift away from the conversation to a pristine white sands beach in Goa.

The fact that we were seated in a restaurant which has beautiful Indian artefacts and carved wooden pillars  (an extension of the influence of the Chef’s Indian background and love for things Indian) may also have had something to do giving me the feeling that I was in India not London on a cold, rainy winter evening.

First up came the starters :

  • Goan vegetable cutlets (Almomdegas) – Exotic vegetable with Goan herbs and spices, pan seared. Served with red Goan chutney and baby cress
  • Pork Sorpotel  – A pork pickle mellowed with a distinct flavour of dried red Goan paste marinated in Palm vinegar. Served with sanna (a steamed rice cake).
  • Sun Dried Shrimps and Fish Cutlets – Small shrimps, seasonal fish with fresh herbs and spices, root vegetable with semolina seared on hot pan. Served with roasted coconut chutney.

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One bite into the shrimp and fish cutlet had me oohing and aahing and of course greedily craving for more 😉 While for hubster the Sorpotel hit the spot. The tangy pickle flavour combined with the fiery Goan paste is cleverly balanced by the palm vinegar while the steamed rice cake – Goa’s answer to bread, manages to cut through the spice really quite nicely.

I could happily have had lots more of the shrimp and fish cutlets and continued sipping on aromatic red which the maître d’ kindly picked out for me. Cabernet Sauvignon, Les Templiers, Vinde Pays a red wine from France with blackcurrant and blackberry flavours with ripe balanced tannins – perfect match with our starters.

While Chef Manoj left to go check on his guests at his other rrestaurant Rahul continued to fuss over us and we left it to him to bring us his favourite picks from Indian Zing’s Goan themed Christmas Menu.

By now the festive spirit had us in it’s grips and hubster and me happily reminisced about all things Mumbai, when was the last time we visited Goa and other such happy memories. I was in Std 5 when my parents took my sister and me to Goa for a long vacation and I still can never forget the meal of steamed rice and the fresh catch of the day we all shared at a cute little beach shanty. Of course time has a way of erasing bits and pieces from your memories, something like old photographs in family albums that begin to fade and fray at the edges but the essence of the moment always stays captured somewhere in that picture. That is why food like what we were about to eat brings with a rush of memories, familiar sights and sounds tumble out of old hidden chests in your memory bank…

When Rahul arrived with a huge tray with 4 mains, plain naan, steamed rice and brown rice pulav we couldn’t wait to get started.

I had to taste the Zing’s Turkey Jalfrezi with Caramelised Cranberry first though and it is a fabulous marriage of east meets west with perfectly cooked diced turkey which has been marinated in a rich spice mixture served in a thick gorgeous onion, pepper and tomato gravy sauce topped with scrumptious caramelised cranberries.

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Hubster on the other hand dug into the Pork Vindaloo, a traditional  Goan delicacy, heavily spiced and usually fiery, this dish to me is Goa on a Plate. A hand me down from the Portuguese influence on Goan food , Indian Zing’s interpretation results in a dish of melt in your mouth soft pork dish in a rich sauce of  slow cooked spices which penetrate through the meat giving it an intense depth of flavour, almost like eating a juicy meat pickle. Mop this up with plain naan – makes a superb combination I say.

Seafood lovers that we both are, we were happy that Goan fish Ambottik was part of the selection of dishes we were sampling. Best consumed with plain boiled rice this fish gravy is seasoned with kokum which gives it  fabulously tangy almost sour flavour and the spices give it that familiar coastal curry flavour but with a dash of Goan red chillies. Not for the faint hearted though this is a fiery one but a true Goan dish , do not hesitate to order this. I highly recommend washing this down with several glasses of Gamay, Duboeuf Vin de Pays a Red wine from France, a lively red with a full aromatic character of crushed fresh berries,  which is slightly chilled to balance spicy food. ( I noticed that the wine menu had a Sauvignon Blanc from Sula Vineyards in  Nashik from Maharashtra state in India and I almost immediately wanted to order us a bottle to take home but have decided to go back and savour this wine on a relaxed afternoon some day soon over a meal of fish curry and rice – ummm)

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We ate spoonfuls of Caldinho de legumes in between greedy mouthfulls of the Ambottik and rice. A  green herb curry with a gorgeous combination of vegetables and mushrooms smothered in cashew nut gravy this is flavoured with a virgin extract of coconut milk and topped with wafer thin roasted almonds. Absolutely delightful this is a fabulous accompaniment to most of the mains especially the Turkey Jalfrezi. Frankly we couldn’t get enough of this green veggie coconut goodness.

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While we sat down quietly trying to get all that food down into our tummies, I was reminded of how every year my father used to bring a rich plum cake which we would hungrily devour after our big Christmas day dinner of home made biryani and lots of snacks and special fizzy drinks for all the kids in the family. And if we were lucky Baba would also give us Bebinca – a sweet flour multi-layered cake, which he always got back from his frequent trips to Goa (Indian Zings menu has Goan Bebinca though I was more inclined to sample the spiced pudding so we gave it a miss)

No Christmas menu is complete without a showstopping dessert and Indian Zing’s spiced exotic Christmas pudding with spicy brandy custard is the perfect ending to a festive feast. All we needed now was a warm bed and the day off work the next day … 😉

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I only wish I was going back for more of Indian Zings Goan themed food especially would love some on Christmas day but I guess my friends and me will just have to make do with what hubster and I manage to make.

If you haven’t already called Indian Zing to book a table, then grab that phone and let Rahul book you in for a feast you won’t forget.

*With  thanks to Humayun Hussain and Indian Zing for the invite. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review .All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Find the menu here follow me on Zomato

Indian Zing on Urbanspoon

Hot,Pink and Fresh Off the Grill !

Hot Off the Grill ! – Hot Pink Healthy Grill ,Wimbledon – review – New kid on the Block

Whoa! Did I just read the words Healthy and Grill together ? Or was it just my rumbling tummy playing tricks on my mind ?

It was out of sheer curiosity to find out what this new place on the Wimbledon High street was that we dared step in, Back in September last year the place had hardly opened about a week ago and my ma in law was visiting. She was most thrilled to know that there was even a healthy eating out option available after the onslaught of pub food, italian dinners and a host of other places I have dragged her to 🙂

 

The interiors are very welcoming with the huge armchairs that you can sink into but they were taken – obvious as they are next to a miniature book shelf – ideal seating I’ d say!

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Image Credit : Hot Pink

And the many odd and ends as artifacts scattered around seem to add to the character of the place apart from the POP pink colour which is their general colours scheme.

The menu is quite neat too, the concept is pick a main, choose one of the sides and a sauce served on the side and to tempt you further with the promise of only 150 calories there is a skinny custard too! Perfect if you are watching your weight , looking at a healthy eating out option 0r simply being good and not negating all those hours in the gym or worse still spent running out in this fabulous weather aye?!

I was quite pleased to see a side of sweet potato wedges as well – just what the world has been waiting for I say! And if your guilt conscience is on a perpetual vacation like mine is then their award-winning chocolate brownie is what you should be ordering – pronto!

We shared some grilled chicken wings with a Hot Pink Sauce ,quite scrummy and juicy.

So ma was really good  and ordered a Grilled Salmon and Caesar salad (not the very best I’ve had I must admit ….) while the hubster went for chicken skewers and a side of roasted veg and I got myself a Cumberland sausage with the sweet potato wedges.

 

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I made the mistake of ordering some Hot Pink Cola which is pretty weird to taste,maybe next time I will try one of their skinny slushes or the Hot Pink Lager made using just barley,hops and water humm.

1-Hot Pink dinner with aai

So lets see on a really hungry evening  you could spend anywhere between £16 to £20 ( a whole sea bass in garlic and herb sauce with brown rice and lentils side for £13 with a  brownie for dessert  £5 and a fizzy £2.5) per head for a healthier than usual 3 course meal and a drink,not bad eh?

Need more reasons – umm lemme see – Breakfast can look like that :

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Image Credit : Hot Pink

Takeaways available,Lunch deals at £6 ,a  loyalty programme and cheesecake on the menu 😉

 

Hot Pink on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Kati Roll Company,Reagent Street – Review

During my very first year after we moved to London I was on a spree to explore the city and of course travel around England. My first winter ( 2011) I really took my time to acclimatise and had a tough time going from one day to the other without feeling a mixture of utter boredom, gloom and loneliness ( maybe one of the reasons I subconsciously pushed myself to start blogging again after a long hiatus , my old blog started in 2006 , I abandoned for various reasons didn’t seem something I wanted to go back to…and ”sliceoffme” was born) On one such terribly cold and grey evening one of my old college mates who I found stayed in London via FB (Thank god for FB!) and me met for a drink and some window shopping. After walking all over Oxford Street we were ravenously hungry and I wanted something substantial and if possible Indian and not expensive – humm , lucky for me she really knew the area well and we walked to a tiny by lane off  Reagent street n queued up inside The Kati Roll company. It was packed to the gills and is a tiny little place but very popular as I was informed by N.

The juicy and perfectly spiced pieces of meat,chicken or paneer wrapped in one of those ready to eat thick parathas  (why?! well of this is NOT  Mumbai is it so no chance of the REAL DEAL aka a Rumali Roti – a fine Indian Bread which is made by bravely tossing the dough around in open air and full public view and lands expertly on a tandoor – if I was to try it would probably land on my face! ) and seasoned with a spicy chutney and finely sliced red onions are so good especially when washed down with a chilled cola. I ordered two rolls with meat – but one can really fill you up if you are not too hungry.We managed to get a place to sit, partly because I hovered around a table where a group of hungry young men were wolfing down their rolls and managed to look very exhausted , hungry and in need for a place to sit – sigh… the things one has to do to get a table anywhere nice in London 😉

Last month when I was out near Reagent Street and struck by a serious hunger pang I made a beeline for The Kati Roll Company. Pleasantly surprised to find the place was not as busy and the interiors also seemed to have had a serious facelift. New on the menu was a very tempting bottle of thick mango lassi , the last one was sitting there in the fridge begging me to buy it…something about a water droplet slowly making its way from the too of the bottle along the side which was very ummm… mesmerising ? 🙂 Alas the hungry man who ordered right before I did bought it – dang!So armed with a Shami Kebab and an Unda Shami Roll (guilt guilt !) I grabbed a table before it vanished.

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So I had to settle for a coke – ah well. I sat on a table facing a wall with Aamir Khan staring down at me from a  movie poster of his best film yet – Lagaan. I love how the posters had been put pasted onto the wall and then run over with a roller, I suppose ,making it look like the bricks had these images and had just been fitted into one another (much like the stunning wallpaper at Tartine Artisanal in Tooting – read my review here)

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Several old Bollywood posters decorate the orange brick walls at The Kati Roll Company. Just then a very noisy bunch of ladies ,giggling and talking all at once stepped in to get some rolls rudely snapping me out of my reverie… and here I was so far away from London, imagining I was in Bombay sitting on a wooden bench outside Bade Miya –  a roadside stall probably more famous than The Taj restaurant behind which it operates. (Actually a roadside stall is probably the worst way to describe this crazy popular ”landmark” in Mumbai, they probably are the richest operators selling kebabs in Bombay city!) I could almost smell the open air grills giving out tantalising aromas of succulent kebabs sizzling away, the laughter of young and uppity South Mumbai crowd inter mingled with the murmur of conversation from the  office -goers, college students , a few tourists and the other odd people, all huddled together in small groups around cars -or just standing around, while the super busy ”waiters” rushed around with a stub and a mangled notepad yelling out our orders to no one in particular.

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Sometimes I miss Bombay so much that I have a very real physical heart-ache and it takes me several minutes to snap out of my walk down memory lane. The Kati Roll company is one such place where it is very easy for me to slip into such a state and happily so. Its only when I walked out of there and the cold afternoon January wind slapped me in the face did I suddenly realise that I was ONLY a few thousand miles away from Bade Miya and Bombay city,  in London – on a cold winter afternoon…

So yes its possible to get a really decent, as close to  authentic ”Indian” kebab rolls on a budget in Central London.

Should you go there ? Heck yes!

Is it on my list of favourite cheap eats around London – yes !

Do you need any more prodding ? Guess Not!

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London Review Bookshop, Cake Shop – Review

Old buildings, browsing free entry museums and loosing myself in the beautiful by-lanes of London City are  things I love to do. Considering that I am either doing 2-3 part time jobs at once or a very tight schedule full time project at other times, time is always at a premium so on free days I love setting out armed with my backpack with a few home made sandwiches, a bottle of water, low cal (joke!) crisps and if I am lucky then a small piece of cake. I do try and carry a thermos with hot water for making my own tea but that only in the summer when I want to walk up Box-Hill , read a book , catch a snooze and watch the clouds make funny patterns in the sky.

Now that I am blogging from home (full-time) , I have to think hard and save lots before I allow myself even the occasional treat at a quaint cafe.

On one beautiful summer afternoon last year ,when my dear ma-in-law was visiting us ,(ma – who is also a good listener  and knows how to soothe frayed nerves and lighten me up when I am hyper -which is almost always), decided to go see the British Museum. With my absolute lack at being able to use the many apps I have on my smartphone (apparently even the owner has to be a tad smart- sigh..) I managed to totally confuse her and we ended walking almost for 40 minutes before we finally reached the museum. Ready to fall dead myself and with a huge guilt conscience at the torchure I had just inflicted on my poor sweet ma (who is well into her 60’s) ,I decided to treat her to some tea and cakes. Funnily enough the only other time I had been to the London Review Bookshop nestled in a lane bang opp the British Museum was when she last visited us in 2011 – weird or what!

Back then we had ma’s foodie and very sensible friend P with us who is much more intelligent than I shall ever be. So we had managed to see a fair bit of the museum and then stumble into the bookshop after a fairly short bus ride from Kings Cross.(!!! when will I learn to navigate around London using the many apps on my phone – NEVER ?!! And to think P doesn’t even own a smartphone – yet – says a lot about how smart she is !)

Anyway, by the time we sat down at the table at the Cake Shop in the London Review Bookshop, we were severely dehydrated and needed some sugar to pump some energy back into our systems.

What better way than to order one of Terry Glover’s brilliant cakes? And yes two – yes yes you read that right two pots of Tea. To say that the London review Bookshop is neighbours with Le Cordon Bleu which has its own little cafe’ attached is no small matter. I must say the Le Cordon Bleu has a highly distinguished neighbour 🙂

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So after indulging ourselves in a heavenly pot of tea from Sri Lanka called”chai-tea” ( I will rant about why it irks me to see 2 words with the same meaning used to name a variety of tea and fast becoming an acceptable ways of referring to Indian tea – NO folks chai is tea in Hindi – ”simples”!!) with a generous amount of honey to sweeten it , we were ready to face the world – or win a war whichever came first.

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The bookshop is a treat for any self respecting book lover and a must-visit place,they have a basement reading room of sorts which is super quiet and a great cubby hole to loose yourself in. Perfect for when you want to switch off from the world outside – which I would like to very often.

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So I managed to buy this book for a friend who loves and knows her tea,Tea by John Griffiths.

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And ma got herself the most amazing – Sharks Fin and Sichuan Peppers by Fuchsia Dunlop- (If you love food you MUST read this book) .Really wanted to buy ,One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore but was broke by then.

A bit of tasty tidbits about the Cake Shop owner, taken from her bio on the London Review Bookshop website :

”Her signature style fuses Japanese and French influences, clinched with a chilli kick.

Terry finds inspiration in meeting the people behind the produce – growers, suppliers or cooks – who invest love, knowledge and personality in their food.”

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I love how the many floral teas are displayed in these huge glass jars in this corner , apologies to the unknown person who happens to be in this picture , I only wanted the jars but you were so lost in reading I didn’t have the heart (or the courage  tehehe) to disturb you!

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Cake Shop at the London Review Bookshop is another of those cafes that I would want to visit several times over and I know I would enjoy each visit like a different flavour of tea or cake perhaps.Well that’s one tick off my must see places in London for sure.

That’s ma’s happy face after her tea, by the way she has written a guest post for me in a series of posts about Irani Cafes in Mumbai,Pune and London , which you can read here and she also is the author of a blog called Retro-Reflections, which has been  silent  for a few months now as she had a Valve replacement Open-Heart operation back home in Bombay.She is back to her cheerful self now ,thank god and her blog will see some action real soon.

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I would love to know what you thought about this review , ma’s blog and our series on Irani cafes, I love reading all comments and it makes me immensely happy to share with all of you –  my love of food,travel and all the little things that make life worth while.Thanks for reading 🙂

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P.S: If you are as badly technologically challenged as I am and need directions of how to get to this gem of a place click here , the website has detailed directions of how to get to cafe without breaking into a sweat after walking for 40 minutes  and having to think you might actually need to dial the emergency services!

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Verde and Company Ltd, London – Review

What I love most about London is the abundance of quaint cafe’s , no matter which part of the city you choose to wander around in, you are certain to stumble into at least one really pretty ,local cafe that is just begging you to walk in and have a cuppa and that tempting slice of cake or two 🙂

On one sunny and wonderful afternoon last year my two foodie buddies S and N decided to wander the streets around Spitalfields after a glorious lunch at DISHOOM- Shoreditch (review to follow soon!), after a browse through the many pretty shops around we had to rest our tired feet and there it was Cafe Verde with these beautiful wicker baskets hanging on the walls outside calling us in, our feet automatically moved towards the place – honest!

The first thing I noticed when we were inside was this brilliant display of bottled jam jars and a bust with a backlight , it looked so divine…

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Everything about this tiny cafe was warm and welcoming including the polite staff at the counter.I couldn’t stop taking pictures at this cute cafe with some really stunning displays!

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The optimum utilisation of ever nook and cranny of this compact little cafe is really impressive

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We did manage to curb our desire for more cake but it was very difficult – I mean just look at that cake !

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We pretended that we were on holiday in Paris and posed outside the cafe for pictures…errmm no way ..am not sharing those pictures 😉

If you are around Spitalfields for work or pleasure and need time to recharge your batteries then THIS is the place !

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Tartine Artisanal Cafe’, Tooting – A Review

I love  stealing some me-time at a quiet cafe’ and am always on the look out for ones that call out to me . I am quite a fan of ”Euphorium” at Angel,London but its quite far and I become very lazy in winter , so travelling far away is ruled out.Interestingly enough for the past few months on my way to Tooting Broadway where I go and buy my Indian groceries every week I have been noticing the Tartine Artisanal Cafe and silently promising myself that after am done with the shopping I will treat myself to a cuppa, but then with heavy shopping bags for company all I want to is take the next bus home…sigh…

Finally last week when I met my friend for a dosa lunch at ”Dosa and Chutney” which has somehow become our new lunch haunt , we decided to go and have a relaxed cuppa at the Tartine.

As soon as you enter through the doors the whole manic high street outside seems to disappear , you wouldn’t know after a while whether you are actually in Tooting …I love when that happens , an added impetus to dream away …

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Its the kind of place where you loose track of time…

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Where you can sit for hours and watch the world go by …or even loose yourself in the infinite reflections of the beautiful .soft cafe’ lights onto the street outside.

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Everything about the decor is just so right – the brick wall at the counter, the fire place, the plush brown sofa that you can sink into , the chairs with street names in a nice font , the cushions mimicking jute bags in which coffee is packed, the coffee cake placed on the cake stand with a glass dome ( I so want one for myself but simply have no place to keep it, another reason to move real soon)

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My favourite bit is this wall behind the plush sofa , it has a beautiful wallpaper etched into the brick wall ,it is the kind of wall that can help one start imagining stories.Simply amazing.

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I love ordering a pot of tea and since am trying hard to cut down on both salt and sugar , a  Chamomile leaf tea which is fast becoming a real favourite with me was apt. But my defenses broke down at the sight of the coffee cake – we just had to share one piece 😉

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I plan to come here alone one afternoon with a good book and myself for company multiple tea pots of Chamomile or maybe even one of the tempting Lunch offering from their menu sound good …I am currently in love with grilled cherry tomatoes and root vegetables…they are so good especially in the winter.

Sometimes I think I get my best ideas when I am totally relaxed ,warm and cosy in such a cafe , a part of the world , yet away from all the madness, watching the world go by from the glass windows…the window somehow managing to slow down all of that as well….at such times…time seems to stop and I can move from one plane to the other , countries even, walk through the rooms in my memory palace , savour memories of times spent laughing with an old friend ,in a simpler phase of life perhaps…

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Oh and yes they have a branch in Balham too..goody !

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MASALA ZONE ,SOHO,London

The word ”authethtic” has never felt so apt as when I use it to describe the offerings from Masala Zone. I am a frequent visitor to this place and it all started with my very first visit 2 years ago.New to London, needless to say terribly homesick , my husband decided to treat me to some delicious Indian cuisine. He couldn’t have chosen a better place.

The instant I walked it , I was greeted by a beautiful idol of the elephant headed Lord Ganesha and a massive urn decorated with floating flowers.The walls an earthy brown with delicate warli paintings all over.A welcome sight and instantly made me feel at home:)

I love Indian street foods,so gorging on CHAATS was in order.A masala Coke is lovely with the chaats and I can rarely stop at one masala coke. We went A’ la carte and got some spicy dal (lentil curry) and plain rice to go with it,closest in comparison to, my favourite comfort food which is varan bhaath- meaning simple yellow moong dal with ghee and steaming boiled rice!

Image below is of Sev Puri- thats small fired crunchy puris topped with mashed potato mix spiced with finely chopped tomatoes,sev which is the fine yellow crisp gram vermicelli,green mango bits and a tangy tamrind chutney with some finely chopped coriander sprinkled all over.

Image above is fried onion fritterr called Bhajiya in Hindi – thin slices of onion coated with gram flour mixed with spices and deep fried served with green chutney and tangy tamrind chutney.

In the image above there’s 2 plates of Ragda Pattice and a plate of Dahi Puri in between- Absolute CHAATilicious !Ragda Pattice is fried potato patty served with a gravy made from dried white peas cooked in a thick garvy and spiced with many different flavours topped off with various chutneys and sev. Dahi Puri is made by stuffing the puffed puris with a mix of mashed potatoes,sprouts,chutneys,sev and adding dollops of flavoured curd over it.Great for those who want to try a chaat dish and still avoid anything too spicy as the curd soothes your palate.

Last month we had a lot of friends and family visit us from India and U.S.A, all craving to have ”authentic” Indian food. All the edible looking snaps I have taken with my new Samsung Galaxy sIII are taken over several dinners.

Highly  recommended are the tasty and varied  ”Regular thalis” (mixed platter with a lentils,vegetable preparation of the day,another mix vegetable,some fried papad, rotis or rice as you choose,a sweet mango chutney, a green chutney and the main curry dish that you choose from the veg or non veg menu)which are quite filling and satisfy any cravings one has of either sea food,lamb,chicken or just good old plain veggie fare. Down it with some Mango Lassi and you are well on your way  to food heaven. One has to choose the gravy dish from their menu to go with a thali or their choice, I love Roghan Josh – a spicy lamb curry and both chicken gravys one with a coconut gravy and the other spicier and packs a real punch.The staff are quite helpfull, friendly and will explain each item in your thali once it arrives which is great considering the many tourists who come here.

If your planning an early dinner , a beer or wine with some chaat dish or fried  pakodas is apt.

If you want to go the whole hog, the dessert not to be missed is a serving of GulabJamun with Ice cream topped with pistachios.A perfectly sweet end to a meal fit for a king.

As their website says,it’s the place to go to for ”seductive Indian desserts”,”Sophistcated Indian Grills” and really wholesome Thali’s.

Masala Zone has 8 outlets in London, the one at SOHO,also the only one I have visited several times.

The service at this branch is prompt and most times it’s crowded especially on weekend evenings,if you are going in a big group to this particular branch, it makes sense to book yourselves a table.It’s a short walk from Oxford Circus tube station off the lively Carnaby Street area.

To check out Masala Zone‘s website click on the hyperlink.

Cheers!

 

 

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