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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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Kitty Fisher's - A Fine Lady

Kitty Fisher was one of the hottest restaurants last year; I kept getting it confused with Sexy Fish, which is more known for celebrity-spotting (and exorbitant prices) than exceptional food. I knew he had one of them on his list - more likely to be the one with raving reviews for their dishes. Good guess.

The restaurant was absolutely tiny, four tables on the ground floor with four counter seats, then a very cosy basement with just 2 rows of tables. No wonder they take credit card details with reservations. We were greeted warmly by one of the hosts before the introduction to their signature beef for 2 to share for a whooping £80. Though some say it's a damn fine piece of meat, more recommended their a la carte items, and said it's better value. 

The cocktail list looked great, he had something bittersweet and strong but nicely balanced; I was drawn to the beautiful Chateaux La Graula, which he agreed was a beautifully full red. 

Whipped Cod's Roe, Bread & Fennel Butter
The airy cod roe cream were packed with savoury fragrance, though much more refined than the typical taramasalata dip, piped onto toasted sourdough soldiers lightly brushed with fennel butter. The small discs of radish reined in the fishy intensity to keep a refreshing balance. 

Lamb Cutlets, Anchovy, Mint & Parsley
The lamb cutlets were simply out of this world. Maitre'd explained to us that the chops were flash grilled on the wood grill for 15seconds before resting, and it was a repeated process until the meat was cooked to the perfect medium rare.

Burrata, Beetroot, Radicchio & Pomegranate
The creamy, stretchy cheese was carefully flavoured with a controlled drizzle of sweetness and sprinkles of sesame, crushed nuts and pomegranate. The radaccio leaves were incredibly sweet on their own, savoury sauce He has always felt burrata is a lazy dish, but this changed his mind. 

Barbary Duck, Chicory, Blood Orange & Rhubarb
The duck was somewhat less remarkable. Perhaps we have been too spoilt so far, our appreciation for the scarlet pink hue of the meat dwindled, taking the perfect execution of duck breast for granted. It's hard to fall in love with a duck l'orange though, the citrus syrup is all too familiar although I was thankful it didn't arrive swimming in a pool of glowing goo. It was as good as duck l'orange could get, just fell short of surprises and perhaps a touch of modernisation to a weary classic.

Cornish Hake, Apple, Monk's Beard, Coco Bianco, Mussels & Bottarga
The hunk of silky hake fillet topped with its fragile crispy skin was more exciting, paired with a subtly sweet milky sauce that amplified the delicate flavours from the fish. But it was the plump and creamy mussels that stole the show, bursting with shellfish essence. The crunchy monk's beard was also fun to eat, like noodles clinging onto the rich broth and pumping out more ocean goodness with every chew.

Buttermilk Rice Pudding, Pistachio & Blood Orange
The pudding department wasn't as strong as the savoury stuff. Maybe British sweets are simply less sophisticated. Our rice pudding with blood orange exactly what it says in the tin, though immensely comforting, I'm sure I could churn out a richer and creamier rice pudding.

Cambridge Burnt Cream
This is a novel British translation of creme brûlée. Yep - it is exactly that. Though not overly exciting, it ends the meal in a sweet note.

Kitty Fisher was excellent, with an exciting menu supported by a strong kitchen. It had an understated elegance about it, the quintessential British air that is now rare, especially bang in the middle of Mayfair where it's brimming with over-the-top opulence. The hosts, friendly, witty with a pocket full of humour, added to the charm of this little gem. We had a great evening.

Kitty Fisher's
10 Shepherd Market
Tel: 0203 302 1661

Kitty Fisher's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monday, 6 February 2017

Fera at Claridge's - Rewarding

After a stressful trip to Hong Kong over Christmas and New Year, he decided a fine meal would sooth some of the pains away. Would have been a great idea if it didn’t coincide with the woman’s march after the US Inauguration, but hey, we made it and damn it was a hard-earned lunch. 

With a cold and retarded scent receptors, I disappointed our sommelier despite him concurring the recommended Serbian wine very interesting. It most probably was too, but I stuck with the more conventional (aka boring) chateauneuf du pape with the thick tannin to punch through my senses.

Amuse Bouche

We made a pass on the set lunch menu and went for a la carte as it offered more exciting options. Our server highly recommended the snacks to start and here we go…

Stewed rabbit with lovage; seaweed cracker, lemon sole, sea herbs; chestnut, pork and eel

We went for the snacks as our server highlighted them as must-try. The crunchy shell of toasted cereal flakes enveloped a ball of impossibly juicy stewed rabbit meat, mingled with subtle fragrance from the peppery lovage. The seaweed cracker earned several nods of approval from him, airily light topped with succulent shreds of lemon sole with a refreshing dressing. My favourite was the mysterious emulsion of chestnut that blanketed small cubes of smoky eel and pork. Delicious start.

Roasted and raw scallop with cucumber, buckwheat and mushroom
I preferred the meaty roasted scallop, dense and creamy in the centre with a slightly crispy outer edge, simply seasoned to show off its fresh crustacean fragrance. The raw scallop was sliced into 3 pieces, which somewhat took away the satisfaction of its slithery mouthfeel, but was nonetheless most enjoyable as it was oozing distinctive oceanic sweetness. The combination of cucumber and miniscule mushroom was intriguing; the enoki-lookalike had a crisp clean tone instead of earthiness, contributed more on the bouncy crunch than flavour and worked well with the refreshing cucumber foam.

Pink fir potato with duck hearts, watercress and Tunworth
The morsels of duck heart was springy but not chewy, the strong muscles carried powerful gamey flavours with a tinge of metallic aftertaste. My palette isn’t refined enough to be particularly appreciative of pink fir potatoes, but they were slightly waxy and mildly nutty, which paired well with the melted gooey soft cheese. It was a delicious wintry starter.

Halibut cooked in pine, leeks, parsley and whey
The halibut was divine, silky soft and fleshy flakes effortlessly broke off with a gentle poke from the knife; succulent with mellow fish oils infused with the subtle scent from smoky pine.

Cornish lamb, chervil root, crosnes, seeds and cocoa nib
We were served the saddle of lamb, roasted to a perfect medium with a beautiful pink centre, gleaming in its juice. The meat was milky soft, subdued in the distinctive lamb essence due to its leanness, but the meaty jus makes up the intense flavours. The crosnes added some crunch to the smoothness while the chervil root packed in some peppery punches to keep things exciting. He wasn’t a fan of the cocoa nib and chewy grains, possibly too harsh on the mouthfeel and spoilt the delicacy of the lamb; on the plus side they added some crunch as well as a deeper nutty tone to the ensemble. I quite liked it.

Chocolate and sweet clover with Jerusalem artichoke and Earl Grey
The artichoke was cleverly integrated and blended in seamlessly with the indulgent chocolate mousse. The clover aroma was restrained, perhaps didn’t come through with the slightly spicy earl grey – or I got them mixed up. We loved it regardless.

Notwithstanding our unplanned weekday dinner at Homeslice and the odd noodle stop, this was our first proper meal out. Safe to say we are off to a great start. Fera lived up to the expectations, and the expectations were high. I have a feeling he was pushing for putting Fera on my list of favourites, I have my hesitation. While every dish was carefully constructed, meticulously executed and undeniably delicious, yet I struggle to highlight something extraordinary that will help me remember it. Might have been my cold and my ‘hyper-sensitivity’ – it was still a great restaurant.

Brook Street
Tel: 0207 107 8888

Fera - Claridge's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato