A surpisingly good, old-fashioned find in central London

So there we were, sauntering up St. Martin’s Lane in central London – as one does – on a beautiful summer evening.  We were on the lookout for a restaurant to eat dinner, but without anything particular in mind.  A pretty, absolutely charming young woman standing in the street asked us if we wanted a free bottle of wine.  My guess is she was Italian.

The deal was as follows –  eat at the restaurant and get a free bottle of wine.

Which wine, we asked ?

It’s a good one, she smiled back.

And if we don’t like it, can we add on a little to that free voucher and buy a better wine ?

Of course, came the answer, with a big, charming smile.

So, basically for want of a better idea, we gave it a whirl.

The food was reassuringly old fashioned –  no, wait, let me rephrase that.  A steak is a steak is a steak, but since I don’t eat meat, I decided to go for the divinely old fashioned Whitby scampi. (You can take the girl out of Yorkshire etc etc)

I chose the scampi almost for a laugh, as a deliberate nostalgia thing, but they were absolutely delicious.  Perfectly cooked.

 

 

My husband’s steak came on a hot stone, to allow personalised cooking, which he proclaimed to be a good idea.

 

And the free wine was a perfectly respectable French Merlot.

All in all, not a bad meal at all, and reasonable for central London.

Steak & Co would seem to be part of the Angus Steakhouse group, since that was the name that came up on our credit card account.

Personally recommended, and we paid our own bill.

Does Sardi’s in New York still have that buzz ?

I am not really sure, is the honest answer.

Having not been to New York in aeons, nor to Sardi’s in even more aeons, I had no idea of knowing whether the iconic restaurant that I first visited back in the late 1970s was even still considered an icon.

We were wandering through the theatre district on a lovely summer night in late August, without a fixed dinner plan, when we chanced upon Sardi’s.

It was 95% empty which is always a little disconcerting, but then again, it was theatre time, so perhaps all the patrons-to-be were yet to arrive.  I had remembered it being a pre/post-show place.

 

 

The decor is exactly as remembered, all those cartoons on the walls :

 

The staff was perfectly charming, the food was good, the wine was deliciously chilled, so all in all a nice evening.  Despite the emptiness, we enjoyed our meal – starched white linen,  slightly old-fashioned feel to the place.  What’s not to like ?

My husband approved of the pork chops, and my scallops were good.  I was on a bit of a scallop kick that week, so they stacked up well against several other scallop-y meals.

 

 

 

234 West 44th Street  New York, NY 10036, United States  (212) 221-8440

Recommended.

We paid our own bill.  Obviously.

 

Where to find the best (bison) burger in Manhattan

The things you discover about your friends when you travel.

Meeting up with our dear Delhi friends Kiran and Vikram Tandon in Manhattan, which was their old stomping ground for many years, I learned that Vikram is a foodie of note, as in Of Note.

When we decided to meet for lunch, Vikram instantly rattled off a long list of his favourite places from their years in New York, complete with menus and specialities and suggestions and accurate directions, kindly organising the rest of our stay in Manhattan.

Thus it was that we found ourselves in Ted’s Montana Grill, in search of what we were assured was the best burger in New York.  And, Vikram stipulated, it must be a bison burger.

The restaurant was everything I had remembered New York restaurants to be –  large and spacious, luxurious starched white linen, people sitting on bar stools sipping lunchtime cocktails in frosted glasses.  Perfect.

Our waiter couldn’t have been nicer and chattier, and – seemingly like all waiters and waitresses in Manhattan  –  was obviously just waiting for an opportunity to be snapped up as a stand-up comedian or a wisecracking, current affairs TV anchor.

My husband had the burger and said it was very good, but he couldn’t honestly say whether bison is better than beef.  But he really enjoyed it.

 

 

He also said that the Vikram-recommended margaritas were good, though not particularly strong (which is why he had two).

 

Delicious pickles that came with drinks :

 

As a non meat-eater I had the salt and pepper trout which was absolutely delicious.  Truly delicious :

 

The cappuccino was totally underwhelming.  Thin and un-creamy.

 

They have convenient small-sized menus to take away, (as opposed to a take away menu) :

Personally recommended.

 

Where to eat authentic Belgian food in New York

I have long suspected that Belgian is the new French, as far as cuisine goes, and the great Markt restaurant in Manhattan is a case in point.

After a couple of dull, overpriced meals in French restaurants, Markt came as a breath of fresh air.

On a visit to New York after the longest time, we had no cherished old favourite restaurants, and so ate pretty much wherever a place caught our eye.  Walking back uptown after a day exploring the Meatpacking District and all points south, we chanced upon Markt.  Hectically crowded, buzzing with activity, but with one free table outside on the pavement, so how could we resist ?

Delightful service, excellent food, chilled white wine, great people watching on a warm Manhattan evening –  what could be better ?

So much so that 2 days later we trekked downtown, walking all the way, to work up an appetite, and ate there again.

Equally crowded, and the same delightful waitress who recognised us with a huge smile and took us to the same table.

What’s not to like ?

The view :

The ambience – candle, huge napkins and sea salt :

 

My resolutely carnivorous husband had the same thing both times, a pavé de boeuf, saignant, declaring them delicious x 2 :

 

Don’t miss the trademark Belgian mayonnaise to go with your frites.

The first night I had mussels in white wine, which were fabulous :

 

The second time I had scallops with perfectly al dente asparagus and eel mash (yes, eel mash) which were even more delicious than the mussels of 2 nights earlier :

 

Heartily recommended.

I did not tell them that I blog and write reviews, and we paid our own bills.

 

Where to eat good Polish food in London ?

Our London based friends were already great fans of GESSLER AT DAQUISE, a Polish restaurant in South Ken, and so at their suggestion,  off we headed, the 4 of us, on a lovely summer evening.

The restaurant has been in London since the 1940s, and the slightly faded, old-fashioned decor pays hommage to that fact – in the nicest possible way.  There is what one imagines to be an authentic whiff of old Warsaw what with the bistro setting, the large wooden table for serving, the mirrors – I loved the ambience.

The service was attentive and kind, and actually rather stylish, which is not a word one uses much these days for waiters, is it?  Again, a a slightly old-fashioned feel to it, which is very welcoming.

The young Indian sous-chef who served our food at the table was thrilled to talk about India and speak Hindi with us, and couldn’t have been more charming.

And now to the food, where I have to say up front that I wasn’t as thrilled by the food as my 3 carnivorous companions, simply because I am not a carnivore.  I am essentially a vegetarian although I do eat fish, which left me with Hobson’s choice on the solidly meat-based menu.  There was one cold fish starter, one warm fish starter and one main dish.  Not one single vegetarian offering.

As I said, Hobson’s choice.

I had the cod (below), because there was nothing else, and though the accompaniments were delicious the fish was very cod-y.  Rather heavy and rather dull and I left most of it. (And no-one asked me why, which was a little odd, given the otherwise attentive service)

I did try the herring (below) from my friend Eden’s tasting menu (and the staff kindly gave me an extra piece) and that  – on the contrary –  was absolutely delicious.  Thick and tasty and served with all kinds of lovely stuff on the side – fab thick cream, for example.

The duck was declared delicious, and it looked pretty good, even to a non meat-eater.

The tasting menu and the beef were both also declared to be a triumph.

I also had a taste of Eden’s beetroot & dumpling soup, (above) from the tasting menu : very good, and such a new, interesting taste.  And such a fab colour.

Moral of the story ?

Head to GESSLER AT DAQUISE if you love meat, and what I can only call authentic-looking food, served in generous portions.

I found £150 for 4 a tad pricey, but I am way out of touch with London prices, so who knows ?

 

 

 

gessleratdaquise.co.uk

Re-visiting ELMA’S in HAUZ KHAS VILLAGE

This is a follow-up review.  For my initial review –  here it is again.

On a rainy Delhi afternoon, Ahilya and I battled through the ludicrously noisy traffic all along the approach road and especially at the boom gate into Hauz Khas village, and dashed through the rainy gullies, clutching a shared, rather leaky umbrella.

Destination Elma’s for a light, catch-up lunch.

The welcome was warm, our drippy brolly was stowed, and we chatted with Shelly Sahai, the café’s friendly owner, who was having a cuppa at the next table.  It was a tad surreal that Shelly and I were wearing virtually identical jade pendants, both bought in Singapore, but that’s life, I suppose.

I stuck to the same smoked salmon sandwiches as last time, but rather than tea, we both opted for a fresh beetroot and ginger drink.

Sarnies :

And the absolutely luscious coloured beetroot drink :

The drink was very good, tasted nice and beetrooty, but was a tad pulpy at the end, despite Shelly giving a kindly, helping hand to Ahilya half way through lunch, stirring her drink for her.

Elma’s is cute, I love the quintessentially English feel of the china and tea pots and the deliberate mismatching.

Laid-back easy-going service, in the best sense of the word –  no-one is trying to hurry you along, which is good.

As I said the last time I visited, in April, I still feel it’s a tad pricey :

Recommended.

And I went back, which is a good sign.

 

I review anonymously and I pay my own bills.   No freebies.

Where to eat in Pamplemousses, Mauritius

One of the not-to-be-missed things on your Mauritius holiday list should be a visit to the lovely Pamplemousses Gardens (or to give them their proper name, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens).

But don’t worry, everyone still refers to them as the Pamplemousses Gardens.

When I lived in Mauritius and used to visit the gardens with my children, picnics were the order of the day, since there wasn’t anywhere to eat.

Not anymore.

A 2 minute walk from the main entrance of the Gardens, located in a pretty terraced house, is a little café.  I went there last month with a girlfriend, and since it was a year since we had met, we talked and talked and then some.  All the other lunchtime clients left, there were just the 2 of us chatting away, but the staff couldn’t have been sweeter.  They left us alone, with no hint of hurrying us along.

Simple food.

Clean loo.

Friendly service.

What more do you want from a little village café ?

 

ELMA’S in HAUZ KHAS VILLAGE, NEW DELHI

Hauz Khas village is changing at the speed of light, with new restaurants and shops opening seemingly every week.  I had heard about Elma’s Bakery & tea House in Hauz Khas for quite a  while, so last Friday Sonam and I went there for lunch.

The place is charming, with a real chintzy, English feel to it.  A lovely collection of tea-pots is dotted on shelves around the small restaurant, and there is even a tea-pot-covered piano in one corner.

They have lovely china –  pretty flowery cups and plates, in different designs, adding to the English tea-shop feel.

We both had smoked salmon sandwiches, which were delicious.  Lovely brown bread, generous amount of salmon, but Rs 350 for 4 tiny sandwiches ?

We both had tea.  Of course.

I was more adventurous than Sonam and tried echinacea and lemongrass (for serenity, I think it was ).

Nice, but Rs 100 per pot = non-serenity-making.

Sonam had pudding and declared it delicious.

So.

Verdict ?

Charming, nice relaxed service.  But I think Rs 1500 for sandwiches and tea for 2, and one small pud is expensive.

I didn’t tell them that I review/blog and we paid our own bill.

 

 

INDIAN ACCENT RESTAURANT in NEW DELHI

This review is different, since it is a guest post by a Twitter friend?/acquaintance?/cyber-friend? –  well, anyway, someone with whom I chat and tweet online. His Twitter handle is @alltough, and last month, he tweeted a review of a Delhi restaurant, which caught my eye.

@alltough tweeted in a series of posts – for those of you who don’t tweet, you are limited to the numbers of characters per tweet.

This review, sentence by sentence and photo by photo, appealed to me enormously as it unfolded slowly in cyber-space, and so I asked @alltough if he would guest post for me.

Here is his review.

 

A pictorial tribute to an exquisite fusion dinner that was indulged in at the Indian Accent restaurant on March 28, 2012 based in the Manor Hotel in 77, New Friends Colony. The meal was prepared by the friendly Chef Manish Mehrotra that evening for a table of five. For their menu online, click here: http://www.themanordelhi.com/restaurant-menus.htm

  1. Went to the Indian Accent at the Manor Hotel last evening. Had never heard of it before but now I won’t stop raving about it for a few days.
    delhisultan
  2. Had the most delicious little parathas stuffed with blue cheese as an appetiser. I think, I can safely recommend, it is worth dying for it.
    delhisultan
  3. Share

    Too much naatak; too little to eat – a cheese ball hung over a slender cup filled with shorba. I couldn’t dunk it
    delhisultan
  4. Items on menu have a slight Indian twist to it hence the name. the chef came to our table & explained the aesthetics of his presentation.
    delhisultan
  5. most fine dining places can be quite snobbish but this one had the friendliest staff. They make you feel at home. not everything is priced.
    delhisultan
  6. Share

    The chef sent this to our table as a complimentary item:  enjoyed the tangy chilli strawberry dip but ignored liver
    delhisultan
  7. Share

    The famous Pao Bhaji at Indian Accent
    delhisultan
  8. Share

    veggies wrapped in thin paneer was ordered for a starter but I think I could order three more and make it a mains
    delhisultan
  9. Share

    It took time for us to touch this one because nobody had the heart to destroy the way it looked. Potato chaat
    delhisultan
  10. Share

    This was a strict no-no for me. I pretended it wasn’t there. some part of a goat’s ankle many will relish
    delhisultan
  11. Share

    crisp Mexican rotis stuffed with chicken gravy (naming whatever I like as I don’t remember menu) this was delish
    delhisultan
  12. Share

    I could have died & gone to heaven if I had eaten the whole thing. Prawns on a bed of thick Goan rice. Must have
    delhisultan
  13. Share

    Some very exotic fish whose name I can’t be bothered with. With fried lotus roots. Again, nice mellow flavour.
    delhisultan
  14. The names on the menu were simple but long and without any added adjectives like ‘creamy’, ‘smooth’ and ‘spicy’, but staff use it liberally.
    delhisultan
  15. dessert was strictly okay. Fancy names but I was too stuffed to change the way my palate felt. Order assorted stuff & share in a small group
    delhisultan
  16. Indian Accent is in the Manor Hotel in New Friends Colony (West) at #77. Make a reservation. Good experimental food and great service. Go.
    delhisultan
  17. We paid for our food. My hosts loved it so much they asked the unassuming celebrity chef to come to South Africa and open one there. #Delhi
    delhisultan
  18. That was a restaurant review in 16 tweets. Must storify. Thank you, ladies & gentlemen. You may now resume with your work day. Bon appetit!

A safe, reliable choice for lunch in Delhi – Basil & Thyme

If you are looking for a safe, reliable, air-conditioned, relaxing place for lunch in Delhi (and come to think of it, who isn’t ?) then look no further than the little restaurant tucked into the far corner of the Santushti Shopping Complex.

Welcome to Basil & Thyme.

A favourite haunt of ladies who lunch and foreigners shopping at Santushti’s elegant shops, Basil & Thyme serves consistently good, Western food.

Lots of quiches, salads, pasta, crepes.   Divine olive pate.

No alcohol.

Good puddings.

OK coffee.

Delicious ginger fizz, which is a lurid bubble-gum pink, but refreshing.

It’s not that cheap, I warn you – well, I think Rs 125 (+ VAT) is a lot for a small coffee.

Having said that, it’s a relaxing place to eat in one of Delhi’s cutest and quietest shopping centres.

 

Here is our recent bill for 3 people :