Cafe Spice Namaste

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Midweek dinner with colleagues in London this week had to do these 4 essential things:

1. Warm us up – it was flipping freezing.

2. Be easy – we’d had a full on week and we needed to keep it simple.

3. Taste amazing – we are an exacting bunch

4. Be local – we were staying near the city and didn’t fancy travelling

Bearing the above in mind, we headed straight for Cafe Spice Namaste – our new go-to Indian restaurant near the Tower of London. I’ve written about Mr Todiwali’s superb gaff before, but I thought he deserved another mention it’s that good.

A table of four men trying miserably to keep to some kind of January dietary regime in a top-notch Indian restaurant is a recipe for disaster, but we did manage to keep the beer to a minimum (school night) and skipped starters going straight for mains. Vast quantities of excellent pickles and poppadoms made up for the lack of a starter and our mains arrived promptly. Three of us went for the superb mixed tandoori grill which contained all manner of meat and fishy loveliness with some rice in case we were feeling too smug with our low carb intake. Our fourth diner opted for springbok (yes, the South African deer-like animal) which he deemed first rate.

We will continue, I’m sure, to use Cafe Spice Namaste as our midweek curry bolt hole as it the food and service is tip top – and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, it’s definitely up there with the best. In the meantime if you are in the vicinity it’s well worth a look.

 

Paramount bar and Ponti’s Italian

    Jen and I were invited on a mums and daughters weekend in London to celebrate our friends 60th birthday (not allowed to mention her name). Some of the daughters had not seen each other for over 10 years so we were in for good fun… Snow forecast, we travelled down via East Coast UK which departed on time and as usual had a fun journey, a few drinks, crisps, sandwiches and biscuits all served with a smile from the friendly staff.

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    Tube tickets purchased we headed off to find our hotel, The St Giles on Bedford Ave, a 2min walk from Tottenham Court Road tube..ideally placed for theatres and shopping..room key in hand we walked into the room and straight back out again, the room was dated and smelt disgusting..reception were friendly and helpful and changed our room to a newly refurbished room and all was good… We met up with 2 of the party and headed off for a drink. Centre Point has a bar and restaurant on the 32nd floor called Paramount and is situated next to TCR tube entrance on New Oxford Street …very handy……Prosecco and Olives ordered so it was time for a chin wag..chit chat and banter across the table as mums and daughters caught up on gossip…we were only staying for a quick drink but the others arrived and 3 bottles plus other drinks later we thought it was time to leave to get ready for dinner..
    On a previous visit to London with the “older” girlies we had stopped off at Ponti’s Italian Kitchen on John Princes St just off Oxford Circus, the place had a nice friendly vibe so we decided to eat there again for Sharon’s celebration birthday…I booked a round table in the window weeks before and confirmed my reservation…on arrival, no round table available so I spoke to the manager, Nelson.. He apologised and within 10 mins had sorted the table for us..we ordered a bottle of Prosecco and a sparkling rose, no sparkling rose… Various starter were ordered, garlic pizza bread, king prawns in garlic and fritto misto all were lovely and well presented

    20130126-140046.jpg Mains included the usual, pizza, lasagne and pasta with meatballs…the only negative comment was that the meatballs were over cooked and hard…everyone else enjoyed their food…as if we had not had enough food some ordered desserts, I had read on the internet about the Bomboloni de ricotta, warm donuts with acacia honey and vanilla pod ice cream… sounded yummy…unfortunately they didn’t have any!! so I opted for the dolcini, a small dessert, in my case creme brulee with a coffee..very good but not what I really wanted…All of us commented that the food was good and the service exceptional, the bill was £30 per head which we thought was good value..

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    To round of the night we walked back to Paramount for a final glass or two and to admire the night lights of London, I must admit it is a stunning 360* view from the bar, note you do need to book in advance to get on the guest list…

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    Dx

A London, Shoreditch weekend

We had been meaning to catch up with some French friends who now live in Wimbledon and meet up in town with some others. Time is precious so we decided to try do it over two nights which at our age is a challenge but you know we like a challenge. We stayed in the trendy Shoreditch area for a change and The Hoxton Hotel came highly recommended, it did not let us down. A cool place where the crowd is eclectic and not up itself.
The first night we booked a table at Eyre Bros a Mediterranean foodie restaurant that has been around for sometime with a sister place in another part of town, all good pointers. The atmosphere is relaxed but smart and the food is well….. Mediterranean so a great mix of the best Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French dishes. Our French friends are stereotypically snooty about food but were impressed if not quite gushing. The service was excellent even when we wanted some “bar dishes” which the menu is clear are only served at the bar but they gave in!
A selection of tapas to start included the obligatory padron peppers (needed a bit more salt), squid, clams and spicy sausage (chistorra from Burgos)all very good. For mains we had a seafood and pork cataplana which was served in a big lidded pot and amazing. Have to say the cheese was a poor show and you know how the French love their cheeses so fell at last hurdle or we would give this place top marks. Finally it is not cheap particularly when you drink wine with the French!

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Saturday was a tad hard on the heads but we had a wander around Covent Garden and then over to Borough Market in the aft just for a mooch around. Tell you what, when you get off the tube at London Bridge the Shard is incredibly impressive. We had a snack at the street vendors, spicy BBQ pork soft wrap (bargain at 4 quid) for D and a piece of Cod for me, both were superb which is why this is probably the gourmet food central in the UK (discuss??).

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In the evening we had to go for a curry, Brick Lane is nearby but we actually went to Whitechapel just around the corner. Tayyabs is one of the original curry houses and hugely popular queuing out the door bring your own booze kind of place. The grilled meat starter plates were fantastic and the mains are traditional Punjabi dishes all very very good. Coming from West Yorkshire where we know our curries I have to say this is as good a place as any.

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Sunday as you would expect we skipped breakfast again! Don’t worry we had a late lunch before we jumped on the train back for a rest.
Lunch was at the Booking Office, restaurant of the fabulously opulent Renaissance St Pancras Grand, recently refurbished and Grand Indeed. This place brings back a bygone age of luxury.
I had a charcuterie plate to start with, bits of incredibly tasty meats including smoked duck, just amazing. D had the fois gras and ham hock terrine, melt in your mouth pure indulgence.

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Mains, D had a cottage pie and I had a rib eye (might add 28 day aged YORKSHIRE beef)both were faultless. As we had time to kill (probably just greed…) we had desserts of, what else, Yorkshire lemon meringue pie and praline cheesecake nom nom nom! 2 bottles of delicious Sancerre Rose between us meant a long leisurely lunch waiting for our train. Can’t finish this without mentioning that the service from our waiter Gregorio who was going back to a Brazil for a holiday was impeccable. By the way Saturday night has a live band and jazz music but be warned book early they are very popular. This place has to be tried at least once!

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G&D.

Jugged Hare, Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y

I had lunch at the Jugged Hare in the heart of The City just up the street from our London offices and as you would expect it is full of suits just, well almost just like me. The food is very country with lots of game and really different pies, scotch eggs etc on the menu. Lots of wood but not proper country as it is shiny….
My associate and I shared a suckling pig shoulder with sides of cauliflower cheese, dauphinois and red cabbage. The main came on a chopping board with proper carving knife and the sides all came in individual tiny Le Creuset pots, very posh. The crackling was superbly crispy, pork spot on and the sides were delicious. I will definitely go back time permitting as I normally eat a sandwich on the go but very occasionally it does you good doesn’t it?

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Ikea Restaurant

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In the interests in light and shade I feel it only right and proper to review Ikea‘s Restaurant.

What, I can almost hear you say, in God’s name were you doing in there? Well, it was midweek in January and we were picking up a few bits and pieces (picture frames, candles and a mirror in case you were wondering) it was quiet, so we thought we’d give it a go. I realise it’s not the most glamorous destination for a date night but we had picked up some new pillows for the bed earlier and we thought dining a la Ikea would top the evening off nicely. The excitement of it all.

I know this is left field for a blog devoted to the best food and drink locally and internationally – Ikea is Scandinavian so that ticks the international box. Rest assured, on a normal day I wouldn’t set foot in the place – people ten deep at the counter, thousands of crying children and bickering couples arguing about what size Billy bookcase is going to fit in the dining room.

The place was virtually empty so we had it pretty much to ourselves which suited us. The restaurant is a fairly standard server canteen type set up where it’s a case of grab a tray and fill it with cut price food and drink. First thing to mention is the price – this stuff is cheap, just as you’d expect from Ikea I suppose. Cost effective utilitarian food with some style – perfectly reflecting their furniture offering.

I opted for the meatballs ( I do like a nice meatball and these weren’t bad) which came with mash, gravy and cranberry sauce. The large portion was around £5 and it would easily fed two people. The actual meal cam,e on two plates there was that much. Note to self, forgo the greed and get a small next time, if there is a next time. J had a very serviceable blue cheese walnut salad affair and as we were both not drinking, we sadly quaffed still water.

It’s only fair to point out at this juncture that you can buy what looked like decent French white/rose/red wine. Who knew you could get wine in Ikea? If I’d have known that on previous visits I would have made a beeline for the restaurant before braving the store – anything to take the edge off a tortuously busy Ikea store and its environs.

There is plenty of choice on offer with curries, standard British food as well as Swedish style grub. I have to say it all looked perfectly edible which is more than can be said for a lot of the food of this ilk in motorway services which is often three times the price.

Ok, it’s not Kendell’s but it’s perfectly tasty, cheap, non poisonous food. No doubt there are millions of people who already know this but it was a revelation to me. I might even be tempted back, midweek, when its quiet, when I’m drinking and when I’m skint.

The Hoxton, Shoreditch

Exit 3 from Old Road Northern line, follow the road for 400 yards and look for the two trees… Good directions and I arrived as guided within 5 minutes…first impression was warm, two fires ablaze, buzzing atmosphere and a friendly greeting from reception staff..room keys supplied and off I went to the 4th floor.. I must admit I was a little wary when walking the short corridor to the room as green fluorescent light are not my thing but they certainly highlighted the room numbers! The room was well proportioned unless you like a lot of space and had all facilities required, safe, hair dryer, tea tray, double glazing, air con and blackout curtains….the bathroom had a walk in rain shower plus hand held shower thingy, plenty of space to display your toiletries(hate it when you don’t have space other than toilet cistern to put your toothbrush!) and a large mirror…all good until G said they needed a magnifying mirror for shaving! his eyesight is getting worse!! I really liked the rooms and more so after a good night sleep in the very comfortable bed, note they do have feather pillows as standard so if you are allergic request hypo allergenic on booking…
My experience overall was very good, the staff are knowledgable, confident, efficient and friendly..the hotel is good value, my weekend rate was an average £114 per night which included the unusual lite breakfast which was surprisingly filling, granola with yogurt, a banana and fresh orange juice which you order the night before and is left on a hook outside your bedroom door

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The hotel has a reception area which sells chocolate, wine, champagne and other items at high street prices and the Hoxton Grill restaurant serves a variety of dishes, ribs n wings, burgers,steaks etc and has a well stocked bar and on an evening is buzzing with a cosmopolitan, eclectic crowd ..give it a try..D&G x

East Coast Train

Bagged a great 1st class train fare to London with East coast, just £60 return, brilliant as we had arranged to meet friends and have a curry in Shoreditch…I opted to collect my tickets at the station which I was quite nervous about as if anything goes wrong basically your stuffed but all was good and off I went to the platform..The seat I booked was available which was a good start, we set off on time and within 10 minutes complimentary tea and coffee was served by the friendly, smiling staff..I didn’t expect much more but then along came the complimentary food and drinks menu with a selection of sandwiches, hot meal or vegetarian option and dessert…I opted for the Colliers Cheddar, winter slaw and chutney sandwich served with hand cooked crisps and to drink a G&T and of course a bottle of water… Sandwiches are freshly made and you decide how many quarters you would like which I think is a great idea as a full sarnie sometimes is too much..the Montacute toffee apple crumble cake for afters was moist and tasted delicious, all in all very good. Other passenger ordered Fish and Chips served with tartare sauce which was described as lovely by one, I did ask one lady what she thought she said they were ok, did the trick but tasted like they had been microwaved…must admit after seeing them I’m glad I opted for the sarnie. More tea and coffee as well as other beverages were offered but you will be please to know I declined, after all I did have to get on the tube!
One thing to note, on a weekend complimentary food and drink is limited to sandwiches, biscuits, tea, coffee and water.
Thank you East Coast for a great journey down.

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