Veeraswamy, London

Veeraswamy

Veeraswamy, opened in 1926 by the great-grandson of a British soldier and a Mughal princess, is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom, having hosted Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, King Gustav VI of Sweden, and Charlie Chaplin among others. Following a number of revamps to its décor over the years, including the switch to an ultra-modern theme in the late 90s, the restaurant, now owned by the Masala World group, was redecorated in a 1920s motif on the occasion of its 80th anniversary in 2006. It is a pleasant enough space, with fitting touches of grandeur.

Shalay Chicken Tikka: Smoked with garam masala

The three starters we tried were all very good – appropriately spiced, with perfectly cooked, moist and tender meat. Green Prawns: Wild tiger prawns – coriander, mint and chilli had a lovely grilled taste to it; Shalay Chicken Tikka: Smoked with garam masala a nice charcoal flavour; Chicken Bhajia: Crispy chicken “lollipops” a fine, crisp exterior. All were thoroughly enjoyable, quality dishes.

Green Prawns: Wild tiger prawns – coriander, mint and chilliChicken Bhajia: Crispy chicken “lollipops

The main courses, however, were rather less successful. We ordered (on the recommendation of our waiter):

Chicken Chatpatta: Tangy tomato, fenugreek leaves and lemon. Kadai-fry
Kashmiri Rogan Josh: Lamb knuckles, sun dried Kashmiri spices, saffron, cockscomb flower
Bharta: Tandoor clove smoked aubergine caviar
Mumtazi Chicken Biryani

Chicken Chatpatta: Tangy tomato, fenugreek leaves and lemon. Kadai-fry; Kashmiri Rogan Josh: Lamb knuckles, sun dried Kashmiri spices, saffron, cockscomb flower; Bharta: Tandoor clove smoked aubergine caviar; Mumtazi Chicken Biryani; Veeraswamy Layered Naan

The kitchen’s skill in treating meat was again on display, with the lamb, and both preparations of chicken, firm, yet soft. But with the exception of the Chicken Chatpatta, all the dishes could have done with much stronger flavours and more robust spicing. This was a sanitised Indian meal rather than the the full-bodied, explosion of flavours we know, love and expect from this type of cuisine. Veeraswamy Layered Naan wasn’t great either, falling on the fluffiness count.

Shahi Tukra - Indian bread & butter pudding with crisped brioche, apricot & pistachio cream

For dessert, Shahi Tukra: Indian bread & butter pudding with crisped brioche, apricot & pistachio cream was reasonable, but not really to my taste. Same can be said for Kulfi – Indian style ice cream: Caramelised banana. We were surprised by the presence of Fresh Alphonso Mango with vanilla ice cream on the menu given that it was no longer the season for it (mid June), and remain unconvinced by the genuineness of the mangoes we were served.

In a nutshell...
Not bad. The starters were very good in fact, but the main courses were a bit of a let down. Veeraswamy is still a legitimate option, but there are now better places for upscale Indian food in the capital.

6.5/10

Veeraswamy
99-101 Regent Street, London, W1B 4RSE
+44 (0)2077341401
Average Price: £50
Labels: London, Indian

Veeraswamy on Urbanspoon

Sticky Fingers, London

Sticky Fingers

Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers, on Phillimore Gardens just off Kensington High Street, has been around since 1989, serving standard American fare decked out, as you might expect, in the fashion of a typical American diner with Stones memorabilia decorating the walls.

Mini Revolution: half rack of ribs & fries, chunky apple coleslaw and 1 free drink

The ribs are the main attraction here, and thoroughly enjoyable they are to0 – soft and tender, the meat falls nicely off the bone and melts in your mouth. There are 5 flavours to pick from – St Louis Style BBQ, Spicy Peri Peri, Cajun Dry Rub, Classic Cantonese and my personal favourite, Sweet Tennessee Bourbon. On “Ribby Tuesday”, a Mini Revolution: half rack of ribs & fries, chunky apple coleslaw and 1 free drink can be had for £8.95, or for £2 more, a Solo Revolution, the same combination with a full rack of ribs (there is also a Double Revolution and a Party Revolution option). Certified bargains all.

Sticky Fingers Burger

The burgers, on the other hand, are just alright - good, soft and fluffy brioche buns; decent albeit slightly dry and overburnt chargrilled beef patties; a special Sticky Finger sauce that enhances the burger, but doesn’t compare to a lot of the other ‘special burger sauces’ out there. Fries too are only average, in fact probably slightly below average. But at 50% off on “Monday Madness”, a Sticky Fingers Burger with fries and a salad garnish comes in at under a fiver and at that price, one really can't complain. Onion rings are not discounted, but especially with the accompanying garlic mayonnaise, are pleasing and definitely worth a side order.

Onion rings

In a nutshell…
I can’t really recommend this place for its “award-winning” burgers, not when Byron just around the corner does them so much better, but the ribs are where it’s at for Sticky Fingers, and those they do very well. The very agreeable prices, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, and fast and friendly service, make the overall offering even more appealing. They also do delivery to nearby areas.

6.5/10

Sticky Fingers
1a Phillimore Gardens, Kensington, London, W8 7QG
+44 (0)2079385338
Average Price: £10-£20

Sticky Fingers on Urbanspoon

Cambio de Tercio, London

Cambio de Tercio

Many a knowledgeable judge considers Cambio de Tercio on Old Brompton Road to be the best Spanish restaurant in London. A visit was long overdue then, especially given its close proximity to my apartment. The restaurant was still fairly empty when we arrived at 7.30pm on a Thursday evening but the crowds soon started to file in, creating a vibrant atmosphere to match the colourful interior and striking paintings adorning the walls.

Iberico Pata Negra Ham “5 JOTAS SANCHEZ ROMERO CARVAJAL” toasted bread & tomato

We ordered exclusively from the tapas menu on this occasion, beginning with an excellent Iberico Pata Negra Ham “5 JOTAS SANCHEZ ROMERO CARVAJAL” toasted bread & tomato – top notch ham, light and airy bread, and the surprising star of the dish, a piquant tomato salsa – Cambio was off to a flying start.

Our famous chilled gazpacho with lobster and Cherry sorbetOur famous chilled gazpacho with lobster and Cherry sorbet

Next to arrive was Our famous chilled gazpacho with lobster and Cherry sorbet that was appetising and refreshing but, despite its many virtues, still felt a little lightweight for what was supposedly the restaurant’s signature dish – don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad at all; in fact it was very nice, but struck me as a dish perhaps better suited to being an amuse-bouche to whet the appetite, rather than something that supposedly showcases the very best that the restaurant has to offer. The over-sized serving was ill-advised too – less is sometimes more, and that would certainly have been the case in this instance.

At this point, with its signature dish having proven somewhat underwhelming, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit concerned that this was going to be yet another case of a promising restaurant flattering to deceive, but I needn’t have worried – this meal was to scale far greater heights.

New spicy Patatas bravas

Tuna tartar, tomato seeds, creamed avocado, salmon caviar was very good, the accompaniments really enhancing the tuna tartar - particularly the burst of saltiness from the salmon caviar, which lifted it very nicely. The “new spicy Patatas bravas” was superb; a brilliant re-make of a simple classic – great, creamy alioli; tangy, spicy tomato sauce, and potato encased in a deep fried, crisp potato crust.

Tuna tartar, tomato seeds, creamed avocado, salmon caviarChar grill Galician Octopus, potato parmentier, paprika oilPrawns “a la plancha” garlic-parsley oilGrilled chop of “Acorn feed Iberico pork” with chorizo and potato cream, figs vinegar caramel

Char grill Galician Octopus, potato parmentier, paprika oil featured a good mix of textures – springy octopus against the gooey potato parmentier; and flavours – a hint of spiciness imparted by the paprika oil. Caramelised millefeuille of Foie gras, smoked eel, baked apple was a really clever bit of cooking, even if the balance of foie gras and apple was skewed a little too much in favour of the apple. Prawns “a la plancha” garlic-parsley oil lacked the excitement and inventiveness of some the dishes that came before it, but was still a fine rendition. Grilled chop of “Acorn feed Iberico pork” with chorizo and potato cream, figs vinegar caramel and Grilled lamb cutlets with thyme and garlic Piquillo peppers were both cooked perfectly, with a very agreeable charred taste to the meat; the combination of the pork with the chorizo and potato cream working especially well.

Caramelised millefeuille of Foie gras, smoked eel, baked apple

Desserts were decent - we shared three - “THE ALL LEMON DESSERT” airy sponge, ice cream, custard, sand; Apple and vanilla millefeuille, pear chutney and thyme-basil ice cream; White chocolate ganache, pistachio, passion fruit, ginger ice cream, but not up to standard of the tapas.

Apple and vanilla millefeuille, pear chutney and thyme-basil ice creamWhite chocolate ganache, pistachio, passion fruit, ginger ice cream

In a nutshell…
Every single dish (bar the desserts) was good, many were great. Creative, exciting food; a lively yet relaxed atmosphere; thoughtful service that ensured dishes came staggered rather than en-mass as they often do at other tapas bars (not that this is just a tapas place – it is so much more) – Cambio de Tercio is a slick operation more than deserving of all the accolades it has been showered with. A Michelin Star surely is long overdue. The best Spanish restaurant in London? I would be mighty surprised if there is one in the capital better. I certainly haven’t found one.

8.5/10

Cambio de Tercio
163 Brompton Road, London, SW5 0LJ
+44 (0)2072448970
Average Price: £40-£50

Cambio de Tercio on Urbanspoon

Masters Superfish, London

Masters Superfish

I have yet to come across really good fish & chips in London, despite having been, at one time or another, to many of the most popular chippies in the capital – The Golden Hind, Rock & Sole Plaice, Seashell of Lisson Grove and Seafresh in Victoria amongst them. All were decent enough (Seafresh the best) but none were great. The search continued at Masters Superfish in Waterloo, another of those places that frequently comes up in discussions about the best fish & chips in London.

I had a Master Special: Approximately a 247 gram Prime Cod, cut as available, which arrived swiftly. I loved the extra-crunchy batter at Masters – probably the best batter of all of the fish & chip places I have tried in London. But once cut into, the fish was pretty greasy, especially noticeable given that my last fish & chips meal at fish! at Borough Market was an entirely greaseless affair. The freshness of the cod here also could not compare to the stunningly fresh fish at fish!. The serving, as you can see from the photo, was huge.

Master Special: Approximately a 247 gram Prime Cod, cut as available

In a nutshell…
The best batter I’ve had in London would make up for chips that were just okay, peas that were far too mushy, and probably even for fish that was not quite as fresh as at other places, but not, I’m afraid, for the excess of grease. Such a shame.

6/10

Masters Superfish
191 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UX
+44 (0)2079286924
Average Price: £10
Worth noting: Closed Sundays

Masters Super Fish on Urbanspoon

Georgian Restaurant at Harrods, London

Home-baked English scones Served with clotted cream, rose petal jelly and strawberry preserves

Available from 3pm, the afternoon tea menu at the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods consists of just one option – Freshly Cut Sandwiches, Home-baked English scones, Selection of Tea Pastries from the Harrods Pâtisserie, Choice of tea from Harrods own tea gardens all for £26 per person. However, off the menu, they do offer the individual component parts of the full afternoon tea separately, along with a choice of tea of course, for £12 each. We opted for one serving of the Freshly Cut Sandwiches: Cucumber and minted yoghurt, Smoked salmon with caper butter, Ham and piccalilli, Cheddar cheese and Branston pickle, Truffled egg salad with cress and one serving of the Home-baked English scones: Served with clotted cream, rose petal jelly and strawberry preserves.

Cut Sandwiches: Cucumber and minted yoghurt, Smoked salmon with caper butter, Ham and piccalilli, Cheddar cheese and Branston pickle, Truffled egg salad with cress

In a nutshell…
A pleasant enough experience, but not as good as some of the better afternoon tea offerings in the capital.

5.5/10

Georgian Restaurant at Harrods
Fourth Floor, 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7XL
+44 (0)2072256800
Average Price: £26 (for afternoon tea)

The Georgian Restaurant at Harrod's on Urbanspoon

Opera Tavern, London

Opera Tavern

Opera Tavern, opposite the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane, is the latest venture from Simon Mullins and Sanja Morris, the husband and wife team behind highly-regarded Salt Yard and Dehesa. The pair has stuck to the tried and tested formula that has served them so well in their first two restaurants again here, offering up a similar mix of Italian charcuterie and Spanish tapas. Something seems to have been lost with the quality of the food at this third outlet, however.

Crispy Ibérico Pigs EarsItalian Style Scotch Egg 

Crispy Ibérico Pigs Ears were chewy and hard and practically impossible to eat without risking chipping a tooth. Padrón Peppers, which shouldn’t be very difficult to get right, were too heavy and soggy. Italian Style Scotch Egg was a slight improvement, but still nothing to write home about. Moorish Marinated Ibérico Pork Pinchos Morunos was simply a grilled pork skewer the likes of which can be found anywhere.

Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger

Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger was easily the best dish of the meal - the meat was moist and succulent, with a lovely charcoal-grilled flavour to it; the foie gras, however, was barely detectable. Chargrilled Salt Marsh Lamb with Farro, Peas, Broad Beans, Wild Garlic and Goat’s Curd was instantly forgettable, as was Roasted Monkfish with Crab and Chickpea Sauce and Crab Fritter.

Chargrilled Salt Marsh Lamb with Farro, Peas, Broad Beans, Wild Garlic and Goat’s CurdRoasted Monkfish with Crab and Chickpea Sauce and Crab Fritter

Still hungry, we added a Crispy Squid and Sea Purslane with Chilli Alioli and Chorizo with Piquillo and Marjoram. They were amongst the best of the day, simply by virtue of the fact that they’re difficult to get really wrong – precisely the reason we chose them, none of the more interesting dishes having impressed.

Crispy Squid and Sea Purslane with Chilli AlioliChorizo with Piquillo and Marjoram

In a nutshell…
Overwhelmingly mediocre. A pale shadow of its sister Dehesa.

4.5/10

Opera Tavern
23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
+44 (0)2078363680
Average Price: £25-£35

Opera Tavern on Urbanspoon

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