Monday 17 November 2008

Mirchi Masala - London, E1

Now a 6 strong London chain of fast food cafe outlets dispensing fresh and flavourful North Indian fare, the restaurant interiors resemble Macdonalds, at least the Commercial Road branch does (though the similarities end there). No spotty, pizza faced teenagers serving, no shouty jeenagers eating, service quick, polite and efficient.

This time I enjoyed Methi Chicken, bitter with cloves, fiery with black peppercorns and filling, Masala Baigan, a gorgeous, treacley vegetable mush and pilau rice - lacking aroma - but pleasantly moist nonetheless.

For a quick fix, the restaurants are ideal; they offer all the romance of an airport lounge. Prices aren't as bangla for your buck as one might assume, equally one won't feel forced to buy the credit-crunch busting Daily Star next morning, to 'read' or use as toilet paper. Mirchi Masala is reliable. Certainty is fast becoming a comodity worth buying into.


Willp2328 score: 7/10

Thursday 13 November 2008

Gurkha Chautari - 12th November 2008

We had a small (8) but enthusiastic turnout for the November Curry Club meeting on Wednesday 12th. Our usual scribe sent his apologies, so you have the benefit of my ramblings instead.

The Gurkha Chautari was as welcoming as ever, and as is our custom, we asked them to choose the menu for the evening - and not to forget the chicken livers (bhuteko kalejo). We weren't disappointed - excellent mixed starter with a double portion of chicken livers, plus momo (lamb dumplings), potato cakes, and choyla.

The main courses comprised a selection - Nepalese chicken, lamb in a spicy sauce, sizzling chicken tikka, hot battered chicken, jeera aloo, bamboo shoots in black bean suace, and a variety of rice, naans and other vegetables. Everyone enjoyed the choice - little was left over.

House wines were a Merlot and a Pinot Grigio - both very drinkable. We raised our glasses to two members who passed away recently: Tony Luff, former landlord of the Queen's Head at Sheet, and Rugby Club and Curry Club stalwart had suffered a long illness with amazing fortitude. Tony Stocks was a friend of several Curry Club members but due to work commitments had only been to one meeting. His sudden passing was a shock to us all.

Monday 10 November 2008

Lahore Kebab House - London E1

As busy and noisy a transport caf as I've ever been in on a damp Monday night. LKH has a reputation stretching beyond Shadwell. The clientel is predominantly Asian too, a good sign, according to your average foodie. So too the side street location - 'off the beaten track, harder to find, no compromises made for tourists', don't you just loath them! And the great open kitchen? 'No short cuts being taken'!

Nevertheless, food (Pakistani) arrives all in a rush. Crisp Poppadoms, with sonorous slightly runny mango jam, mint raitha were only just being cracked before starters of spicy orange morsels of char grilled chicken tikka and slightly gristly rolled sheekh kebab turned up. The Mains weren't going to wait either. Salty, bold Lamb Sag, sour with green chillies, leafy with coriander. Chana Masala, big fat creamy chick peas in a light tomato soupy sauce, tangy and slightly hot. A veritable mound of soft, fluffy, popcorny rice, a very garlicky Naan and two milky, light, sweet and frothy lassis.

All in all we (Mikey was there too) got absolutely stuffed (very generous portions) for £42, a sum which might seem astronomical when the credit crunch, a silent asteroid heading for a blind date with earth, hits, but seems fine in these salient days.


Willp2328: 7/10

Monday 3 November 2008

Tandoori Lane - London SW6

Convenience food has a bad name. We are constantly persuaded in nu-wave MBS lit to forego oily curries, msg loaded chinese, pork pies, monkey burgers, cancer causing sausages, battery chickens, tinned veggies - what can Brits eat these days without feeling guilty? Even in the cinema, previously a refuge for gluttony, adverts showing the calorific nature of most of the stuff on sale in the foyer are broadcast on a loop, before the main feature. However, as I recently discovered, there is such a thing as a healthy takeaway!

Tandoori Lane is in the Harden's restaurant guide - a small, yet rather popular local curry house in the wealthy, suburban haven of Fulham. It serves 'the best vegetable korma' among other keenly priced delights. Our takeaway dishes were clean and light, yes! a remarkable thing; far too many are cloying and greasy, overwhelming any subtle flavours. Jeera Chicken contained gorgeous succulent, eggy hunks of thigh in a delicate tomato orange gravy with julienne root ginger and the unmistakable flavour of toasty cumin seeds. A spinach bhajee was a smooth, juicy, puree, possessing a moreish iron-rich taste while the pilau proved equally tasty with a salty bite and gentle aroma from bittersweet cardamom and cloves. All round, impressive. No wonder it's a local favourite.

SERVICE: 4 (half an hour)
AMBIENCE: 5 (cosy, front room, Neil Young on the stereo)
VALUE: 4 (change out of a tenner for my part)

Willp2328 score: 8/10

Other 'healthy' takeaways can be found at the Indian Vegetarian Studio, Cardiff.