Monday, January 15, 2018

Blue Lotus Inspirations - Thai Supper Club - London

Blue Lotus Inspirations is a venture by Urmi Shah that offers Thai & Indian Food supper clubs.

I found her online and after clarifying that my shrimp/prawn allergy wouldn't be a hindrance, we promptly booked 2 places for her Spice Away the Blues - Thai Supperclub, last Friday.

I often find myself at a disadvantage in Thai restaurants because while I love the cuisine and the spice, their use of shrimp paste in the basic spice pastes, precludes most food from the menu. So I was very excited, when she promised me that I would be able to eat everything on that nights menu.

We arrived at their home in time and were warmly welcomed into their beautiful home by Urmi and the Delectable Mr G

We sat down to a table with an eclectic mix of people and Urmi explained her background of living in Thailand and which regions our menu for the night stemmed from.


Thai food needs to be eaten as soon as it is cooked. Its not meant to be reheated. So there was a bowl of shrimp crackers on the table while she quickly fried up our starters. I had to wait patiently, but that obviously gave me an advantage over the others. I could focus on all the home cooked goodies and eat more of them.


The fried tofu was so light, I've never eaten such a lovely version before. Often tofu gets tough and rubbery (not that I order it often), but this version was light, delicate and spongy on the inside of a crisp exterior.


The meat eating me reveled in the umpteen platters of fried chicken (Kai Thod Krob) that were brought to the table. So moreish. They were my second favourite dish of the evening.


My favourite dish for the day was definitely the  fish ball soup (Kwa Tiew Look Chin Naam) which she assembled in front of us! Customised to individual tastes. I asked for a little extra chilli and lemon in mine. I could live on this soup. Such a light flavourful stock, the fresh herbs, the smooth slithery noodles and the delectable fish balls.









Even if the meal had ended right here, I would have been very happy and contented, but there was even more food to come.

The main course was egg fried rice (Kaw Phad Khai) served with a pork jungle curry (Gaeng Par) and a stir fry of morning glory (Phat Phak Kiew) with lovely caramelised bits of garlic? 

Urmi had made a separate batch of pork curry for me without the shrimp paste which made me feel very special. I was just embarassed that I could barely begin to make a dent in it, as I was already quite stuffed. Others at the table were also waving the surrender flag. 


But I knew to keep a little space for dessert. It was pumpkin stewed in coconut milk (Fucktong Buat). I was so happy that it wasn't a dessert with fruits in it (I'm not allergic, I just don't like the taste or texture of most of them) This was a really delicately flavoured dessert. No added sugar and a lot of slow cooking love.

The food was absolutely amazing. There were a couple of pescatarians  at the table and she had alternative options for them for the pork curry and the fried chicken. 

Michael is a wine connoisseur, so they offer the option to buy wine that goes well with their food at their house and quite a few took them up on their offer. 

We aren't wine drinkers and the weather is too cold for cider, so we stuck to water. Therefore the palate cleanser of rose and lemon was really welcome midway through the meal. Absolutely refreshingly delicious.

At 35£, we were served a phenomenal quantity of food and so much variety, while catering to a myriad dietary restrictions, which is commendable for a home based operation.

Urmi also offers Cooking Classes and Demonstrations and also has an option that fulfills the skills section for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Her other options include supplying food and cooking in your home.

They are very genial hosts, so I would recommend trying them out if you have a hankering for Thai food. Contact Urmi on bluelotusinspirations@gmail.com or follow her on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bluelotusinspirations/ to be informed of her next offering.




Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Mike’s Café, London

Mike’s Café
12 Blenheim Cresent
London W11 1NN
020 7229 3757

A simple straightforward neighbourhood cafe/diner with very reasonable rates just off Portobello Road (near the Notting Hill Bookshop). Wish we had one of these closer to home.


They serve breakfast through the day. But unfortunately the items with poached eggs are served only until noon. So we couldn't try the eggs Benedict or the very interesting combination of poached eggs and truffles.

I had the liver and bacon with mash and gravy which was quite good. He had the 3 omelette egg with mushroom and blue cheese which was also good.


The grilled halloumi skewers were a bit of a disappointment. They were so lightly grilled that the cheese was still cold and halloumi tastes best when its hot.


The coffee was excellent, as was the service. I very happily toasted one of the free marshmallows on the low fire on my way out. Delicious!



Rating : 3.5 / 5

Monday, January 08, 2018

Hankies Cafe, London

Hankies Cafe
67 Shaftesbury Avenue
Piccadilly W1D 6LL
Soho
Phone number 020 7871 6021

Amazon Prime added this restaurant to their Home Delivery roster. I've been wanting to visit for awhile and we were in the mood for Indian today, so I placed an order.

The dahi bhalla was very authentic as was the chicken tikka and the chilli lamb chop. Full marks to these.

The black dhal and Haleem were quite good, but I've had better (in London too, not just in India)

The bhindi bhel, I was quite intrigued to taste, but it went missing in our order (I did get a refund)

The mushroom pickle was Fantastic!!!! The chicken pickle was good, but I could buy bottles of the mushroom pickle if they sold it!

The venison shammi was tasty, but I wasn't too happy with the texture, it could be the time until consumption made it hold together much tighter than it should. I'd like to try it in the restaurant to re-evaluate. However, for 5.5£ we got just one kebab and that felt a bit weird.

Which brings me to the main problem, some dishes are large serving size and some are measly and the prices don't reflect that. I guess this issue will be easily dealt with if you are eating at the restaurant, but can't be clarified when ordering online.

The kheema roti wasn't bad, but I could taste any truffle in the truffle naan.

The food in general was very good quality and I'm guessing that when I visit the location I will be able to give them an even higher rating!

Rating : 4 / 5 for Home Delivery

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Little Havana, London

Little Havana
20 Inverness Street
Camden Town
London NW1 7HJ

020 72840989

I never had the opportunity to try Cuban food when I lived in the US (in 2000). So I was very excited when lovepopupslondon invited me to Little Havana that opened in October in Camden.

The decor was warm, colourful and inviting. The temperature outside was 4C, but inside felt like I was holidaying in the Caribbean. The tables and water glasses and murals just add to that feel.



A gorgeous bar just as you enter and a nightclub next door, had amazing drinks and lovely music that kept us warmed up and was ideal for dancing. No surprise then, that Little Havana offers salsa classes every Tuesday and Sunday and Latin DJ + Band on Friday & Saturday.


I wanted to stay as authentic to Cuban flavours as I could on my first visit. So to drink I had the Havana Loco and El Nacional cocktails which both had Havana Rum and apricot brandy at their base, but tasted completely different. All the cocktails on the table were unique but universally loved. There are wines and beers too on the menu if that's what you would prefer and a large selection of spirits, the largest being the variety of Caribbean rums. There's a daily happy hour from 5pm to 8pm.


The lady in charge said that they had trimmed down the menu a bit from the time that they opened, but they still have a fantastic selection of food, that looks familiar, but is unusual in its pairings and cooking techniques. I absolutely loved the way that they had used plantains, very different from the way that we cook with them back home.

As an appetiser, I ordered the Tostones Rellenos con Ropa Vieja - stuffed fried plantain with pulled beef. This was so delicious. I'd go back just for this dish. 


Given that we were a group of food lovers, we obviously tasted food from each others plates. The calamari was average, nothing stand out about it.



But the salt cod fritters (very different from those served at Cottons or Vanessa Bolosiers pop up at Beachcomber) and the yuca/cassava with pulled beef were absolutely lip smacking.


The Malaysian in our group, said that the cassava tasted very different from what she is used to, but I quite enjoyed it as an alternative to potatoes. A lot more texture and flavour.


The mains are humongous. If you have had starters, I would recommend sharing one main between two people. My roasted pork was not something I would recommend. There was no fat or skin on it, so then the meat for me tastes very generic.
 

The red snapper was good and lightly flavoured, but the chicken pio pio was the absolute stand out of the night for me. Beautifully marinated and such rich contrasting flavours.


All the mains came with so many sides: Buttered rice, black beans, salad, fried yuca, fried plantains and each of them was so good, that it was a tough choice about what to eat and where to draw the line. I for one definitely ended up overstuffed. Leaving zero room for dessert




I definitely want to go back with my family to get them to taste some of this amazing food. I also have to try the Cuban sandwiches which my American friends have been very nostalgic about. So I'm going to be headed back really soon.


Rating : 4.5 / 5

Mon : Closed
Tue : 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Wed : 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thu : 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Fri : 4:00 pm – 2:00 am
Sat : 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Sun : 12:00 pm – 12:00 am

Daily Happy Hour : 5pm to 8pm

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Spirit Show, London

LovePopUpsLondon got us Press Passes for The Spirit Show at the Business Design Center, this Friday. The amazing thing about press passes is that you get to visit the venue, before it is opened up to the general public, which means that you can leisurely browse through all the stalls, instead of trying desperately to push and shove your way through. I'd attended an Italian Food show at this same location last year, but this ended up being a much more pleasant experience.

So we literally visited every stall at the show.
Yes, around 130 of them.
No, we didn't drink tasters at all of them - I avoided most of the gins and majority of the spirit stalls were gin stalls.
Yes, I came home with a couple of bottles.
Yes, I was sober.
Yes, I took notes so I wouldn't get mixed up.

With the answers to those essential questions out of the way...

Read along to see if you would like to add some of these drinks to your Christmas present list - for others or yourself.

We started the afternoon with a cocktail experience workshop with Fentimans conducted by Myles Cunliffe of Mixology Group. He was absolutely brilliant. He kept us in splits while plying us with drink and demonstrating some easy cocktails (hot and cold) to make at home while entertaining during the festive season.




With a little 'education' down our gullet, we set out to explore the rest of the exhibition. There was a mix of alcoholi drinks, non-alcoholic drinks, mixers, a couple of  food stalls and strangely one from the RSPB soliciting membership! It was manned by a really nice guy, but I'm not sure if he managed to get anyone at the event to sign up?

The Fentimans store was right next to the experience stall and we tried some exciting new variations on their tonic waters. I love their gingerbeer, its a classic. But I was also quite impressed by the Mediterranean orange and connoisseurs tonic water that they have just brought to market.


Our next stop was Cazcabel, which makes absolutely decadent flavoured tequilas from Blue Weber Agave. I picked up a bottle each of their honey and coffee flavoured ones and they have already been well appreciated at home. Their website has so many lovely recipes to turn them into cocktails, but I doubt the spirits will last that long.



The most awesome bottles at the show were definitely the hippo shaped bottles from Beremot. Their vodkas come in Original, Strawberry, Orange, Lime Crush and Coffee Flavours. We tried the strawberry and the coffee. The strawberry was fresh and fruity, but I loved the coffee. she recommended pairing it with ginger ale. I wasn't sure of a coffee and ginger combination, but once I tried it, I was hooked! She also said it would go great with orange soda. I'll have to try that.


My absolute favourite liqueur of the evening was the Rumchata Its a combination of cream, Caribbean rum and cinnamon. Gimme a bottle of that and its sure to be a very merry Christmas. I could start and end my day with that drink.Sadly, they weren't selling at the store, so I will need to go hunting for it in my nearby grocery stores.



Our next stop introduced us to Mr Nagra and Ms Kaur behind Crazy Gin. With all the new variants and infusions in the gin market today, its surprising that no one had yet invented something with strong Indian flavours. Crazy Gin fills that spot. Inspired by lassi, the gin is infused with yoghurt, angelica, pomegranate seeds, turmeric, juniper, black cumin, black pepper and coriander.


I'm not a gin drinker, but I loved their sweatshirt and Bruce has promised that they will be available for customers to buy shortly.


Mayan rum based liqueurs were next on the agenda with Casa D'Aristi's Kalani - coconut flavoured and Huana -guanabana / soursop / custard apple family fruit flavoured. The Kalani was much nicer and less sweet than a malibu, so its easier to drink neat. The Huana wasn't as funky as I expected it to be (I can't stand the smell of most fruits, even when diluted in alcohol)



The next vodka came all the way from Australia and again it was the unusual spices in the mix that intrigued me. Underground Spirits uses a unique submicron, subzero filtration system for a buttery feel.

I was more interested to taste some of those spices in those bottles than the gin & vodka itself. I've never seen lemon myrtle, angelica, rivermint or Tasmanian pepperberry before. The ladies were kind enough to let me taste a pepperberry. Very similar to pepper in its basic flavour, but wildly different too.

I was very impressed with our next stall - Franklin & Sons. They had such a large variety of drinks. All natural, no alcohol, no added sugar, no preservatives and absolutely delicious flavours. It would be tough to choose a favourite among the flavours we tried, but I have to say that their gingerbeer is a strong contender for the top spot in my favourite gingerbeers.




The next surprise was Solkiki - a dairy free vegan chocolate. You would never guess it from the taste and texture when you eat it. I had already picked up way too much chocolate from last weeks Taste of London - Christmas Special, so did not buy any more. They are all award winning though and absolutely delicious. I might just order from them, once my current chocolate stock is depleted.



The other stalls that impressed me were Still on The Move, whom you can hire to make your own short run bespoke gin at your home. They bring 26 different botanicals with them, but you could also add things like petals from the brides bouquet to make your gin unique & memorable.

The other was Woodalls Charcuterie. They had brought a limited selection of snacking salamis. I bought some home and the gin snacking bite was declared the favourite with the spicy snacking sticks coming a close second.

Our final stop of the evening was at VodCake - Cake flavoured Vodka. They currently have three flavours - Black Forest Gateaux, New York Cheesecake and Tiramisu. They were all delicious. A perfect combination of dessert and after dinner tipple. They say Vodcake should ideally be served well chilled as an aperitif, digestif, poured over or served with its cake counterpart, as a base for coffees, either hot or cold as frappes or consumed neat.Do you need any other reason to buy a bottle or three?

I had an amazing afternoon at the show with Joanne of Love PopUps London. .


We were stunned by the sheer variety of new brands and flavours of spirits available in the market. Being able to taste them, definitely helped make buying decisions easier. And I have my Christmas Spirit Shopping List ready. A lot of the alcohol at the show is available to buy from their respective websites, Amazon or The Whisky Exchange.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Listing Launch Party - Drake & Morgan, London

The Listing - Drake & Morgan
27 Bush Ln,
Cannon Green,
London, EC4R 0AA

0203 948 9820

The Listing is the latest (19th) Bar & Restaurant from Drake & Morgan, that has just opened near Cannon Street. I was lucky to be invited to join Joanne of Love Pop Ups London and Steve for the launch party on the 9th of November .

The lines to get in seemed really long which just goes to show how popular this spot is going to be. The process was pretty fast though and I was inside in under 10 minutes where my friends were already waiting.

The space is huge and absolutely stunning. With a two storied glass frontage which wraps around the building. The party was being held downstairs in the bar and restaurant section, but we also went up to where the Deli will be and that section was so warm and inviting, I just wanted to curl up on one of those chairs with a blanket, a book and a cup of coffee. All of which they provide.







There was quite an assortment of canapes being served and as we walked around the open kitchen, we saw how hard they were working to keep the food circulating. This was the first time that I was watching an open kitchen for this size of an event and I was thoroughly impressed at the efficiency of the chefs and serving staff.





The desserts were decadently delicious and I hope that they will continue to offer those brownies and mint marshmallows (were they gin and tonic marshmallows ?) on the menu.

The bar tenders were also working very hard to keep up with the demand. I did not get the opportunity to try one of the drinks at the bar, given the crowd around it. But there was a kiosk run by The London Essence Co. that served up some amazing cocktails. Plus we go to try a new flavour of Rekoderlig Cider - Premium Spiced Plum - very Christmassy flavours.



There was a glitter station, where we got ourselves glammed up - all shimmery and sparkly. Such fun. Being London, I was able to travel home by bus with all the sparkles still on my face, without any stares or questions. I just love living in this city!

The Listing is a great venue, very beautiful. Modern interiors below at the pub and warm comfortable tones upstairs at the deli. What we ate, isn't likely to be on the regular menu, but the chefs and bartenders know what they are doing, so I'm sure this place will be very popular.

Do take a look at some of their special menus for the upcoming Christmas season. They are quite ideal for office parties. The Listing will be open on weekdays from 7:30am and weekends are available for private hire.

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