Talli Joe for tasty Indian tapas

Talli Joe in Shaftesbury Avenue

Today I’m heading for Talli Joe on what I think of as the border between Soho and Covent Garden. The buzzing street called Shaftesbury Avenue. What a good place to be to try some Indian food with a difference.

The restaurant describes itself as serving Indian half plates and full drinks. It’s a stylish, modern little eatery with an intriguing menu. This one took a lot of perusing – thank goodness for the half plates idea, it gave us the chance to try more of the exciting options.

I love Indian food which means I’ve eaten it all over the world (though I haven’t been to India yet – must be remedied). Today’s interestingly different menu meant time to experiment and explore new flavours and dishes.

What’s on the menu

Lentils are usually beautifully done in Indian cuisine so the Moon daal Pahari seemed like a good place to start. The lentil fritters (described at Delhi’s favourite) came with grated radish and green chilli chutney. Flavoursome and crispy with the raw veg adding freshness and the chutney bringing a real chilli bite. A stunning vegetarian dish.

Talli Joe: lentil fritters

Lentil fritters nestle under freshly grated veg

The Kohapuri Chop is a tenderly tasty tandoori lamb chop served with a potato salad with mustard dressing.

Talli Joe: Tandoori lamb

Succulent lamb and a mustardy salad

Because they sounded so good, today we seemed to order more vegetarian dishes than usual. And the good news is that the Halve ki Mutter Kachori tasted even better than it sounded. Soft bread parcels were stuffed with a spicy pea mix and served in a butternut and potato curry.

Talli Joe: Pea and butternut

Pea-stuffed bread and a rich butternut sauce

Now this is an exciting and unusual dish. The Parsee Venison Keema Ghotala offered a richly satisfying spicy venison mince which was served with an organic egg yolk, lightly toasted sweet-flavoured bread and a side of pao (a chopped chilli and onion mix). We mixed the egg through the mince, making for an almost creamy delicacy and spread it liberally on the bread. Wow! The chefs here have certainly mastered those complex spice balances that make for the very best Indian cuisine. Every dish popped with a delightful roundness of flavours.

Talli Joe: Venison mince

A magnificent mix of spices for a fabulous mince

Talli Joe: Venison mince

Close up on the mince and yellow yolk

The Bohri Chicken was cooked with a combination of masalas and served with a pretty fenugreek flatbread. Another perfect spice blend for the melt-in-the-mouth drumsticks. Love a good Indian flatbread –  and doesn’t this look lovely with its herby greens and seeds.

Talli Joe: Bohri chicken

Spicy chicken drumsticks with fenugreek flatbread

Time for dessert – and fabulous dessert, too. The berry malai was a warm, creamy bowl of baked yogurt topped with fabulously zesty seasonal berries.

Talli Joe: baked yogurt

Sweet creaminess combined with great berry flavours

I love a bit of rose flavouring so couldn’t resist the rose-flavoured ice cream. A little glass of perfect pinkness with flavours that danced on my tongue. The perfect refreshing finish to a wonderful lunch.

Talli Joe: rose ice cream

Two tasty puds made for the perfect ending

Today’s price point

Our seven dishes cost £38.75 – really great value for delicious food.

Wine starts from £21 a bottle and there’s a good selection of spirits and cocktails.

Talli Joe is at 152-154 Shaftesbury Avenue.

Download the CAKE up and get £5 free

I used my CAKE app to book and pay at Talli Joe. A really simple and quick way to eat out in London – yes there’s an app for it. CAKE has a wide range of restaurants on its books and you can also earn credit when you eat out with plenty of chances to get a percentage of the cost of your dinner back.

Download the CAKE app now at thecakeapp.com and quote the referral code EATINGCG to get £5 credit for free and start exploring London’s wonderful restaurantland.

 

Delightful dishes down by the riverside at Bistro Vadouvan

I’ve lived in London for most of my adult life (so far) and totally feel like the city is my home. It’s a bustling, somewhat crowded city but I love its energy and attitude and the fact that there is so much to do and see. And I particularly love it in summer – well in summer when the sun comes out. Which it did this week! And what better way to spend a sunny summer evening than dining overlooking the River Thames.

Bistro Vadouvan is set on Putney Wharf’s Piazza and on such a lovely evening it felt more like we were dining in Spain than England. It’s the brainchild of two friends who grew up in the same town in India but only got to know each other years later at college (weird how that does happen)!

What’s on the menu

Their interesting dishes combine classic French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours – making for some wonderful plates of food. The prawn, crab and cucumber salad was served with yuzu kosho and a hint of green chilli. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit and this is a simply stunning, summery dish. So light and zesty with plenty of crunch and beautifully fresh seafood. Reminded me of some of the beautiful salads I ate in Vietnam last year. And doesn’t it look amazing too.

Bistro Vadouvan: crab salad

The spiced Bouillabaisse Provencal was a classic with a twist. Plump rope mussels, chorizo and Middle Eastern flavours gave the fish soup added depth. Love the fish-shaped bread, too.

Bistro Vadouvan: Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse made even better with Middle Eastern flavours

It seemed like it was going to be hard to follow those starter choices – two of the standout dishes of the summer so far. However, this fishy main was stupendous. Cornish brill was poached in coconut milk and served with prawn ravioli, gnocchi, shiitake, spring onion and chilli salad. I can’t say I’ve eaten much brill – I certainly plan to in the future. It was beautifully soft and sweet, the broth was creamy and was topped with a fabulous combo of mushrooms, salad and herbs.

Bistro Vadouvan: brill and prawn ravioli

A wonderful fish concoction with fresh Asian flavours

One of today’s specials was a rib eye steak topped with salsa verde. It was served with what the restaurant calls well-dressed whole baby gem lettuce topped with an incredible dressing and a bowl of perfectly crisp chips with rosemary and garlic.

Bistro Vadouvan: Ribeye steak

A lusciously juicy steak with amazing salad and chips

Bistro Vadouvan has a wonderfully intriguing list of desserts on offer, we just couldn’t resist. I opted for the mango soup which was served with basil leaves and seeds. A bowl of refreshing, liquid mango with luscious little chunks inside and topped with a mango sorbet. Mango and basil is a heavenly contribution and as a lover of both this is a pudding that’s right up my alley!

Bistro Vadouvan: Mango soup

My absolute dream dessert – a cornucopia of mango

The other delight that caught our eye was called Floating Island. Basically a soft meringue floating in creme anglaise and topped with crunchy, caramelised nuts. Wow, what joy! We even tried combining the two and the fruity, sweet  and creamy result was incredible. What wonderful summer desserts.

Bistro Vadouvan: Floating island

A floating masterpiece of creamy sweetness

Today’s price point

A three course dinner for two cost £70 not including wine or service.

Wine starts from around £20 a bottle.

Bistro Vadouvan is at 30 Brewhouse Lane, Putney Wharf SW15 on the river near Putney Bridge.

Square Meal

Contemporary British food at Native in Neals Yard

Today I’m heading to Native in picturesque Neal’s Yard in my favourite part of London – yes it’s time for lunch in Covent Garden.

Neal’s Yard owes its name to Thomas Neale who created the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden where it’s located. It wasn’t always the beautiful oasis it is today – in fact it had been a dark, rat infested, derelict yard behind the Covent Garden fruit and veg market. It didn’t even appear in the London A-Z until the mid-70s! This was after Nicholas Saunders started the Whole Food Warehouse there and the Yard became transformed into the secret Covent Garden space it is today.

In the courtyard you’ll find a collection of bars, restaurants and cafes set in a cute and colourful surrounds. Native is tucked away in the corner, a mini, stylish establishment with an open kitchen and small bar upstairs. We went down to the little dining area with its whitewashed walls and rustic tables. It’s a calm and relaxing sort of space.

Native’s dishes are all made from ingredients that are native (well, obviously!) to the UK. They focus on game, foraged and wild food which leads to a menu of delicious and somewhat exciting choices.

On Native’s Menu

There’s a choice of three dishes for each course. My Dorset crab was the prettiest plate I’ve seen for a while and came with thinly sliced Wye Valley asparagus. It’s asparagus season in England – so any excuse to eat as much of it as I can! The bitter herb veloute was poured over my dish at the table adding vibrancy and zest.

The beautifully delicate crab dish

The veloute adds a vibrant green-ness

The wild boar ragu was served with buttered satisfy, native curds and pickled walnuts. How’s that for an intriguing-sounding combination. Wild boar simply makes the best ragu – it was rich, packed with meatiness and oh-so-satisfying. You eat the root of the salsify plant which is sort of like a parsnip but different! It has a creamy sort of texture and a good bite to it.

The richness and depth of a wild boar ragu

Today we went for the special which was mutton served with sweetbread, garlic and jus. And an order of carrots and mushrooms on the side. It’s very rare to see mutton on menus – or even in shops – these days. I remember eating it all the time as a child on the farm. So I was very keen to have another mutton taster. It didn’t taste anything like I remembered – and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my memory! Certainly the chefs at Native have more skills in the cheffing department than our family cook (though he was very good). This tender, flavoursome mutton was served medium – medium/rare and I savoured every mouthful. Do love an occasional sweetbread, too.

Mutton, sweetbreads and a luscious gravy

A plate of multi-coloured roast carrots made for the perfect companion for the mutton. I love that carrots come in so many hues these days. They certainly brighten up any meal.

A cornucopia of carrot colours

And then there were the deeply earthy English Portobello mushrooms that were roasted with garlic. Portobellos done properly are almost like eating a juicy steak – simply delicious.

Earthy, juicy mushrooms with garlic

Neal’s Yard couldn’t be more removed from its history of dereliction. It’s the sort of place I could imagine living – right in the heart of much loved Covent Garden, surrounded by great eating! What more could anyone want?

The colourful warehouse-style buildings of Neal’s Yard

Today’s price point

It’s £25 for a two-course lunch or £32 for three courses.

White wine starts from £21 a bottle and red from £20. There’s a selection of English wines on offer, too.

Native is at 3 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London

The taste of Portugal at Bar Douro

Time for some authentic Portuguese dishes at Bar Douro.

I’m having a bit of an exciting time discovering newly created parts of London! Sounds strange, but this City is constantly evolving and today when I walked from Waterloo Station in search of Flat Iron Square everything looked totally different from when I worked in the area a few years back. New buildings had popped up, old ones been demolished, whole streets were closed to construction work…let’s just say I ended up getting a little lost, it was like a brand new world!

Anyway, after some interesting meandering I arrived at the New Flat Iron Square. Wow! There’s a range of food stalls, bars, restaurants all nestling under the arches. The delicious aromas would have been enough to guide me there if I had really got completely lost. Today’s destination is Bar Douro where owner Max Graham has transported local culinary secrets from Portugal and matched them with a carefully chosen Portuguese wine list. He and his family have been making wine and port for two centuries in the Douro Valley (hence the name, I guess). I have spent very little time in Portugal (should do something about that really) so was delighted to learn more.

Bring on the Portuguese flavours

The menu’s all about sharing and there’s a mix of snacks and small plates. Patanisca de Bacalhau – salt cod fritters – were light and fluffy with a perfect crunch and just enough fishy flavour.

Tender salt cod fritters with their spicy dip

Gambas a giulho – garlic prawns came with heads and tails on but deshelled for easy munching. Beautifully luscious, this simple dish is one of my favourites. Love this plate too – that blue and white combo totally does it for me.

Bar Douro: garlic prawns

Tasty garlicky prawns to savour

The croquettes de Alheira – croquettes of smoked Portuguese sausage were cleverly presented on this beautiful tile. Alheira is traditionally made from any meat other than pork and has that beautiful smokey intensity, here all wrapped up in a crunchy little bundle. Must find some of these sausages as I think they’d make a great ingredient for cooking with.

Bar Douro: sausage croquettes

Smokey croquettes served on more blue and white

Then from the small plates section we went for the Prego no prato Bavette steak with confit egg. An exotic sounding and looking dish that also came with vibrant spinach puree and matchstick fries. A great combo of ingredients that was sadly served a bit too cold which took something of its deliciousness away.

Bar Douro: Bavette steak

Steak, egg and chips Portuguese style?

We sat at the stylish marble counter (something I seem to be doing a lot of these days), so could watch the chef’s preparations while we sipped on some delicious Portuguese rose.

Bar Douoro: rose wine

A touch of Portugal, with wine, in Southwark

The interior is modern and light-filled with those fabulously Portuguese blues and whites.

Bar Douro: the view

Looking down the counter

Bar Douro: outside

Look for the Bar Douro Sign on the wall and you’ve arrived

As I said there’s a world of food choices outside, too, and plenty of seating space. Perfect for a chilled summer lunch in the sun. I particularly like the look (and aromas) of this Vietnamese food truck.

Bar Douro: what's outside

Vietnamese offerings from the van outside

Today’s price point

And finally, we paid £33 for our four dishes. Wines start from £23 a bottle.

Bar Douro is at Arch 35B, Flat Iron Square, London SE1 1TD

South-East Asian tapas at Yuu Kitchen

Today we’re heading east to Yuu Kitchen in London’s Commercial Street. It’s the road that runs north to south from Shoreditch High Street to Whitechapel High Street though the East End district of Spitalfields.

Carved out of slums in the mid-19th century it was soon made notorious by Jack the Ripper and is home to The Ten Bells pub where The Ripper is thought to have partaken in a drink or two. At the other end of the spectrum you’ll find Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Baroque masterpiece.

Until pretty recently the street was mainly known for its street walkers, but that’s all changed. Now it’s emerging as a great place to eat and drink with its markets and plenty of bars, coffee bars and restaurants to choose from.

Yuu Kitchen opened late last year and serves food inspired by the flavours of South East Asia and the Pacific Rim. Some of my very favourite flavours! It’s a bright contemporary space with counter seating and walls decorated with vibrant pop art.

What’s on the menu?

The menu is divided into sections entitled: Bites, Crunch, Grill ‘n Wok, Fish and of course Bao. There’s a selection of small plates to share. We sat at the counter overlooking the happy busy-ness of the kitchen and munched on some edamame beans (Bites) while we pondered our choices.

Yuu Kitchen: edamame beans

The popping of edamame beans got us started

Some decisions are easy – I mean who can resist Bao? Described as Chinese steamed bread rolls, they can be filled with myriad stuffings. Today we tasted the special offer – Bao with baby back ribs and an Asian barbecue sauce. It’s hard to put the pleasure of eating Bao into words, the rich tastiness of the filling wrapped in a delicate cushion of deliciousness. Kind of like a really exotic sandwich – a taste and texture sensation.

Yuu Kitchen: Bao with baby back rib

The beautifully soft bao filled with baby back rib meat

Vietnamese vegetarian Ssam from the Crunch section offered a plate of spring rolls filled with corn, mushroom and noodles, wrapped in lettuce and served with herbs and a homemade sweet chilli sauce. The flavours of Vietnam exploded in my mouth, how I love this type of food.

Yuu Kitchen: Vietnamese spring rolls

The crunch of spring rolls with herbs, lettuce and chilli

Tuna tataki is one of my absolute favourite dishes. Today’s offering of seared, succulent sashimi-style tuna was served with pickled radish, spring onion and spicy mayonnaise – oh and pomegranate seeds to make it look even prettier. The best way to eat tuna – melt-in-the-mouth tasty.

Yuu Kitchen: Tuna tataki

Beautifully seared tuna with a delicate Asian dressing

Time for Bao number two –  soy and buttermilk crispy chicken served with carolina reaper chilli sauce and daikon pickle. Piping hot chicken in a crispy batter with a wonderful chilli bite from the sauce. I could eat a plate of these.

Yuu Kitchen: Chicken Bao

The best chicken sandwich ever? Very likely

Heading for the Grill ‘n Wok section we had to try the BBQ octopus as we’d seen the chef preparing several portions in front of us and it looked too good to resist. Braised with Sake, mirin and soya and served with a ginger and garlic sauce it was beautifully tender and absorbed the flavours perfectly.

Yuu Kitchen: BBQ octopus

Tender octopus in a lovely gingery garlic sauce

And now for dessert and time to dive into another Bao offering. This time the little beauty was deep fried and served with your choice of ice cream. We went for pistachio. A dessert to dream of with its mix of hot and cold, soft and crunchy, creamy and nutty. And doesn’t it look good!

Yuu Kitchen: Ice cream Bao

For dessert – an ice cream sandwich – so delicious

Yuu Kitchen: Interior

The modern funky look that is Yuu Kitchen

Today’s price point

Our lunch cost £53 including two glasses of wine. It was a feast of food for two.

There is a selection of beer, wine and sake on offer.

Yuu Kitchen is at 29 Commercial Street, London E1. Aldgate East is the closest tube station.

 

Square Meal

Cape Malay dishes at Jonkershuis in Constantia

Today we’re having a family lunch at Jonkershuis, in Cape Town’s Constantia valley. Jonkershuis is set overlooking vineyards and mountains with a beautiful outdoor area reminiscent of the boulevards of France. There’s also a lovely indoor courtyard which is the perfect sun trap and offers protection on a windy Cape Town day.

The menu offers something for everyone, with a range of tasty salads and a fish, pork, beef and venison selection. And Cape Malay dishes – which for me has got to be the way to go every time.

Cape Malay cuisine is a fusion of South African and Asian influences. When the Dutch colonised the Cape in the 1600s and 1700s, they brought people from the East to work as slaves. They came mainly from Indonesia which was a Dutch colony for several centuries.

Cape Town’s attractively colourful Cape Malay Quarter is on the slopes of Signal Hill and called the Bo-Kaap. Worth a visit if you’re in town.

Adaptations of traditional Cape Malay dishes like bredie, bobotie, sosaties and koeksisters are now staples in many South African homes – in fact I’ve even made my own versions. You can find my recipe for bobotie by clicking here – do try it out and let me know what you think.

You will also find European and Indian influences. The dishes are characterised by the wide use of spices, producing full-bodied flavours – though not a lot of chilli. Seafood is a big favourite (well there’s plenty around) and fish dishes are usually salted, curried or pickled. Chutneys and atchars also play a role – gotta have a good sambal selection, after all.

Today there was pickled fish on the specials board. I can’t tell you how many people pull a face when I say I love pickled fish…well, they are wrong, it’s simply delicious. Fish fillets are marinated in vinegar and spices including curry powder, turmeric, ginger and coriander with plenty of soft onions. The dish is served cold – perfect with salad – and the process produces the plumpest of fish fillets and wonderful flavours.

Pickled fish at Jonkershuis

Love a plump and juicy piece of pickled fish

Ordering dilemmas rule my restaurant-going life and today was a big one. The fabulous Estate Tasting Plate is a must-have at Jonkershuis – it’s a large offering and for me can’t be enjoyed to the full on top of a starter. And today there were two starters I wanted to sample. So a quick bit of negotiation and I got my husband to agree that I could have a taster of his Tasting Plate. As a result I can taste everything my heart desires today.

My second starter on order then. Local black mussels in spicy masala and mango cream served with coriander and a baguette. I’ve eaten a lot of mussels this summer in Cape Town and very good they’ve been too. Today’s sauce was fabulous, creamy, sweet and spicy and the beautiful baguette, as soft as cloud inside was just what I needed to mop everything up.

Mussels at Jonkershuis

Mussels in a creamy, spicy sauce

The appearance of the Estate Tasting Plate evokes order envy in everyone! First of all, the plate of what are basically your accompaniments to the main event – sultana and almond turmeric rice, oven-baked cinnamon butternut, a quick fried poppadum and an angry beef samosa.

Curry accompaniments at Jonkershuis

The plate of side dishes waiting for the curry addition

And then the meaty selection. Oven-baked bobotie, Karoo lamb curry and chicken breast curry. You see, anyone would have to be envious of this order.

Curry and bobotie at Jonkershuis

Curry and bobotie all in a row

Also there’s the selection of house sambals – sweet tomato salsa, apricot chutney and spicy vegetable atchar.

Sambals at Jonkershuis

Can’t be without a plate of tasty sambals

If you’ve never been to Jonkershuis, you really should go – and take my advice – don’t even look at the menu, just go straight for the Estate Tasting Plate – you’re gonna love it. Especially relevant if you’re seeking a good selection of Cape Malay cuisine in one hit.

Finally, I can’t leave you without today’s autocorrect challenge – my system doesn’t like sambals and keeps trying to insist I change it to samba!

Today’s price point

Starters range from R62-R98 (£3.70 to £5.80 at today’s exchange rate).

The Estate Tasting Plate is R188 (£11 at today’s exchange rate).

Jonkershuis is at Groot Constantia Wine Estate, Groot Constantia Road, Constantia, Cape Town.