Review: Indian Tapas and Cocktails at Lokhandwala

One of the best things about work has been the dear friends I have made and one of them has been Jas. We decided to catch up over some cocktails and food and our choice of venue was newly opened Lokhandwala, by the team behind The Grub Fest, which is India’s biggest food festival.

In fact it was so new when we walked in we couldn’t help notice that “brand new” scent in the air with all the fixtures, fittings and interiors.

We wanted a cocktail before dinner so we settled at the in house bar at the rear of the restaurant called “The Hot House” which had a Victorian theme. Stunning area!

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I was really impressed by the selection of cocktails on the menu which were very inventive and unusual for an Indian restaurant. They also offer an interesting variety of vegan shots and smoothies. Want your Turmeric Latte fix? This is the place to come!

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We decided on The Herbalist for Jas, which was a blend of Tanqueray Gin, Absentheroux, Herbal Liquor, Vanilla syrup, Cucumber and Coriander, Rose Lemonade.

I went for a rum based cocktail called Great Journey, which was a blend of Rum infused with Lemon and Thyme, Liquor 43, Fresh Lime, Ginger beer, Angostura and Cola Bitters.

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We ended up sitting at the Cocktail Bar an hour longer than we were meant to as we had so much to catch up on. At no point though did the staff rush us to our table or even hint that we were an hour late for our dinner reservation. Instead we felt really relaxed and well looked after and the bartender was really lovely.

When we did move to our table and settle down, we loved the decor in the restaurant, having the time to observe it properly. It is so pretty and romantic inside Lokhandwala, with a French Boudoir/Victorian theme complete with distressed mirrors and grey furniture. I absolutely loved it and especially as it was not the type of decor you would assume to find inside an Indian restaurant.

Of course moved on to Prosecco because our catch up was very special! I loved that they served them in these coupe glasses.

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The menu is focused around Indian Tapas, which are small plates, and from this section we ordered a selection to share.

Our first choice was the Gujju Vaal Daal Chat. This is a dish made from Lentils from the Broad Bean Family mixed with black pulses and served with yoghurt and imli chutney on the side. This wasn’t my favourite of the dishes although very tasty.

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Our next choice, which was the Celery Prawns, was my favourite and to die for. These were Lava Grilled Prawns marinated with Yoghurt, Celery, Coriander, Mint and Green Chilli and served with a Ginger pickle. The flavour combination was ridiculously good.

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Our third choice was Lamb Sliders, which were oven baked Shammi Kebab sliders, topped with grilled brie and tomato, cardamom scented onion confit and coriander aioli. These were so cute and so tasty too!

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3 Tapas dishes was just the right amount for a table for 2 to start with and we were excited about our mains, which we chose from the “Imperial Jewels” section.

We opted for Chicken Chettinad, which is a classic Southern Tamil Nadu dish cooked with 18 ingredients and served with rice. It was heavenly and I loved the presentation of it in a clay pot.

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To accompany this dish we had the Blue Stilton Naan with Truffle oil which is a must order. The flavour combination is a match made in heaven and it was served hot and went down quickly!

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We always leave space for desserts and we had 2 beautifully presented desserts  between us – the baked Kheer Creme Brulee and a Salted Chilli, Choc and Nuts stuffed crispy Naan with grilled Marshmallows. These were good and I was really happy with the Creme Brulee as I am always hesitant to try versions that deviate from the classic, but this was very well adapted.

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The prices are really reasonable despite the location being in trendy Fitzrovia and the choices for both the food and cocktails are really novel, with some classics, and really good. There is enough variety to please both vegetarians and non-vegetarians and it is a really fun place to socialise and catch up. I loved the decor and the service was really friendly, nice and not intrusive at any point.

A great addition to Charlotte Street!

Lokhandwala can be found at 93 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PY

Lunch at The Bel and Dragon in Windsor

I really look forward to Sunday lunches and one Sunday we drove up to Windsor to have lunch at the Bel and Dragon restaurant. It is located so close to Windsor Castle, residence of the Queen, that we couldn’t resist  a stroll around the Castle before heading for lunch. As it was January, it was lovely and quiet compared to the summer, where it is buzzing with tourists. Top tip! Visit in winter!

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When we arrived at Bel and Dragon, I couldn’t help falling in love with its historical charming look and luxe cosy interiors. It has actually been serving food and drink since the 11th century – how impressive is that!

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I was really excited about the food as the Head Chef Mo and Group Head Chef Ronnie Kimbugwe, formerly Sous Chef of Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, have created a menu serving modern British cuisine with the freshest seasonal produce, all of which is sourced locally.

Also, the house champagne is Laurent Perrier! How perfect and fitting for such a gorgeous venue. I of course had a glass of Brut whilst Amit tried the signature Bel Bloody Caesar which is a blend of Clamato Juice, Sipsmith Vodka, Manzanilla Sherry, Lime, Fresh Horseradish & A Mix of Spices.

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It was a particularly chilly day so I was more than happy cosy in our lovely corner in the Bel and Dragon!

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Now I am a Burrata-holic so if any menu features a Burrata dish there is no doubt that it will be ordered. This version blew me away, not only with its stunning presentation, but the mix of flavours, all fresh, colourful and so refreshing. It was a lovely light starter and perfect and have to admit, exceeded my expectations of what I thought it would be like.

The dish is described as Marinated Beetroot & Burrata with Basil Pesto & Toasted Pine Nuts. If you are a Burrata fan definitely get this dish!

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For mains, I also ordered a Vegetarian dish, and it was a Rocket & Parmesan Risotto with drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It was superb and I loved the peppery blasts I got in the occasional bite. Sunday comfort food at its best. Lately, I have found myself eating more and more vegetarian dishes and not sure why! However, if you are a Vegetarian and want to visit Bel and Dragon, there are plenty of amazing choices on the menu.

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Amit was more about the Rotisserie section and chose the Roasted Suckling Pig with Crispy Crackling and Spiced Apple Chutney. This was definitely the perfect Sunday Roast meal with all the trimmings such as gravy, potatoes (which I stole), salad and vegetables on the side. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal.

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We did order a side of Savoy Cabbage, Crème Fraîche & Crispy Bacon, which was delicious too.

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Dessert though. OMG heaven. We went for a zesty choice and had the Caramelized Lemon Tart which came with a generous helping of the most divine Clotted Cream & a side of  Elderflower Berries. You could also have a shot of Homemade Limoncello with it, which Amit gleefully had. Absolutely decadent dessert. We were really full from lunch so could only brave sharing one but the rest of the pudding menu was amazing too! Next time we will definitely try the Warm Chocolate Fondant served with a Blackcurrant Sorbet.

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Our lunch was so enjoyable and quite a gastronomical experience. It was one of those where we didn’t know just how good it was going to be so when the food arrived we were wowed! I love the country and historical feel to the restaurant, the friendly service and the family friendly vibe. It had a lovely ambience and if we lived closer, it would definitely become a firm favourite for local choices for weekend lunch.

They also serve afternoon tea so should you be visiting Windsor and fancy a special treat, why not pop in for something different! Its location renders it perfect for a day out in Windsor exploring the sites and then popping in for some amazing food. I know we will be back soon!

For more information click here.

There are other Bel and Dragon restaurants around the country in Churt, Cookham, Godalming, Kingsclere, Odiham and Reading so if any of these are close to you definitely go for a meal!

Our meal was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.

 

Caricature fun at Inamo Camden

I had been to Inamo when it used to be in St James (now relocated to Covent Garden) on a Friday night date night with my other half and also my best friend, when she was visiting London. We had great fun that evening and may have had one too many lychee martinis but ever since then the concept at Inamo has been one of my favourites.

A restaurant where you can change the table cloth electronically, order food and drinks from a menu displayed on the table, as well as see what the food actually looks like with the visuals appearing on your plate, and entertaining yourselves while you wait by playing games directly on the table. You can also order by iPad and it is such a fun experience.

It is perfect for dates as the interactive table gives you something to do to fill in any awkward silences or you can play games against each other 😛 Great for kids too to keep them entertained.

I was recently invited to the sparkly new Inamo Camden, located a 2 minute walk (or less) from Mornington Crescent tube station. It is such a beautiful, spacious venue and our task that evening was to have a tutorial using Inamo’s inadoodle software available on their tables to learn how to draw caricatures with the help of David Groves, an on the spot caricaturist. He had pre-drawn some diners at our table that evening, which you can see below.

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Lets just say my artistic skills are extremely questionable so my drawing ended up being this:


Other press had much more talent than me and came up with drawings like this!

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We enjoyed  plenty of bubbles and a selection of dishes from the menu while we chatted away. Favourites included the Korean Chicken Wings, Spicy Aubergine, Char Sui Buns and Duck with pancakes, and of course the sushi selection, in particular the California rolls.

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The food was incredible and I would definitely return for a meal on a date night with my other half at this brand new branch in Mornington Crescent as it is the closest to us too.

They have a rooftop terrace area too which is so cute! Definitely a fabulous hidden gem to keep in mind for spring and summer, although they have heaters so it is perfect for winter months too.

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If you love Pan-Asian food (the sushi is to die for), and want a fun evening, it is definitely worth checking out Inamo.

For more information, click here.

 

 

Italian food at Fucina

The Dynamic Duo had been apart for weeks (felt like forever) and due to tube strikes the reunion date got delayed a week to Blue Monday, 16 January, dubbed the most depressing day of the year. Of course, the Dynamic Duo don’t believe in such gaff and so set out to have the best reunion date ever and picked Chiltern Firehouse for our signature cocktails – a Pornstar Martini for Aftab and a Mojito for myself.

After catching up we headed to new opening Fucina for some Italian food. We had read that Kurt Zdesar & Chef Stefano were behind this restaurant and that its focus was on organic seasonal produce. A big draw for us.

We arrived at this gigantic door and inside the restaurant we were met by a smiling lady who took us to our table. The restaurant is so so pretty and has such a lovely relaxed yet romantic vibe to it.

We were recommended an organic peach and raspberry bellini to start with, and so we tried it. It was refreshing and fruity and very easy to drink.

We were busy snapping away in the restaurant and so the waitress suggested we go have a peek downstairs, where there is a chefs table and the open kitchen. It was beautiful.

We then came back to our table and ordered some dishes to share. The menu has some really fantastic choices on it and the aroma of the food coming from neighbouring tables was heavenly.

First to arrive was our pizza, which was just absolutely incredible. It was made the authentic way and the ingredients were so fresh and tasty.  We went for the Bufala, which had bufala mozzarella, Sicilian Pachino tomato & basil.

Aftab loves Pappardelle pasta and so the Pappardelle Della was our second choice, which was made with a tomato & smoked mozzarella sauce. It was superb and exactly the comfort dish we had craved on a cold wintry evening.

We were given a generous helping of parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

From the Plates section, we tried the Wood Fired Sweet Potato with spiced yogurt & spring onions. I loved the texture of the sweet potato and the smokey flavours balanced with the cooling yoghurt.

Our final savoury dish was recommended by the waitress and was a Spatchcock Diavola. The chicken was marinated so well and we both loved this dish. We were also both secretly happy with the meat and the fact that it was off the bone.

Italian dessert is always so scrumptious and I went for a creamy Mascarpone al caffè con biscotti. It had fabulous coffee flavours and it was a generous helping and I couldn’t get through it all. It was absolutely divine though.

Aftab went for a refreshing limoncello sorbet, which he ate in what felt like seconds! He did let me try a little though.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our food and we will definitely be back when we want some fantastic Italian food. I can’t recommend it enough and it is so pretty inside it is the perfect place to bring a date! Both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices were really good and the pizza is an absolute must!

For more information go here.

The Darjeeling Express Biryani Supper Club at The Cinnamon Club

Asma Khan’s Supper Clubs are pretty legendary and so when I managed to get the last 2 seats for the Biryani Supper Club, which took place at The Cinnamon Club in a gorgeous room, I counted my lucky stars as I realised a little late and would have truly kicked myself if I had missed out.

Ever since the last supper club, both of us (Amit and I) had been dreaming of the Haleem and Biryani and I was so pleased to see them both on the menu for this one, along with lots of new dishes which we hadn’t tried before.

If you haven’t been to a supper club before, or are shy or unsure about going to one, let me just say it is such a fantastic experience! You meet lots of new people over amazing food, and you get to try cuisines that you may never have had before. In this particular supper club, Amit and I didn’t know anyone sitting at our table but by the end of the meal everyone was laughing, teasing each other and fast became brand new friends.

You soon realise that you will meet people with similar interests as you or who can help you in either business, social aspects, charity work or completely random things after conversing with them. I would highly recommend going to a supper club and I can guarantee you will soon be hooked on to the concept as well as network with fantastic individuals.

When we arrived at the Cinnamon Club, we went into a gorgeous room where we refreshed ourselves with a Saffron Gin and Tonic. It was lush! I also met Bibi, a brand new friend who I had been chatting to in the online sphere, as well as Maham, the most talented lady I know.

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While we chatted, we nibbled on absolutely moreish Potato and Peas samosas and Bihari Dal Phulki, which I just could not stop eating, especially with its accompanying chutney, which had a slight but very addictive kick to it. We ate so much as Asma ensured they were replenished regularly, that I was worried I was going to get full so I had to instil majestic willpower to stop myself from feasting on these.

We were soon ushered into a dining room with various tables, and we introduced ourselves to our table pals. Asma chatted to the room about the meal and dishes to come and also told us of two supper club guests, attending that afternoon, who had actually met at Asma’s previous supper club and are now engaged. Such a cute story!

For starters, we had Mutton Shikampuri Kebabs, Rogni Roti, Calcutta Puchkas (which us Gujus call Pani Puri) and mine (and Bibi’s) favourite, Hyderbadi Haleem.

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The Haleem is a special dish as it is a dish that signifies hope. It was a dish which was cooked on the last night of battle and was made with whatever ingredients were available whilst the siege was ongoing. Everything was pounded down and cooked for 8 hours. It is a real dish of optimism and hope and has a special meaning to Asma and for her business.

For mains, we had the star dish – the Calcutta Lamb Dum Biryani. It arrived in a massive platter and our table got through two of these!

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Alongside it we had a scrumptious tomato chutney, which was served warm so something new for me, Hyderbadi Mirchi Ka Salaan, which was spiced up chillies which was divine, and Beetroot Raita, with a pretty pink hue and wonderful cooling taste.

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Asma’s Biryani dish is absolutely heavenly and it tastes homemade and comforting. I am already craving it whilst typing so am hoping it will feature in a future supper club so I can get my fix!

For dessert, I tried a dish which I had never had before but fell in love with – a Hyderabadi Khoobani Ka Meetha served with fluffy cream. It is made from Apricots and it is just decadent. Big thank you to my table for helping with the food styling 😉

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You could also have Makaibari Estate Organic Darjeeling Tea, which some of the table did have, as well as Meetha Pan, which was popular amongst the room, with Asma explaining how to eat it to those whose first time it was eating Pan.


All in all it was an absolutely wonderful meal. I enjoyed every single dish and we had such fantastic conversations on our table. I loved trying new dishes and was suitably in a food coma by the end of a superb afternoon. A Saturday well spent!

Thank you Asma for such a fabulous experience and I look forward to the next one! Keep an eye out for her supper club announcements here.

Cinnamon Bazaar

I absolutely love street food and so when Chef Vivek Singh opened Cinnamon Bazaar in Covent Garden, I was really looking forward to trying it out and it was very high on my list.

The list, by the way, grows crazily by the day as London’s restaurant scene is exploding with new openings announced faster than I can make my morning cuppa!

As we walked into the restaurant, the attention to detail in terms of the decor is what immediately caught my eye, starting with the doors when you enter! Make sure you take a moment to look at it all.

Inside the restaurant, it is so colourful, bright and spacious, and I particularly liked the decor on the ceiling. For the duration of your meal you could easily forget you were in London. The walls had this gorgeous design with specks of gold and the dinner tables had the logo etched into the corner. A lot of effort has definitely gone into the interiors and it is fabulous.

While we decided on our food, we chose the house cocktails, which have been made in collaboration with Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, an award winning mixologist. They had interesting names and flavour combinations. My friend settled on the Bazaar Old Fashioned, which was a coconut washed Indian Scotch with Coconut Sugar and Burnt Cinnamon. My choice was the Falooda Swizzel, which was white rum, basil seed, creme d’abricot, lime and amaranth cress.  Very unique combinations. I really liked mine but a challenge for you Mr Lyan – please can you make a special flavoured Mojito 😉

 

We chose vegetarian dishes for the entire meal so if you are Vegetarian, this will be of particular interest for you if you are looking for a lovely restaurant to dine at.

From the starters we chose the Kadhai spiced ‘bullet’ chillies with poppy seed gun powder. They reminded me of padron peppers but with spices and the occasional kick. I really enjoyed these although personally would have added a teeny weeny bit more salt as I love fried chillies a little salty. They did have a fantastic flavour though and were perfectly cooked.

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From the Chaats we selected the Dahi bhalla chaat: Chilled lentil dumplings with spiced yoghurt and toasted cumin, as one of our choices. I was with a chaat expert so we tried not to over analyse the food. It was refreshing and I loved the dumplings.

 

The Papdi chaat was our second choice, which was a combination of crisp wheat, tangy tamarind, yoghurt and chickpea vermicelli. I especially loved the addition of cucumber and thought that it was a fantastic Papdi chaat. It would be amazing in the summer as a lunch dish too as it is so cooling.

My favourite from the chaats, however, was the Jodhpuri kachori chaat. This was spiced onion dumplings, curried white peas, and a chutney medley. The kachori itself was to die for and so so tasty. This is a must order and a dish I will re-order when I go back.

From the bazaar plates section we tried the Paneer 65 because you have got to have paneer right? This was stir-fried with curry leaf & green chilli. I loved the flavour of the curry leaf but the fiery scorpio in me wanted a little more green chilli. It was tasty nevertheless.

Our absolute favourite dish from them all though was the Grilled aubergine with a sesame peanut crumble, labna and toasted buckwheat. It was ridiculously good and very addictive. All the flavours worked so well together and I highly recommend this dish, especially if you are an aubergine lover.

 

From the sides we went with garlic naans, which were lovely,warm and fluffy.

Dessert was incredible and I went for the Cardamom kheer crème brûlée. I am quite hesitant in ordering flavoured creme brulees after having a disappointing experience once, but this version ticked all the boxes. It was flavoursome, the texture was spot on and it was dreamy. It was served with a nankhatai (shortbread).

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My friend went for the Carrot halwa roll with clove flavoured iced double cream. The carrot halwa was an interesting mix of regular carrot and black carrot and the clove ice cream worked really well with it. A novel combination.

He also couldn’t resist going for masala chai and I mean look at that teapot! How cute is that?

All in all we really enjoyed our meal at Cinnamon Bazaar and the choice was incredible. I will be back to try out the non-vegetarian dishes for sure so will either expand within this review or write a separate one. The prices on the menu are so reasonable for Covent Garden and the service was fantastic and really quick. The buzz and ambience was fun and it is a great venue to catch up with friends or go for a pre-theatre meal.

We went for dinner but would definitely go for lunch too as it is so lovely and relaxed. If you are vegetarian there is so much choice so if you fancy street food it is a really great venue.

For more information on Cinnamon Bazaar and to see the menus click here.

Our meal was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.