The third of my London triptych of blogs is all about Indian spice of the finest kind.
Cafe Spice Namaste is the famous London ‘culinary institution’ owned by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala. The restaurant is just a short walk from the Tower of London so a little off the beaten foodie track, on the edge of the City of London.
Cyrus has been on television many times (including Saturday kitchen) and he is famed for his contemporary take on traditional Indian food using locally sourced ingredients from the UK. Cyrus has even cooked for royalty, so this guy is no slouch in the kitchen.
The restaurant is very unassuming and could be anywhere in the country and the emphasis is very much on the food. I was dining alone on this occasion and it’s worth noting that I absolutely love eating out alone. I have no issues with my own company and I’ve noticed that a lone diner finishes their meal about ten times quicker as there is no chit chat to slow things down, apart from my tweeting along the way…
Back to the food. My strategy is to usually go for the specials – after all that’s what the chef has made for that day and they are usually spot on. To start, I opted for their take on the humble but much-loved, by me at least, Scotch Egg (which according to the menu came from India originally, named after Walter Scott apparently) – their version was a spiced quail egg and turkey. It was on the money, small but perfectly spiced.
For my mains, I ordered from the specials again, and went for the breast of Langley Chase organic mutton Goda Masala. The lamb was marinated and roasted then served in a masala sauce especially made for the restaurant by a couple in Bombay. Lovely attention to detail. Although the menu did warn me this dish was ‘hot’ I wasn’t prepared for the deep heat emanating from the dish! It really had a depth of flavour not found in everyday Indian cooking, but it was hot, hot, hot. I overheated dramatically and drank around four litres of water and had to calm my tongue down with a large portion of roasted fig ice cream – at least that’s my excuse.
Prices and service are what you’d expect for a restaurant of this quality but surprisingly not over the top cost-wise given the stature of the chef. Just go.
My first two dishes from the Prashad Cookbook were relatively simple affairs even for the novice cook that I admit to being. Wanting to push the boat out a little after my modest success, I was eager to cook Chole – a cinnamon spice chickpea curry that I had on my very first visit to their fab little restaurant in Bradford (& shortly Drighlington). This, of course, is the dish that propelled them into the homes of millions after Gordon Ramsay picked this one out as his personal favourite
The cookbook advises that the spice preparations make all the difference to the flavours of the finished dish. Having now made the dish I can report it also gives me an altogether different appreciation of eating it too. Coriander seeds, cinnamon, red chillies, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves & cumin seeds are all tossed in a pan & fried to create a garam masala for the upper flavour. Unfortunately, on my first attempt, I set the heat too high causing it to burn, having to re-prep & do it all again….not the best start on a tired Friday evening
Cumin seeds cooked with onion form a base note and these are fried separately (Note – 2 pans!) with tomatoes followed by ginger, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric and sugar. I thought this was a simple dish of essentially 3 tins of chickpeas & some other spicy stuff but it is a very sophisticated and complex dish, with layers of flavours
The chickpeas are boiled in a large pan (that’s 3!) & I think this is where my dish went slightly wrong. I added additional warm water (as instructed) to my boiled chickpeas that had been left in their cooking water when adding the garam masala and cumin/onion mix. Ultimately it left the dish overly wet despite the additional cooking time employed
The consistency of the dish failed to live up their restaurant standard but the taste sensation was most definitely on the money. A point worth mentioning here, is this is a super cheap meal to make. With tins of chickpeas 50p a pop or less, it is fantastic food for a low outlay. We also had half left over which we took ‘en-flask’ to our annual salmon jumping expedition the following day. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was 2nd time round, sitting by Stainforth Falls on a cold Saturday afternoon, with the chilli heat ‘warming me cockles’
Twitter inspired us to visit the Bradford curry festival held in City Park central Bradford. The area is a great space for such events and we were anticipating a full afternoon, sadly the event was not as well supported as we had expected with probably about 12 stalls which included Zouk, Manjit’s kitchen, Hasans and Kings of Chaat, the Prashad. We were surprised not to see Akbars, Aagrah, Nawaab or Mumtaz represented. Zouk’s chicken tikka wrap £4 was delicious with plenty of filling and G’s Chaat from Prashad £2.50 was fresh and tasty.
Still hungry we decided to stop at Zouk cafe and restaurant, we ordered masala chai, a tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and ginger, simply delicious… To eat, I had lamb chops and a keema paratha, G had a mixed tandoori starter and mushroom bhaji, the food was cooked to perfection and the bill was £21…great..
Note … Prashad are opening 1st week in December in Drighligton…
A nice walk to the Valley pub which turned out to be a great find proper boozer and a few beers saw our Sunday of to a good start but as usual hunger pangs set in so we decided to grab a taxi and head out to the Aagrah, usually we would head to Aagrah Leeds( our fav) but they don’t open until 5.30 and couldn’t wait….Aagrah Midpoint is spacious but lacks something decorative because it was mid afternoon it was fairly quiet and the staff were busy preparing for the Sunday evening buffet rush..
Fresh crispy poppadoms served with the usual spicy pickles were quickly devoured by the six of us and starters consisted of masala fish, veggie samosa and a tandoori mix..mains included shah Jahan for G chicken Korma, chicken balti and I had my usual Lamb chops served on a sizzling platter …all were delicious..Just note that Aagrah Midpoint food tends to be a bit spicier than the Leeds restaurant..food approx £75 for 6.
This is fast becoming our ‘go to’ place for a tasty dinner when I don’t feel like cooking.
Jeera is a Bangladeshi restaurant in Crich which is a small village perched on a hill in Derbyshire. Crich is probably best known for being the location for ITV’s ‘Peak Practice’ and it’s also the home of the ‘National Tramway Museum’.
Truth be known Crich is a village we would really like to live in, it has several proper pubs, a handful of shops and our favourite artisan bakery, The Loaf. The Loaf serves excellent Pizza cooked in the bread oven, but only on a Wednesday, so we will review that another (Wednes)day.
Having a 10 year old we tend to eat early, so we are often the only diners in the restaurant, but it gets busier later in the evening. Tonight we sat in the bright, early evening sun and ate crispy poppadums with some super pickles. We then had rich Lamb Bhuna, a Chicken Rezala that’s packed with tiny green chillies, plus a milder Chicken Tikka Masala to please the boy. We had rice, hot buttery naan and a couple of drinks each. Everything was excellent and we can’t fault the attentive service.
The bill came to £45 and we are now happily all home before dark so we can watch a movie before bed.
Claire, Ed and George from Thingswemake
Established in 1976 and still owned by the family the International is a hidden gem.. Neon signs, basic decor and furniture but a pre theatre curry for Dawn and myself proved a delight. Dawn’s starter of lamb chops were the best she had ever had and they were also the cheapest at £3. For main course I had chicken with spinach whilst Mrs Singh had chicken Korma. Both dishes were traditional Punjabi style creamy Korma with the spices not too overpowering. The chapattis were very light and fluffy and also included in the price which all in all gave good value. Definitely eat there again, good service,good value and very good curry 9 out of 10. Tess and Dawn
Curry night this month was at one of the oldest curry houses in Bradford….and it was great. Tess wrote about the International a few months ago so I was looking forward to our visit. Starting with lamb chops, my staple for our curry nights, the flavours were fabulous, not too spicy so I enjoyed every bite…I ventured away from my usual main course of chicken korma and opted for chicken, mushroom and potato balti which again was not too spicy so you could taste all the herbs, spices and meat….great and all washed down with a well made glass or two of sweet lassi…10/10..Next time I am having the Taqur thali platter which as seen below is a small sampler of prawn, veg and chicken curry served with rice and salad…food was good value and staff very friendly.
D & Tess.