Sunday 28 June 2009

Elephant Walk - West Hampstead, NW6

Too hot and humid for a preamble today, so I'll get straight into the review, sweat running from brow, feet in a bowl of ice, and so on.

Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants used to be thin on the ground in London but not anymore, indeed there are several, most a cut above average. Elephant Walk is run by a husband and wife team and three or four very sweet and lovely waitresses. It is small but light in a cafe like way, easy to find - and yes, it is better than average, good to very good.

Starter options appeared a little unremarkable with the exception of Idli's and Dosa's, so we went straight into the mains. Eight of us, three Thali's - meat and vegetable curries, rice, Gothamba rotis (similar to Paratha's but more chewy) and sambol - much enjoyed, just as authentic King fish curry with coconut and tamarind and vegetable sambar were. There was a lot of food, too much to sample, even if portions were sensible.

I thought Ooru Mus, a Pork curry in a thick treacle coloured gravy was strongly reminiscent of a stringent and savoury roast chilli dominated Madras, while mushy Pumpkin registered mellow coconut but lacked a mustardy bite. Still both were comfortably above par.

To summarise: it's decent value, one could get stuffed and get out for £10 if a herbivore, £12 if a carnivore. Beers include Lion lager, apparently ubiquitous across Sri Lanka. The Wine List is mercifully concise, and despite a rather anaemic complexion, the Rose was very palatable. Phew!

FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5/5

Willp2328score: 7/10

Saturday 20 June 2009

Planet India - Brighton

If you can find Planet India, you are in for a treat. A real treat. The kind you'll want to have all over again. But first a proviso: do not rely on Google Maps, listen to the directions given by the staff, and it helps if you're a fan of Baz Lurhmann - outside, inside it's very 'strictly ballroom'.

Once one has gotten over the cheap day glo splendour, the dancing waiters* and the fact the restaurant is v-e-g-e-t-a-r-i-a-n / v-e-g-a-n (no BYO meat allowed) one can really begin to enjoy oneself. Paul Mercurio would eat his purple heart out here!

I've never been served by a man in a nightie and flip flops before but he was so warm and kind, bluestockings such as I were able to overlook this. There are all sorts of unusual beers to be had - including Trashy Blonde - but the food is simply excellent. Big, simple, direct, delicious flavours. Large portions too.

We consumed with relish (ho ho), homemade Mango chutney and a wonderfully spicy, acrid pickle, then shared (almost) two bowls of chaat - the best, topped with sensationally fresh coriander leaf, sweet and tangy with tamarind yoghurt, and creamy with filling, fibrous chick peas. Taking the option of two half portions for the main course - constituting more than a whole - I delighted in a preperation of buttery little potatoes in a coconut rich tomato sauce and ochre yellow-orange daal, thick and hearty, reminiscent of the most wonderful veg stock. Chris had Sag Paneer, not quite so fulfilling, and Claire a gorgeous, perky Aubergine yoghurt curry. Cumin rice, moist and toasty, proved bountiful.

As I gazed out the window at the sea the following morning and spied a lone pink sail, I thought, only in Brighton! I imagine Planet India will remain hip in a kinda lo-kool way for some time, possibly until the inevitable death of our sun.

FOOD (& DRINK): 4.5

Willp2328score: 9/10

*only yoking!

Parveen - Islington, N1

Parveen has been around since 1977 - you could call it a 'stalwart'. In appearance the place is no regular curry house though, more resemebling a deep continental restaurant, the kind you find crammed full of sweaty french sophists on a hot summer evening a travers de la mer.

The only sweats you'll get here are from the curries, if you order a Vindaloo in particular. Al, opted for Ginger Chicken, and when it arrived, after regulation pappads, dips, ok Chicken Tikka (with thick red crust of paprika and chilli powder), our waiter announced it to be a Vindaloo...Vindaloo! Yes, the very hottest, dirtiest dish in the world! An awkward minute followed as, stammering in true Brit fashion, we tried to ascertain whether the kitchen had made a terrible mistake. They hadn't. T'was all a humourous jape! Ah! The laughs they must have back there...and the waiter was in on it too!

Anyhow, Al quite enjoyed his Ginger Chicken, although the meat was 'a little dry'. For my part, I felt the Lamb Saag was actually pretty lovely, possessing a savoury aroma yet tasting sweet with plenty of cinnamon, while a stewed Aubergine dish carried an odd but not unpleasant ketchup-like aftertaste. The small portions of rather dry pilau were a bit inadequate mind.

In summary: fair.


Willp2328: 6/10

Thursday 11 June 2009

Gurkha Chautari - Liphook

We had an excellent June meeting at the Gurkha Chautari. The restaurant was quite busy for a Wednesday night, and though our numbers were lower than usual, we were warmly welcomed.

Starters were delicious - lamb, chicken livers and momo dumplings. The restaurant chose the main courses for us: lamb and spinach, a hot and a medium version of khursani kukhura (chicken), hot prawn curry, monkfish, and 'Katmandu kukhura' - a mild chicken dish. All of these tasted really good, and were complemented by some vegetable curries, rice, chilli potatoes (sauteed rather than cooked in a sauce like Bombay potatoes) and dhal.

Some of our members' comments:
  • "some of the best flavours we've tasted"
  • "one of the best curries I've had"
  • "I usually find this place a little mild, but tonight - perfect"
  • "next time I eat here - monkfish"
  • "best food, best service, best music"

  • To summarise - a very good evening, enjoyed by all, excellent service. Highly recommended.

    Sunday 7 June 2009

    Emni - Angel, N1

    Emni is for trendies...has to be, sitting, as it does, on the corner of Camden Passage. One would never stagger in here, well oiled, after an evening in the Nag's Head, it's more a chic venue for catching up on office gossip, sharing a bottle of sauvignon and so forth. Hi ho!

    Credit must be given for effort. The front of house team try hard to provide for their lugubrious guests. Poppadoms and chutneys are a little different, seemed as though they might just have been home made, especially a really smokey tamarind sauce. Starters were a departure from the normal curry house fare as anticipated. Spinach and lentil patties, stuffed with a fig were very dainty and pretty, tasted fine except for a little too much chilli, somewhat overpowering. Other dishes included Scallops with mint and coconut sauce, spicy chicken chops, tandoori brocolli with paneer etc.

    Portion sizes were perfect, left us feeling full but not fit to burst. Laal Mass, tender pieces of lamb in a chilli hot Madras style sauce with julienne of root ginger was rich and sharp and complemented by a cooling, creamy blueberry raita. Sides of charcoal grilled, flattened aubergine slices were tangy and alternative while the pilau was moist and plentiful with peas.

    The restaurant claims they provide a taste of 'Indian rediscovered' and although they are more than a three sauce suits all subcontinental, most of the menu is familiar to a seasoned curryholic except for a few twists here and there. In a sense this is their USP as most of us seek comfort in curry rather than too much adventure.

    FOOD (& DRINK): 3.5
    SERVICE: 4
    VALUE: 3

    Willp2328score: 7/10