Listings and reviews (25)
The kind of homely spot where you could fool yourself into thinking you were in Italy, this neighbourhood restaurant has woven baskets and Sardinian ceramics dotting the walls, moody lighting and Italian songs playing on the stereo. The friendly owner could be heard humming along to the music as we browsed the menu (a note to vegetarians: call ahead if you want veggie options). Dessert was the highlight of the meal. The panna cotta had a wicked wobble, and was dreamily creamy but also light (and the tang from the accompanying raspberries was a genius combo). An ultra-boozy slab of tiramisu was on par; rich and moist. Mains were decent: the black colour of the homemade cuttlefish ink ravioli contrasted artfully with the white crab meat stuffed inside. The dumplings themselves were nicely al dente, the filling delicately flavoured. Equally satisfying was a plate of malloreddus (a Sardinian specialty of pasta pieces that look like tiny bugs), with a pork ragù on top, plus chunks of sausage buried among the pasta. But starters, though they arrived promptly, were disappointing. Six golf-ball-sized fish croquettes on a bed of mushy peas were overly chewy; a plate of meatballs with a smattering of tomato sauce were bone dry. Still, all portions were humongous (it’s worth sharing), so if it’s a full feed you’re after, you’re in the right place.
Jardin du Jasmin
Jardin du Jasmin is the very definition of Instagrammable. Its stylish, bright interior looks like an enchanting jasmine garden (a nod to the Syrian capital of Damascus, the so-called ‘city of jasmine’), with foliage-heavy ceilings and dangling filament lightbulbs. One wall is adorned with thought-provoking lines from Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, while patterned monochrome tiles embellish the floors. By the till, a glass-fronted cabinet flaunts a row of baked sweet treats and colourful salads. The chalkboard menu is short and veg-heavy, and you pay for everything at the counter when ordering. Don’t miss the fattet houmous, a comforting, creamy concoction. It’s multi-layered: fried squares of pita bread are topped with tahini sauce and yogurt, then chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and parsley. It was presented in a pretty chrome pot and we scooped out spoonfuls eagerly: this was hands-down the best dish we tried. The falafel wrap, a hefty size and well stuffed, was sadly too dry, the vine leaves (plump with rice, tomato, olive oil and pomegranate molasses) were moist but bitter, and the moussaka was stew-like, served cold, and went unfinished. Most salads and all the cakes contain nuts, so fellow nut-allergy folk, take note. Most diners were only stopping for tea and cake, which is the best way to take in the surroundings (and the pretty crockery), and get those sought-after social media snaps.
It’s best to take people you know and like to this local Ethiopian restaurant, because there’s a good chance you’ll be eating off the same plate. That’s certainly the case if you choose the curries or stews off the menu, which arrive as colourful mounds on top of a giant layer of injera (spongy, savoury, gluten-free flatbread) served at the centre of the table on a massive steel plate. Embrace the hands-on, sharing philosophy – tear off a bit of the injera and scoop up a mouthful of the curry – and you won’t be disappointed. The food is banging: the slight tang of the injera paired beautifully with the bozena shero (tender lamb chunks cooked in a thick, creamy pea sauce; the vibrant red sauce finger-licking good all on its own) and mesir wot (nutty red lentils slowly cooked in Ethiopian spices). The picture-based menu was packed with options and the honest host encouraged us to cut back so we didn’t over-order. He was right: the portions were generous and we had enough leftover to take home for a decent dinner the following day. A note on the decor: it feels tired and run-down, especially the loos – but if you’re willing to overlook these niggles, this is a neighbourhood cheap eat that’ll have you hooked.
At first glance, this long and narrow vegan restaurant looks more like a takeaway joint, but hidden down the back is a little restaurant, which was a bit like walking into someone’s home in India: there was the faint scent of incense, old-school Indian music was playing, the sun was beating down through the glass-panelled roof and the air con was blasting. The deep, rich flavours that erupted from the food made the vibe feel even more true. Two large crispy (free) poppadoms with a side of sweet mango chutney were dropped off at our table. We demolished these before starters swiftly arrived. The refreshing chana chaat (a mix that included diced cucumber, spiced chickpeas and coriander leaves, all smothered in chutney and yogurt) was creamy, crunchy and cooling. We couldn’t get enough of it. The loaded bhaji was just as brilliant: a heap of deep-fried, crisp onion bhaji shreds, topped with onions and chutney, were tangy and moreish. Of the main courses, the fiery jackfruit jalfrezi had a good kick; the meaty texture elevated the dish and by this point we’d forgotten that this was a plant-based menu. The tarka dal was warming, and we mopped it up with the paratha while taking little bites of the fresh turmeric pickle (a must-have) and spooning the brinjal (aubergine) chutney on to bites of paratha. Our only gripe was that the garlic naan was a little stodgy. For afters, we were defeated by the banana chai doffle (a waffle made with dosa mix). It didn’t have much bite, but the a
The smart-casual sister restaurant to Westminster’s exclusive Cinnamon Club has a lofty dining room that channels industrial vibes (a nod to the fact that the space was once a warehouse of the East India Trading Company), and being in the City, is generally full of suits. The menu cleverly pairs Indian spices and flavours with seasonal British ingredients. For example, classic chaat – which traditionally features chickpeas and potatoes – was given a new spin, taking the form of artichoke and spinach crisps drizzled with yoghurt, chutney and pomegranate seeds. It was both nicely crunchy and delicately sweet. The best dish of the night, meanwhile, was the sea bass, cooked in the tandoor and scattered with puffed masala rice. Tender and well spiced, it left a pleasant heat on the tongue. Classics feature too: a generous portion of chicken biryani arrived in a hot pot, and was brilliant with cucumber yogurt. The herbs on top brought freshness, and the chicken fell apart in the mouth. But the uttapam (thick pancakes), were bland; the tandoori subz saag (a pond-green spinach sauce with root veg chunks floating in it) only slightly better. On the Tuesday night of our visit, we were packed in close; most tables were full and we had to raise our voices over the noise. Service was impersonal and slightly obtrusive, perhaps because of the sheer number of diners. The vision of this restaurant is good, but the execution needs work.
Though the one-page laminated menu at this relaxed Indian street food joint may look like it’s been quickly cobbled together in Microsoft Word, look again, because it’s packed with classic crowd-pleasers. Like, for instance, pao bhaji; spiced veggies served in a mini saucepan with a doughy bun on the side. Slit it open, load up with veg and away you go. Equally full-flavoured was the papdi chaat (a crunchy mix of yoghurt, chutney and wheat crisps, specked by pomegranate seeds), which also had a good level of heat. Half a dozen pani puri (deep-fried puffs filled with potato and onion) were served resting over shot glasses of tamarind-flavoured water, then wheeled to our table on a mini food cart with ‘Bottoms up!’ printed on it. Cute. You fill the puff with liquid, then squeeze the whole thing into your mouth in one. Just avoid the vodka-spiked version, it’s unpleasantly harsh. We could’ve ordered an entire extra basket of the thinly rolled garlic and chive naan, while the yuzu-infused stone bass had an appealing combo of tang, spice and succulence. For dessert, there was a fusion creation of gulab jamun cheesecake, which was rich with an intriguing cardamom after-taste. Soho Wala’s spin on crème brûlée, with its soft top and centre full of ice cream, was even more unexpected. Though it’s in a central London hotel, prices are very reasonable, and the polite staff kept up the smiles and prompt service all evening. Birdcages hang from the ceiling and wall prints lend pops of col
The warm evening breeze blew in through the open doors of this Antipodean-inspired café on the week night of our visit. Serving coffee and brunch by day, and sharing plates by night (Wednesday to Sunday), it’s a charming space. Exposed floorboards, whitewashed walls and pastel accents, and communal tables inside and out, ensure it fits in well on Queen’s Park’s quirkiest street. From the tiny open-style kitchen, a chef rustled up our small plates, while the friendly waitress poured generous wine tastings to help us choose which we liked best. The short menu took us around the globe: skin-on Chinese sea bass was magnificent: resting in a pool of soy and sesame mingled with fish juices, it also came sprinkled with spring onion, coriander and ginger for extra zing. Also outstanding was a beef cheek pappardelle, with ribbons of al dente pasta and flakes of rich meat. Other dishes were more mixed: Malaysian chicken laksa had good flavour but not enough broth, while the vegan mac ’n’ cheese was creamy but under seasoned. Still, the chatter was loud and the atmosphere welcoming. There may be no sand or sea, but Milk Beach is a relaxing place to hang out.
Please note, Unity Diner has now moved site to 60 Wentworth St, Spitalfields. Time Out Food editors, OCTOBER 2019. A neon sign on the wall of this Hoxton diner declares ‘the future is vegan’. But there’s more to Unity than the fast food faves it dishes up all being plant-based. It also has lovely staff and donates all the profits to charity. Mains are its strong suit: the beef-style burger was full-flavoured and juicy, and it came piled high with a neat stack of fresh salad and plenty of oozing vegan cheese. The hot dog – which had been wrapped in streaky ‘bakon’ before being tucked into a crusty sesame bun, along with leaves and tomatoes – was equally great. Meat-eaters could be fooled: the ‘dog’ had the perfect frankfurter-style taste, look and feel, while even the ‘bakon’ was streaky, pink and chewy. Starters, like a ‘prawn’ tempura, were more shaky. Ours came with a good basil mayo dip, but the texture of the batter didn’t quite deliver. At the end of the meal, desserts told a similar tale: the chocolate-and-coconut tart was delicious, but the vegan cheesecake sadly unconvincing. Still, portions at Unity are generous and it’s already hugely popular with a young, friendly, and trendy crowd. On our Friday night visit, hopeful walk-ins were being turned away. There may be no hugging of trees, but there’s a genuinely feelgood vibe to this place.
Sitting glamorously beside Tower Bridge, this is the second branch of Gunpowder, the home-style Indian sharing-plates joint. Split over two floors, this riverside spot is much bigger than the Spitalfields original, and it has a more stylish, contemporary design (polished marble floors, vintage red leather seating), jazzily offset by a soundtrack of old-school Indian tracks. Better yet, on the midweek night of our visit, it was buzzing. Head chef Nirmal Save has introduced new dishes here, like intriguing-sounding grilled black oysters. But the most impressive newbie was the duck leg. A hunk of tender meat arrived slathered in a sweet and spicy tomato sambal, with crisp parsnip ribbons for the contrast of sweetness and crunch. There were also quirky new puds, like paneer-and-Oreo cheesecake (rich, creamy, with big biscuit chunks) or Old Monk rum baba: a moist syrup- and booze-soaked cake loaded with cream and fruit. But keep an eye out for signature dishes. The seared head of broccoli, bathed in a creamy, tangy sauce, is a must. As is the succulent grilled tandoori chicken. And for a welcome respite from the heat of those dishes, order the pretty aloo chaat (chickpeas and potatoes with a sour-salty spice mix and yoghurt). The duo behind Gunpowder closed down their other restaurants, Gul & Sepoy and Madame D, to focus on this spin-off and it’s paid off, not just in the food and setting, but in the swift, welcoming service. Tower Bridge: you’ve finally got the destination restau
Tucked away off West Hampstead’s main drag, this pan-Asian small-plates restaurant has everything you’d want from a neighbourhood hangout: a relaxed vibe, welcoming owner and cosy interior. With a mix of high and low tables crammed in around a bar, mood lighting and a floral wall mural, it’s all tastefully done. The compact menu features plenty of veggie options, the star being the mock duck, covered in hoisin sauce and pressed into a fluffy bao bun with spring onion and chives. Also good was the Korean cauliflower – bite-sized crunchy pieces slick with chilli sauce – and succulent lamb chops, dripping with sweet and salty den miso paste. But there were disappointments too. Like lamb katsu croquettes, which though meaty, didn’t have any of the katsu flavour promised. And a brioche-based bhaji ‘slider’ with curried veg (but no top) that was impossible to eat without spilling. It was the same story with the beef version. Desserts, like the burnt clementine crêpe bathed in tangy syrup, or poached sake pears on honeyed yoghurt, saved the day. We weren’t hurried to leave, although our waitress was sometimes difficult to pin down. Still, The Swing must be getting into the swing of things: it’s expanding into next door.
Owned by Chelsea players David Luiz and Willian, the vibe at this Mayfair Italian restaurant is seriously swanky. Interiors are in neutral tones but two large murals add colour. Flanking the entrance of the smallish 26-cover spot is a DJ booth, and giant pendant bulb lights hang from the ceiling. This is a good place to eat if you’re leaning into your weekend: on our Saturday night visit, Brazilian beats (both players are from Brazil) pumped out until 8.30pm; then there was loud dance music. It was hell choosing between the 14 starters. The parmesan and truffle arancini had a lovely oozy filling. Deliciously salty cod and crab croquettes came piled up on top of one another. Of the mains, order the salt-baked sea bass (£35) if you want a show: our waiter appeared with a board topped with a mound of salt. He carved away at it to reveal the fish, then skinned and deboned it in front of us. Another excellent dish was the lobster linguine: every al dente string of pasta coated in a sweet-tasting sauce. Tiramisu, too, was theatrical: the waitress drizzled cold coffee over a cream-filled chocolate ball on a sponge crumb. Fun, but the result was a tad lacking in flavour. It’s also pricey, but this is Mayfair, and overall Babbo delivers on well-cooked, quality ingredients and top-notch service. The only real bugbear: the many helpful staff tended to gather by the bar, which makes sitting there noisy, so choose your seats carefully. We didn’t see any footballers on this visit but even
Dip in Brilliant
Please note, Dip in Brilliant has now closed. Time Out Food editors, July 2019. From the family behind Punjabi restaurant Brilliant in Southall comes this new outpost next to Stamford Bridge. It lives up to expectations. It’s got a casual feel and a short menu dominated by Indian sharing plates (including a vegan selection). The look is no-frills – which lets the hearty food take centre-stage. On my visit (a non-match day), there was a calmness about the place. Smooth background Bollywood beats were punctuated by chatter from diners, and service was lovely and unhurried. Starters set the bar high: the special spiced sea bass, served atop curried vegetables, was pan-fried to perfection and brought a lip-smacking kick of heat. The cool papri chaat worked magically alongside it – chickpea and potato spliced with crunchy savoury vermicelli, tangy tamarind and soothing yoghurt. Six pani puri came balanced on top of shot glasses of tamarind and mint-flavoured water – you’re supposed to pour the water into the puri and pop it in your gob. Getting it in tidily was a challenge, but oh my, it was worth it. Mains, which we ate on steel thali plates, were almost as good. Tandoori chicken tikka was a miniature saucepan of tender meat soaked in a thick, spicy sauce. But given the £10 price tag, it could have been bigger. Other minor disappointments included forgettable chickpea and potato curry, and batura (traditional north Indian bread) that was both too oily and not fluffy enough. Desse