Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Bokan - Canary of the Wharf

Bokan, the 37th floor restaurant at the brand new Novotel in Canary Wharf, opened its doors with a 50% offer during their soft launch. We decided to drop in after checking on our new home.

Bokan translates to 'watching from the side' from Japanese. I'm not sure if there is any connection, but it wouldn't be complete nonsense as the restaurant offers panoramic view overlooking the city from the East. The dining room went for the trendy industrial look, paired with cowhide-lined sofa seats, brass pendants and wooden tables. Plenty of natural light from the large full length windows to show off the view.

We were offered warm bread as we studied the menu, and decided to go a la carte.

Grey Oyster & Chanterelle Mushrooms, Hen’s Eggs, Toast
Grey oyster is not an oyster, it's a type of mushroom, so my ignorance got me unnecessarily excited. Despite so it was a gorgeous composition, the airy savoury emulsion was layered with nettle cream and a thick fungi reduction, mingled with small succulent mushroom morsels and a custardy soft poached egg. It was a small melting pot of intensely rich flavours, paired with some ultra crispy soldiers. Gorgeous.

Aberdeen Angus Beef Tartare, Sesame Crisp, Wasabi Mayo
The beef was finely chopped to smoothness without losing its texture and bounce. It was infused with an Asian flare as small punched of wasabi dressing kicked in with a slightly chilli jam that reminded me of Korean chilli sauce. It was delicious; bold but balanced.

Rhug Estate Grass-Fed Lamb Cutlets, Charred Aubergine, Chimichurri
I was surprised by the generous portion. The lamb cutlets arrived more rare than medium rare, but still acceptable; meat was soft and the rind of fat added distinctive lamb fragrance to the leaner muscles, which paired well with the aubergine mash. The chimichurri sauce was lightly acidic to counter the smokiness in the aubergine and complimented the meaty lamb. The combination of ingredients is tried and tested, and the kitchen did a great job executing it.

Slow Smoked Blythburgh Pork Belly, Apple Sauce, Crushed Potato
The hunky slab of pork belly was slow cooked to utmost tenderness; the fatty lard had dissolved, leaving its trace of nutty aroma with the soft meats that shredded away effortlessly with gentle pressure. The crackling was delicious; it was airy and light, not dissimilar to prawn crackers only much much lighter. The crispness melted in mouth to a trail of piggy goodness. The apple purée was also quite interesting; it was more like cream infused with apple essence and had a very subtle acidic pinch. I can't decide if I preferred this to the more conventional apple sauce, but I appreciate trying something different.

Yuzu & Lime Tart, Meringue, Fromage Blanc Ice-Cream
We wanted the chocolate soufflé with salted peanut ice cream but sadly they ran out by the time we had decided. So we opted for the yuzu tart instead. It was refreshing and light, delicious finish to an excellent lunch.

Bokan turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. We were skeptical with most hotel restaurants, especially ones in the wharf, but Bokan far exceeded our expectations. The cooking was meticulous, recipes had a bit of twist to keep dishes current and interesting, menu offered a good range too. Even without the 50% offer, we thought the pricing was very reasonable for its quality.

It's their 4th day into service and first Saturday with a full house, so teething problems with the serving team can be forgiven. Issues weren't major anyway; our server was still working out table numbers, manager was visibly flustered and water was slow to the table, but the team was enthusiastic and very well-mannered.

We went up to 39th floor roof terrace before heading off. There was a great bar with an outdoor terrace with sofas and cushions; I should suggest this little gem for our next work social. The vibe and ambience reminded us of Duck and Waffle, minus the crowd.

So many reasons to come back.

Floor 37-39,
40 Marsh Wall,
E14 9TP
Tel: +44 203 530 0550

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Monday, 27 February 2017

Lokhandwala - Indian Tapas

I was craving for something quirky, so when Lokhandwala was offering 50% off for their soft launch, I was quick on the reservation.

Lokhandwala is at the quieter end of Charlotte Street, slightly further from Bubbledogs. The small dining room was adorned with large wooden frames and rusted mirrors; it had a shabby chic feel to it. We were recommended 4 or 5 ‘tapas’ and a main to share. I felt I deserved a cocktail and went for the Like a Bird. It arrived in a beautiful cage with a bird-shaped container that held the fruity drink. It came with a little cushion for the bird to sit on too. It was adorable, and delicious.

Gujju Vaal Daal Chaat
Things didn't start too well on the food side. This daal chaat excuse of a dish could easily be as the most underwhelming dish of the century. It's literally a pile of cold boiled beans and lentils, served with sour cream and spicy barbecue sauce. I wish I could say there's more to it.

Lamb Chops
When people complained about the lamb chops at £14, I shrugged and thought Barrafina and Kitty Fisher are charging about the same. Then I get it when the lamb lollipops arrived on a tea-candle warmer pot, next to a puddle of shocking pink goo. Chef - the melted bubblegum look isn't good. 

The lamb itself wasn't bad, reasonably tender, coated with pungent spice and herbs. I quite enjoyed it - mind you it's not Tayyabs chops. Problem was they looked like someone had already eaten half the meat and we had the last bites served on a metallic pot with lots of space - as you could see from the blurry photo (coz I was shaking with laughter), the bigger piece was the size of the lemon wedge. And at £14, that's criminal.

Lokhandwala Layered Roti & Blue Stilton Naan with Truffle Oil
Then the rest of our order came flying onto the small table all at the same time. The layered roti was missing layers, and they were baked to taste more like crackers than roti.

The blue cheese naan was great - my favourite of the evening - with enough pungent cheese between the thin sheets of ghee-brushed naan, it was delicious on its own. Truffle oil was unnoticed, probably for good.

Unfortunately not a lot of options on the menu had curry sauce to go with the roti or naan, so it felt like these sides were thrown on as an afterthought.

Oh hello more pink goo. The potato cakes were stuffed with some very spicy filling. He quite liked it, with the powerful heat and crispy cauliflower florets on the side. The beetroot goats cheese lubricated the crispy shells and reined in the chillies, so the composition came together when I eventually got over the shocking pink on the plate.

Modern Take on Classic Tikka
I'm still trying to work out what the modern take was on this chicken tikka. Smaller cubes of spice-rubbed chicken served as a quesadillas. It was very good, as was the 3 larger chunks of chicken that didn't make it into the wrap. And this reminded me of Trishna. The way dishes were presented more stylishly, but the flavours were exactly the same as the same Indian takeaway round the corner of your house. Tikka is tikka.

Chicken Chettinad
We ordered one item from the 'Imperial Gem' section of the menu. The chunks of chicken were cooked with 18 ingredients, and though served in a flavoursome gravy, it wasn't very Indian as it was lacking punches of fragrant spices and herbs, probably more similar to the Chinese dish of chicken in black bean sauce. At least there was plenty of sauce, so we could soak the cracker-like roti in the little pot of non-curry. It came with a tiny ball of cold stale rice that we jokingly said we wouldn't have touched in Delhi. 

Goji Berries with Toffee sauce, Rabdi with Falooda
All ended on a sweet note with the goji berry dessert recommended by our server.

All in all we weren't impressed. As with other ‘elegant' Indian establishments, it's the same flavours and same dishes presented in a prettier wrapper. Food was leaning on the dry side, lacked sophistication and far from innovative. The setup in Lokhandwala was also quite confusing. There was a bouncer at the door, then an owner-lookalike patrolling the floor, but not involved in serving and interacting with diners, plus two serving staff – our dashing Lucasz was energetic and enthusiastic with recommendations, the other lady looked slightly disinterested and angry throughout the evening. The ambience was odd to say the least.

It should probably just focus on the beautiful cocktails. Leave it to Dishoom to make Indian food trendy. 
On our way home, he decided the place won’t last more than a year - we shall see.

93 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PY

Lokhandwala Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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