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.

Festive Feast at Bengal Quay to celebrate the launch of their New Menu

Last week hubster and me were invited for a preview of the new menu launch at Bengal Quay. So after work on a Monday evening we both made our way from different parts of the city to the beautiful docklands area. I had never been on the DLR before and as I saw the beautiful landscape unfold it put into a very dreamy mood, something to do with the tall buildings and the water reminded me of the amazing south Mumbai roads, glitzy five star hotels and a gorgeous coast line. I could almost feel the salty sea breeze on my face.

Situated within walking distance from South Quay station this Indian – Pakistani restaurant has a fabulous new menu, as we were about to find out.

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I was delighted to finally meet Asma Khan who runs the popular supper club called Darjeeling Express and also the lovely Lisa who writes guest posts for my Fiona’s blog London Unattached.

It was chilly evening so I stuck to my trusty drink of cognac with warm water – Remy Martin this time and hubster too stuck to the same, the other guests enjoyed good red and white wines while the others tripped on tall glasses of Mango Lassi.

The starters were a selection of seafood which made hubster and me very happy as you my readers know well by now about our seafood obsession! We loved the Salmon Sooa which was Scottish salmon flavoured just right and wrapped snuggly in a little portion of banana leaf, it was melt-in-your mouth soft and I would go back just for this and of course the Lamb Nihari – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Pakistani Nihari Curry with Onions and Lemon – though opinions over which was the best dish at the table were a bit divided between hubster and me who went nuts over the Venison and Afghani chicken – humm.

The use of cute wooden clips to secure the banana leaf, the stainless steel lemon squeezer and that tangy tamarind chutney made me feel so very much at home.

The other starters were Imli Scallops – a very different approach to spicing up scallops with Indian spices and Tandoori Monkfish which was just the right kind of flaky and went down a treat – thumbs up from both OH and me.

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The mini seabass fillets served with tangy crispies were served with a bhel like mixture in cute cones – which are always welcome for chaat fans like hubster and me and we really liked the seabass – but clearly this not the case with the rest of the table who had mixed reactions. This unusual combination seemed to work for us and was presented very nicely too.

The mains arrived and suddenly there was no navigation space on the table and we were very- very spoilt for choice.

I mopped up with buttery garlic naan the delicious Diced venison in red wine and mushroom curry  – which disappeared fast from the serving dish and as a majority vote it became the star dish of the evening. The special fried rice was great on it’s own while the pulav rice was great with the lamb shanks. The lamb nihari gravy was fabulous and the meat was cooked to fall-off-bone perfection , for all meat fans out there – this dish is something that you must not miss! Game is not easy to pair with spices and serving it up in a curry form with mushrooms seems to be a winning combination – Asma too was very intrigued and happy with this dish in particular.

Neither hubster nor me are fans of sweet or creamy gravy but the Afghani chicken was fantastic, the mild curry flavoured with saffron and cream and the delicious soft chicken was just too good to resist – the chef did something very right with this dish folks.

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The tarka dal was comforting and done to expected standards, which is always a good sign in any authentic Indian/Pakistani restaurant.

Expectedly we were stuffed to the gills and the prospect of consuming a selection of desserts seemed impossible. But that was only until the dessert plates arrived at the table of course 😉

The Indian in me was very happy with not one but two mango desserts to gobble – though the mango sorbet was definitely my favourite. Chocolate brownie came with a very unusual companion – a moreish passion fruit sauce which complimented the gooey chocolate taste very nicely. Again a winning combination.

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Nestled in the by lanes of London’s business hub and a stones throw away from Canary Wharf this is a place I would recommend you visit and do not miss the Lamb Nihari, Afghani Chicken and the passion fruit sauce and brownie and if you can allow yourself the guilty pleasure the mango sorbet too. But if you cannot visit anytime soon and spend time then you MUST take away the Venison curry to mop up with plain pulavAND some garlic naan!

It’s after such a meal that I forget that I am in London and walk out with a wide grin on my face half expecting to see a Bombay black cab whiz past, I feel I will be passing by my favourite Bombay sights and take in the familiar sounds and the magic of my darling city … until I actually step out into the biting cold and the cold breeze envelopes – but then in so many strange ways I find even this comforting as we stroll into the quiet night air, the sense of intense activity behind the deceptively quite larger than life glass mammoth buildings of Canary Wharf  is obvious to the those who care to observe and the bright Christmas lights can’t help make me feel warm and fuzzy inside – a feeling I could get used to very easily.

*With  thanks to Humayun Hussain and Bengal Quay 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

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Le Restaurant de Paul – Boulangerie transitions into a restaurant

Originating in France in PAUL bakery  continues to be be a family owned company  five generations on. Today they are present in more than 25 countries  in London, Washington, Dubai, Tokyo  ,Singapore and Moscow. They have been the go to bakery for authentic French bread, cakes and pastries for Londoners with  30 other branches located across the length and breadth of the city.

Their first bakery in London at  Covent Garden has recently become a  full fledged  restaurant . We were invited there for a relaxed dinner on Sunday evening .Located in the heart of theatreland , its walking distance from Covent Garden tube station but I prefer walking from Waterloo station . Walking beats taking the crowded tubes and my reward is a beautiful walk by the river with stunning views of the London eye on one side and St.Pauls cathedral on the other.

The famous black shop front with the name in stately lettering made famous by Francis Holder in 1993, is difficult to miss amidst the evening crowds, theatre goers and many shops.The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans is a welcome olfactory assault that is complimented by the the beautiful display of meringues, cakes ,pastries and fresh bread .

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The restaurant was packed when we arrived  and the front of the restaurant which functions as a delicatessen  had people queuing up for French bread , coffee and cake at the counters up front when we reached , so we busied ourselves taking pictures of the beautiful baked goodies .

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Our waitress for the evening was a smart young lady who showed us to our table a beautiful semi circular sofa against a wall and comfortable chairs on the side. The beautiful décor which is comprised of hand picked antiques is pleasantly distracting and a lot of photos later we finally settled down.

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Our two sharing ,one a charcuterie and one a vegetarian platter arrived with a large tray full of colourful glass jars stuffed with bright ,preserved vegetables – which were used as a base to rest the sharing platters wooden boards on – now that is going to be an idea all of us will end up using for our food photography !

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The charcuterie is a selection of saucisson, jambon cru, coppa, rosette,terrine,smoked duck breast, pickled baby onions ,cornichons,butter and assorted breads.

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The veggie platter was such a beauty – so colourful and fresh – selection of grilled and marinated vegetables,tapenade,aioli,hummus,sauce vierge and PAUL cheese gougere.

Heidi enjoyed her oven baked Camembert and  toasted Campagne bread.

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If anything these starters had made us hungry for more and our mains were so good that when they arrived all conversation came to a standstill ….

My main of Loup de Mer – Pan roasted fillet of sea bass, braised fennel with sauce vierge was flavourful and the sauce was faulous , my sea food loving self was very , very happy!

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I also had a delicious side of Gratin Dauphinios – Traditional French potato gratin   (£2.95)

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We shared a bottle of red which went well with the mains – a French Pinard Classique  2013 – best described as a lively bouquet of plum, bluberry and hints of blackcurrant on the nose, the palate is beautifully rounded, soft and juicy.

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Our group of food bloggers had these fabulous French delights :

Clockwise Top left to right – Demi Poulet au Grain Rôti à l’Estragon – Roasted free range corn fed half chicken marinated in tarragon ,lemon & garlic ,green salad (£12.50) ,

Saucisses de Toulouse – Traditional course cut Toulouse sausages served with crushed buttery potato mash & Bordelaise sauce (£10.50)

Poivron Fraci  (£7.50)  and

Confit de Canard aux Olives – Slow-cooked duck leg, crushed buttery potato mash, black olive & red wine sauce (£10.50)

Pauls restaurant sept 2014

I am glad I could squeeze in some dessert as well after all that food – I really needed some coffee so mini macaroons paired with a latte it was.

Am positive that I shall be returning to dine at Le restaurant de Paul and would highly recommend that you check it out for yourself – a taste of authentic French food in the heart of  London – with a sensibly priced menu too – Why not ?!

Have a look at what Karen had to say about our foodie meet up here and what Heidi thought about the food at PAUL here , Nayna’s thoughts are penned down here , Tina , who is still dreaming about gougeres, shares her thoughts here ,the lovely Sylvia shared her thoughts here. Read Karen’s post with beautiful photos here.

Uni brings Nikkei Cuisine to Victoria

The largest Japanese settlement outside of Japan is in Peru and the unique fusion cuisine that is Japanese Peruvian is called Nikkei.Fiona invited me to accompany this time to discover Nikkei , she is an award-winning freelance writer and marketing consultant who currently writes about travel and London lifestyle for a number of publications and runs her own London lifestyle blog called London Unattached.

So it was a bright summer Monday afternoon that I trooped in Uni (the Japanese word for the sea urchin, a Japanese delicacy) restaurant and sushi bar designed by Andrew Martin, in Belgravia minutes away from the travel hub that is Victoria station.

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I was shown to a cosy table downstairs.

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For starters I got some steamed edamame with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce (£4.50) and some refreshing green tea served in a typical cast iron heavy pot which I would love to have as part of my growing food prop collection which now occupies every corner or of our tiny rental flat much to the chagrin of my hubby – I guess the last straw was trying to pass off a very heavy cast iron pot as a ‘place to keep his usb drives and wire hehehee

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I had happily managed to forget my phone at home and therefore Fiona tried in vain to inform me of her delayed train. Blissfully unaware of this I sipped my tea and munched my edamame all the time trying to ignore some stuffy banker type folks on the table next to me talking shop – how boring…

So when Fiona arrived she managed to move us to a bigger table away from the ‘big boy talk’ as she aptly called it and onto a table where I could dump my bags and lay my camera lens and other paraphernalia – I do not travel light …

To make life easier we chose to have bento boxes for our mains and mine came with the udon noodle and fish cake soup while Fiona had a light Miso soup. I was feeling ravenous by the time the soup arrived and devoured it in a flash! (£24.5 per bento box – comes with soups, salad, sushi, & maki, main dish, side, rice and dessert)

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Nabe Udon  – Noodle and Fishcake Soup with Prawn Tempura.

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Beautifully light Miso Soup

My Bento box had Kaiso Wakame  – seaweed salad ,prawn and carrot tempura, main of duck tataki – seared duck breast finely sliced and dressed with mirin and soy, fried rice and sashimi selection. The duck tataki was deliciously morish, I also loved the seaweed salad and the sticky fried rice with the sashimi was very filling.

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Fionas bento box came with steamed rice and anticucho sauce  black cod and was very appetising , to read in her own words read her review of our lunch at Uni here.

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We washed down our Bento lunch boxes with some chilled sake.

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The very polite manager came and urged us to experiment with some of the Nikkei range from the menu and we were served two stunning dishes.

Tiraditos of Yellowtail with kizami wasabi,Yuzu and fresh mint presented in a creative and stunning display, it was delightfully fresh, sharp in taste with a delicate balance of colour and flavour. (£15.5)

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Wildly beautiful looking salmon tartare tacos with cucumber,tomato,masago and creamy miso were crunchy and melt in your mouth creamy all at one once exploding with a light flavour in every bite – delicious! (£6)

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Stuffed to the gills now I had to walk around click a few pictures and allow for some space to be created in my tummy to fit in some dessert 😉

To my amusement the very attentive young lady on the staff showed us how the colourful lamp shade were made from bottle of campari that could be detached and well glugged , given it was a hot summer afternoon I think it was a great idea that Fiona ordered us some Pisco Sour shots instead ;).Never having tasted these before I downed them in one go much to my own peril, the sake already in my system the shot gave me quite the buzz!

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Thankfully my cooling Matcha Gelato worked wonders and cooled me down several degrees -phew!

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Fiona managed to stay light with desserts too with a selection of fresh fruit.

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The creation of former Nobu chef Rolando Ongcoy, the menu at UNI offers a good selection of grilled meats ,fish, sushi,sashimi, selection of tempura and maki. The Peruvian influence is prevalent throughout UNI’s menu, ceviche and tiraditos peruano included.

The bar area upstairs also has plenty of seating on high stools and around the bar, perfect for knocking down Peruvian fav’s like the pisco sours or coconut-based Chilli Mojito.

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Victoria being a very office space kind of area is lucky to have Uni in its midst now, with bite sized healthier meal options ,seven- dish bento boxes for short lunch hours are on offer at a price of course. So the big banker boys and girls can have their financial pow-wow meets in the fancy cubicles or basement vaults if you please which can seat about 10 – 12 people, and if the huge ice buckets with bottles of chilled Moet and the power talk we overheard from the table next to us are anything to go by then Uni is already a haunt for these suited and well heeled office folks!

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  • Website:Uni
  • Opening Times: is open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday inclusive

*With  thanks to Uni for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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Square Meal

Dinner at The Brasserie , Tower Guoman – a review

On the day of the Mens Singles Final when Djokovic won  the match against Roger Federer ,I had an invite to go dine with a few fellow bloggers at The Brasserie at the Tower Guoman. I must admit the match was so engaging that I was glued to the tv and only in the game that I was just to nervous to watch so I dragged myself out and kept pestering a dear friend of mine in whatsapp till she gave me updates of almost every move on the court …. I was hoping that Djokovic would win and also hoping that the match would end before I hopped onto the tube and lost network… Lets just say that all invisible divine forces were with Djokovic ( and me )that day coupled with his awesome performance, just as I was about to get into the tube… there it was..,… message I was hoping to see on whatsapp…. ‘He won’… which led to a very comical impromptu gig on the staircase by me watched by bemused passers by…heck a good win deserves a dance ..at least ! Bonus points to all those who also watched this match to oogle at Boris Becker …teehee

After that I needed a refreshing drink and just as I was settling in the beautiful area  just outside the Guoman, an open air bar  and siping my cocktail gazing up the Tower Bridge was perfect. Chilled Prosecco, Cocktails and Mocktails flowed while we chatted up with the manager who also had dinner with us later .Meeting my friends after Food Blogger Connect was fun and camera lens choices, food photography ,the Wimbledon final results and the stunning view dominated our conversation. Before long the rain decided to play spoil sport and we were ushered inside to our huge table at The Brasserie.

I took the seat the far end of the end but the view from any where inside is just as brilliant , it’s the first time I was so close to the Tower Bridge and you can be guaranteed you will have the best seats in town at The Brasserie with superb views of Butlers wharf thrown in.

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The table was neatly laid out with our special menu for the evening there and fresh bread , warm and just out of the oven with 3 different dips arrived.

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Our rustic bread selection with truffle oil and olive oil.

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To go with our Rustic Bread selection we had the smoked paprika dip – the bright orange one and my fav of the 3, one with chives in the middle and a plain one which I found a tad too salty.

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I choose to have the Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart to start off my meal with – it sounded very appetising – Tomato olive salsa,balsamic reduction,pine nut,sekura cress – hummm yes please.

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The thin crisp  pastry base was not one bit soggy or eggy, the grilled Manchego cheese ( a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed) tasted great in combination with summery veggies like asparagus and grilled peppers and the salsa was very good ,I loved the taste of the olives and hints of fennel, the cress made the whole dish so fresh not just to look at but to taste too.

The Head chef Kamaldeep Singh (left) and his colleague decided to take us through the process of how the new menu was created , the origin of ingredients and basically make us hungry for more!

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Madeleine seated next to me choose the other option as her first course :Peppercorn Cured Beef Carpaccio – Manchego cheese , home cured tomatoes,charred artichokes,mizuna and micro cress. I was avoiding red meat that so was very happy to photograph her dish and ask how it tasted but equally satisfied with my light tart.

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The carpaccio was hammered thin and artichokes placed over – it looked great, to find out in her Madeleine’s own words what she thought of her dish go check out  her review here.Very happy with my first course, I expected the second course to deliver and impress me a bit more. Must say my Pan-Fried Fillet of Sea Bass served with diver scallop,caper crushed potatoes,mixed bean salsa and ‘sauce vierge’  did not fail to do so. It looked amazing and I had to photograph it from various angles – we food bloggers!

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But  this was simply delicious and worthy of praise for more reasons than one – made using farmed sea bass responsibly sourced scallops, a lighter than most sauces that usually accompany a fish main the scallop sat one a delicious pea puree and cream base.

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The mixed bean salsa tasted great with the morish caper crushed potato, the cress balancing off the dish in a subtle way.Nayna my vegetarian food blogger friend chose to have the Spinach and Ricotta Raviolli made with heirloom tomato salsa and served with freshly made basil cream sauce , to read her views go onto her blog here.Our first wine of the evening accompanied the first course , Vidal sauvignon blanc from New Zealand , aromas of gooseberry, passionfruit and guava lead into a palate that exudes tropical and passion fruit flavours.

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After that very satisfying sea food dish ,we moved onto the next course , I stayed away from red meat again and the Garden pea,mint and pecorino cheese risotto was fabulous for me , I love my rice and many a times I really need some to complete my meal and make it me feel full, maybe a psychological thing but coming from the coastal side of western India ,fish curry and rice is our most staple everyday far.One of the staff members asked me where I was from and when I said Mumbai, pat came the next question which I was sort of expecting – was the sea bass as good as the Pomfret, well no! For me pomfret is the king of  all fishes on this planet – but its a matter of what taste one has grown up with and our method of cooking is also so very different. But yes Sea Bass , Salmon and Basa are my favorite buys,best eaten fresh on the day of purchase ,hate frozen fish,tastes muddy and weird in curries especially.

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The  pecorino cheese added a subtle tangy taste to this very morish and filling risotto, its easy to get this dish so wrong because often the seemingly easier to make dishes are the toughest to produce to perfection . I am a great fan of the risotto that my elder sister hubby makes , he is a trained chef but now a very busy and senior marketing head honcho so it’s very rarely that we meet and even more rarely that I get to eat the risotto he makes. Ah sweet nostalgic family moments, only truly good food can bring on such an attack for me.. 🙂

By now the light had really faded and my risotto photo and all that follow look terrible!

I must admit Madeleine was very kind and allowed me to have a taste of burnt celeriac which I loved with some of the calvados sauce I scooped it off her plate with from her Confit of Gloucestershire Pork Belly. She enjoyed  my cheesy risotto too.

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The 14 hour low heat cooked pork belly looked so very appetising, the burnt celeriac adding to the earthiness of this dish,the cinnamon compliments the pork  and the savoy cabbage and compressed apple give it a tart almost tangy twist on the side. This was washed down with several glasses of a full bodied Chilean Merlot – Errazuriz , almost opulent with notes of berry and cassis fruit.

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It’s at this point that I slipped into blissful food coma and saw this beautiful rainbow emerge right in front of my eyes… the photo does no justice to the what we actually saw…

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That is us at the table – L- R – Bintu who blogs at Recipes from a pantry, Nicki who blogs at Baking Beardy,seated opposite her is Fiona who writes an award-winning blog – London Unattached,Nayna – who blogs at  Simply Sensational Food her other blog is Citrus ,Spice and all things Nice, and the lovely Madeline who blogs at Kitchen Journeys and documents heart healthy recipes at From the Healthy Heart.

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Was too full by now and the dessert platter served with a large shot of margarita in shot glass lined by sugar , managed to cut the sweet taste that was bound to settle on the palate after cheesecake ,a panna cotta that failed to impress because I was expecting the usual wobble and a refreshing pista flavoured ice cream  – my fav from the selection.

As we strolled out for an impromptu photo session and gazed happily at the beautiful Tower Bridge,I couldn’t help but wonder that though the exterior of  the Tower Guoman leaves one wanting the view of two world Heritage Sites – Tower Bridge and the Tower of London certainly makes up for it!A massive refurbishment project is on the cards too.A few more plus points include a convenient location within easy reach of the financial district, Canary Wharf, the Excel Centre, London City Airport, historic Greenwich, the West End and Westfield Shopping Centre. Also the newly launched menu at The Brasserie definitely warrants a visit. The menu is bold and one where the chefs have really gone the extra mile to hope that if they try ambitiously to achieve the Zero Mile Ingredient mark and grow their own herbs fresh on the terrace garden which is to come alive very soon!

The staff was very polite, genuinely attentive and ensured we had a great evening.

*With  thanks to The Tower Guoman for the invitation. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review . All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The Brasserie at the Tower Hotel on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Yum Chaa – Fitzrovia – Review

Absolutely bored and craving a afternoon out ,a close friend and me decided to check out Yum chaa sometime early february. As soon as we walked my eyes fell on this beautiful and welcoming armchair – its the kind of chair that you can sink into and loose yourself in!

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Lucky for us it was in a quite little corner where we could pour our hearts out to each other!

The counter had a beautiful  display and she decided to have the Chilli Chilli Hot Chocolate. I was having a very difficult time trying to decide which tea to have from the amazing range available of Black and Red teas.

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I finally settled for a red tea and a little something to bite into….in the quite pauses between our excited chatter I gazed into my tea cup…wishing I could tell what the future has to hold simply by gazing at how the bright red tea sediments lay there… if only …

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Loved their quirky note asking for ‘Valentines Day Funds’ now who can refuse a tip when coaxed like that? (espp when it will be used to buy an Adele album!)

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The quirky christmas tree kept the corner with the shelves a bit festive and the white washed walls seemed to have a sublimia soothing effect. The general atmosphere of the place is the sort where you can settle into a huge armchair , armed with a tea of your choice and spend hours sipping it alone or not. Its the kind of place you would take a good book to and settle in with a warm pot of tea, allow the tea to percolate and loose yourself in the pages of your fav storyteller.

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We lost track of time and almost over two hours later when Yum Chaa got really  busy we decided to let someone else take over our cushy chairs…reluctantly almost, promising ourselves that we would be back soon , very soon…

The shabby chic,relaxed atmosphere , mis-matched furniture, white washed walls and their amazing range of teas on offer will stay with you long after you walk out of the place and of course their catchy crazy name Yum Chaa is something you won’t forget easily!

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Disclaimer: I’ve written this review of my own accord and was this visit was paid for by me. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated monetarily for this post.Like all my previous posts about events and reviews, ALL opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

21, The Print Room,Covent Garden – a review

On the corner of Covent Garden Piazza , housed in a beautiful Georgian heritage site is a 3 story delightful place -21 – a rustic Italian restaurant, The Print Room – a cocktail bar with 2 balconies overlooking the piazza and all the live entertainment it has to offer and the terrace located on the Piazza – a great way to enjoy the outdoors, drink in the hustle bustle, gaze at St.Pauls – all this under the shelter of huge umbrellas and heating for chilly evenings.

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When I first heard of 21 the Print Room at Covent Garden I imagined it to be this tiny little place with a rustic feel , when we walked into 21 I felt I was walking into a huge cave with tunnels well-lit and the aroma of melted cheese wafting around .The historic cellar vaults converted in a fab Italian restaurant have a cosy warm feel .They also  proudly claims to serve the best pizza and pasta in Covent Garden – We were soon about to find out….

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

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Hubby and me walked into the place on a very ,very warm summer evening and were seated at table perfect for a romantic date but we food bloggers need light for clicking away ,so once we were moved to a new table and happily settled into a comparatively well-lit corner of our choice ,we couldn’t wait to order some drinks and cool down a few degrees. Just as I thought I would melt with the heat these beauties came to our rescue – a Mango Bellini (£7.50)for me and a  Verde Flower(£5) Sine Peccato,for the huster – it means a cocktail without sin.

The Mango Bellini – a Prosecco based cocktail was crisp,fresh,fruity ,summery while hubsters Verde Flower – a combo of cucumber,apple juice and elderflower with a dash of bitter lemon was fresh and light with lots of ice – so refreshing!

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Accompanied by Wild Boar Tortelloni (£7.25) – Pancetta ,green beans ,sage cream  and Black pepper Calamari with saffron aioli (£7.25) as starters.The batter for the calamari was a bit bulky making them a bit chewy, the tortellini  was very good, could easily have eaten some more!

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

I was told that the A la Carte menu is  fresh, Italian-inspired and prepared with the best quality local ingredients – well now, I love the sound of that ! We ordered the Cornish Crab Linguine (£14.25) and the Figaro (£14.95) – a Milano Salami,Parma Ham & Pepperoni Pizza for the main course but honestly if you’re doing starters then this one pizza between two people is more than enough!

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The Figaro is absolutely mind-blowing delicious with the 3 meat sitting there with black olives and cherry tomatoes – begging to be eaten! The goats cheese was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – so soft and creamy and not one bit salty. Abandon your fork and knife for this one folks, eat with your hands…lick the gooey gorgeous roasted garlic olive oil mixed with the melted mozzarella , as it drips off the sides while you devour this magnificent feast. The linguine was ignored by us for the first few minutes while we silently ate our pizza.I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat,Pray ,Love telling her friend to drop the guilt and just eat their cheese laden gorgeous looking pizza when they go to Naples ,errmmm only I was sharing my Pizza with my hubster 😉

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The linguine was good though paling in comparison to this star pizza staring at us. The crab meat was mixed well into the pasta and it was have been fun to eat this pasta slowly after squeezing  lime generously over it , sipping a fine glasses  red which goes with the fresh seafood taste and the chillies in the pasta.I ordered a glass of Red- the Nero D’Avola 2011 (£5.65 a glass , £21 a bottle) with my linguine.Hubster had a glass of Prosecco Brut (£6.80) to go with the mains.

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Needless to say the mere mention of dessert and we would have exploded so we skipped dessert. Eager to walk and help digest the generous dinner now sitting firmly inside our tummies we took a tour of the print room upstairs which is a print shop turned cocktail bar, with a lovely balcony overlooking the piazza.We then walked out into the piazza past the Terrace ,to be greeted by fresh, crisp evening London air.

The Terrace at 21

Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

So lets see, 21 delivered on their promise of serving the best Pizza in Covent Garden , the wine selection and mocktails on offer are impressive and  I loved my Mango Bellini.Food and Wine taken care of .Ambience – the feeling of sitting huddled in a cosy cubby hole dating back to Georgian Times is something else, the view from the Print room is amazing , so I’d say this is a perfect place for romantic dates in the cubby hole of 21 or out on the terrace – better for warm summer evenings, great venue for hen and stag parties and a really cool place to hang out for drinks with your friends, they seem to have got it all covered huh?

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

The photo below is of the most posh cubby hole in 21 comes with a fish tank for company 😉

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Image Courtesy :21 Covent Garden

It was a beautiful clear night and the piazza was just so beautiful , a spattering of tourists seated in quiet corners near St.Pauls , the bars still overflowing with beer drinkers spilling out onto the piazza and of course the theatregoers walking to their cars or trying to get a cab.

The last time we were at Covent Garden with some friends they showed us this fab walking route to Waterloo station along the Waterloo bridge, it IS  a great walk along the various many theatres ,pubs and brightly lit restaurants of Covent Garden and  onto the bridge with stunning views of the London Eye on one side and the beautiful st.pauls cathedral on the other. And down the subway and you are inside Waterloo station, cool or what?!

It was an exceptionally windy evening as well and all of a sudden I wish I had my jacket on me, we stopped to take a few photos and this ones my fav:

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Rushing to take cover in the warm subway , we made it to the station in under 15 minutes , this walking route now my fav way to get to Covent Garden from Waterloo station and totally avoid the claustrophobic tubes and the slow buses crawling through the omnipresent traffic on  the narrow roads  of Central London…..( there … now that’s a sure shot sign that I have become am a Londoner now….when one begins to crib about the crowded tubes and moan about the traffic …and look of alternate walking routes.. I think the novelty of being a newbie to this city is finally wearing off… in every way… but then the magic has settled in and just like I will always , always love Mumbai no matter what ,similarly London has sunk into my being in a way that can never be reversed… safe to say…am deeply in love… with all that London has to offer – even the tubes … oh yes!)

*With thanks to 21 and The Print Room for the invite.All views expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a positive review. No monetary compensation was provided for this post.

 

 

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21 Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Zomato Reviewers Dinner at The Notting Hill Kitchen

What: Dinner with fellow Reviewers courtesy Zomato

Where:Notting Hill Kitchen

Weather:Brilliant and Sunny

As I walked past posh residential building painted a pristine white I was sure I had lost my way inspite of Google Maps egging me to continue walking along Kensington Park. This is just minutes away from the hustle bustle and lively Notting Hill Market famous for its antiques.

It was an exceptionally warm summer evening and I was welcomed with a chilled glass of white -Quintaluna 2012, though couldn’t manage more than a glass as it was a bit tart for my taste.

First up was the Mac Silva a mini cod burger which was really delicious and I could have popped all of them into my plate had it not been for my equally hungry companions. Sea Bass Ceviche made with Peruvian aji Amarillo mild chilli, fennel corn,tomato ,coriander and lime was moorish,loved the fresh cherry tomatoes in there just wish it had a more generous squeeze of lime!

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Undoubtedly the star of the evening the Spider Crab Mousse was fabulously delicious , served in a mini doughnut the secret flavoursome ingredient was dehydrated mussels,the sea food lover in me was completely satiated , I have found a new obsession Spider Crabs!These reminded me the deep fried soft shell crab starters I tasted at Tenshi, a Japanese place at Angel, deep fried in a delicious light batter these are to be eaten whole! They look a bit spidery though so don’t think of that just gobble them up whole)

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Did you know that Spider Crabs found in Japanese waters also called tall footed crabs have the largest leg span of any arthropod?!Upto 3.8 meters long – thats a massive 12 feet!

Moving on from our science class back into  to Notting Hill Kitchen enter Tiborna Alentejana – a combo of Pata Negra,Bone Marrow,Cured Papada,toasted sourdough,truffled yolk – described by Martin as the bridge of meat – so apt huh? The cured papada was crunchy and the bone marrow delicious but the Pata Negra literally meaning black hoof popularly known as  Jamón ibérico or carna negra – is Iberian ham, it  was not something I fancied much, maybe blame by taste buds so used to Parma Ham. Pata Negra is a type of cured ham  produced mostly in Spain, but also in some Portuguese regions where it is called presunto ibérico and is made from iberico or black pigs or cross bred pigs.Washed down with a glass or two of Spanish Blend – Malacapa Rioja 2012 which was definitely many notches up compared to our white.

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Topping my list for comfort food on the menu was Jamon Croquetas made with caramelised onion…. mummmm, lemon beetroot and parsley viennoise, such a fab way to mask beetroot and so very delicious!

The starters were fabulous and I could have kept on going if it wasn’t for a delicious portion of Chef Yossi’s Acorn fed pork neck with red cabbage,lentils and lupin cous cous. Funnily though the lentils were very simple to the Indian dal vada though the centre of this big circular fried lentil I could taste the wet lentils .The cabbage was salty but very delicious and must say held its own even with pork as the main actor in this presentation.This went down really well with our Portuguese Red –  Quinta de sao jose touriga nacional 2011  , a complex fruity and fruity with spicy undertones with a rich purple red colour ,this red was also my favourite wine of the evening.

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Served with sides of an Asparagus and Saffron Risotto and a rather out of place portion of fries with mayo and paprika, the patatas bravas left me wanting .

Much foodie banter and impromptu exchanging of places to chat up with all the foodies at the table and the time seemed to have evaporated much more swiftly than I expected. It was great catching up with Leyla,Le Binh,Reema and Shak. Interesting conversation about our mutual much hated sport cricket -yes – boooo , with Frankie and some serious conversation about food blogging with Mehreen, several plans to catch up with these like minded folks were hatched. A rather enthusiastic bar tender got us all a round of exotic cocktails and entertained us with his banter while naughtily gulping down some delicious coffee cocktail with banana ummm.My espresso cocktail gets 4 on 5 ,its what I’d like to call a proper alcoholic end to a meal – bitter coffee notes ,chilled to perfection for the hot summer evening.

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Our sweet plate with vanilla ice cream, frozen sour bits of ice was served a Ginginha shot – a strong liqueur made with sour and Morello cherries.

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Le Binh rang in her birthday with this cute little birthday cake – its cute isn’t it!

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I have never been to a Portuguese Tapas bar so the fab dishes that were served up to on that fabulous summer evening will always be special and the menu has loads more to offer. Am especially tempted to return and try the Octopus Rice – a traditional Portuguese red rice in a red wine gravy with chorizo and the Berlengas Pink Swordfish – Hot Smoked in Azores black tea & pan fried creamed carolina rice ,fresh coriander piso,miso crumble  – sounds terrific doesn’t it ?!

What can you expect: Delicious Tapas Portuguese style but the bill runs steep so an average of £70 for 2 on a night out.

*With thanks to Zomato Uk and the staff at Notting Hill Kitchen  for  fun foodie evening.No monetary compensation was provided for this post.All views expressed are my own.