SW4 – Rotli Crew @ The King & Co – Clapham

It’s not something I normally shout about, but as well as this wee blog, I also write a monthly food and drink column for the Clapham and Wandsworth Magazine.  In November’s edition which is out shortly (and is distributed to discerning households and businesses in Wandsworth, Battersea, Clapham, Balham, Tooting, Southfields and Putney), I wrote about some notable pop ups in the area. One of them was Rotli Crew, and while I didn’t have the word count to review the Indian street food specialists within the mag, I was more than willing to pen a few additional characters and sample some of the morsels on offer for this little blog. Rotli Crew’s residency is running at the independently run The King & Co pub on Clapham Park Road until Sunday 29th November

The menu is made up of small plates (or starters, if you prefer), large plates, sides and puddings -although I would say that the portions are extremely generous and there little discrepancy in serving size between them. Small plates on the menu include jeera-fried chicken wings, tomato and onion kachumber, green chilli raita; pani puri filled with kala chana, tamarind ketchup and green chutney, and aubergine, paneer and seasonal greens bhajia – the latter two were what I chose.

The pani puri (pictured below) were crunchy and of course sweetly tangy thanks to the tamarind ketchup. The dish is one of texture but I wouldn’t say particularly strong on other flavours – other than the tamarind which is obviously the main shebang here. I’d like to shove a whole one in my mouth a be greeted with a wealth of textures and flavour combinations.

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The aubergine, paneer and seasonal green bhajia below looked a lot more attractive than my dimly lit photos. The external crunch of the bhajia gives way to soft and varied texture of the ingredients within – all of which are visible and perfectly formed. The bhajia are fresh, hot and should be served more often in pubs with a pint of IPA.

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The masala cod cheeks in IPA batter, red lentil dhal, lime pickle raita (part of the largerwere really beautifully cooked – the cod cheeks were delicate and sweet and while it was my favourite choice from my order, the dish would have been improved without the dhal which didn’t really add anything other than a soggy bottom.

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For a side I chose potato achaar – with mango pickle dressing. The potatoes were soft with a delicate crunch on their corners but the mango pickle made them seem salty.

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Paratha is one of my favourite Indian breads. When I visited India back on my Gap Yah (actually it was more of a one-month sejour), I had it for breakfast every day. Rotli Crew’s took me back there – soft, buttery with delicious layers which tear and unfold and your pull it apart. More, more more!

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Rotli Crew are doing an excellent job in their temporary home, serving up manageable morsels of Indian street food to hungry pub punters. It’s a perfect stop for a pint and a bite to eat, a stone’s throw from the busy never-to-get-a-seat other Clapham alternatives.

The King & Co
100 Clapham Park Road,
SW4 7BZ

Rotli Crew
www.franceandnoonan.com/streetfood

SW17 – The Wheatsheaf – Tooting Bec

“We aren’t pretending to break any culinary boundaries, but what we are doing, we think we are doing well”, was how I was first approached by the manager of Tooting Bec’s The Wheatsheaf. An understated invite if ever there was one but my intrigue at this pub – which has recently been saved from Tesco-isation thanks to a community campaign which established the venue as an ‘asset of community value’ – drew me down to this corner of SW17.

TL;DR: The manager of the pub is wrong. For a local pub they have steered away from the trappings of scampi and chips, presenting a menu which is carefully considered, and really bloody well executed. Boundaries are being broken.

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Burrata is a solid choice for a starter. Granted it’s not that solid in terms of consistency -the ooze of the creamy goodness as you pierce the outer skin is a bit like the end shot of of porno (apparently, so I’ve heard). The Wheatsheaf’s version did not disappoint. The heritage tomatoes could have been a touch more flavoursome – but we’ll skim over that one – so insignificant to the overall taste of the dish.

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Above: Burrata, heritage tomato and pea shoot salad with basil pesto – also features my ripped jeans. Twenty quid from H&M in case you were wondering.

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The Irishwoman makes yet another appearance on this blog – she’s not an adventurous eater (by her own admission – I’m not doing any potato jokes as she makes those all on her own). Her choice of starter was pretty darn incredible: goats cheese croquettes with salt-baked beetroot and caramelised walnuts really did hit the nail on the proverbial head. The caramelised walnuts provided a wonderful balance in comparison to what they can normally be – a tad bitter. But with the creamy crispy croquettes they added a sweetness which was fricking delicious.

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My main, above, roast Atlantic cod fillet, prawn tempura, olive oil mash, french beans and gremolata was not my first choice. I’d hoped to go for their fresh-sounding tuna nicoise salad – but alas! It was the only thing unavailable on the menu that evening. Honestly, cod will never be my first choice of gill-bearing aquatic dinners but this one was supremely cooked. Flaky and fleshy with crispy skin. The prawn tempura was tasty enough although the cod as the centrepiece was enough to hold its own. The mash was a little wet for my liking although the lemon zest cut through the olive oil.

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Finally the sweet potato, pumpkin and ginger hash, feta cheese, mixed leaves, tomato and chilli salsa selected by the Irishwoman could have gone either way on account of its strong flavours. The ginger was strong but was immaculately balanced by the smooth potato and pumpkin encased in a crispy outer layer.

Truly, The Wheatsheaf is something to behold in terms of dining in a local pub. If it is your local, I suggest you go there and eat, drink and support this community asset which is very much pulling up its socks on the culinary front. Tooting Bec-ers – you lucky things.

2 Upper Tooting Road
London
SW17 7PG

SW1 – Belgravia – Salmontini

There are various ways to start a Saturday. One way is to wake up, dash to the bathroom tap and neck a pint of water to hydrate yourself from last night’s hangover.

Another is to demand that the Welshman make the unenviable trip to Sainsbury’s to pick up a large cola zero, eggs and bread for a brunch in bed to cure last night’s hangover.

Another is to not wake up (perhaps having not been to bed at all).

Arguably the more sophisticated of the above three options is to put your glad rags on and head to Belgravia for a bottomless brunch of sushi and champagne. And last Saturday, that’s exactly what I did.

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I was kindly invited to Salmontini for a rather generous (hic!) preview of their new brunch menu. And it went a little something like this.

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Salmontini is the kind of place where the Made in Chelsea / Russian oligarch set wouldn’t look out of place. Indeed, if you look at their Instagram feed, the truth is not all that dissimilar. It’s not really where you’ll find someone like me, little SW Heather from Brixton, coiffing copious amounts of Moët.

The venue is pretty pretentious; location wise it will struggle to escape that, but at £60 a head for limitless (nice) champagne and very fashionable looking sushi, could it shine through and actually present itself as a brunch venue which gave substance over style?

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The dishes were a representative selection of what one could expect on their brunch menu. They ranged from a mixture of maki and futomaki rolls – with combinations such as tuna and avocado, white flaky crab meat, and deep fried prawns all wrapped in a la dente roll of Japanese rice.

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The above dish was a mixture of smoked salmon, which is Salmontini’s specialty, raw salmon, tiny bits of batter and a spicy mayonnaise – sat in a teeny tiny iceberg lettuce boat.

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While I am no sushi connoisseur, Salmontini’s sushi was most certainly erring on the fusion side of the net. And I have had better, but for a plush location and immaculate presentation – and £60 for all you can drink Moët (c’mon!) it really isn’t THAT bad a way to get over a hangover.

1 Pont Street
SW1X 9EJ
salmontini.co.uk

SW6 – King’s Road – The Imperial

Candles and cake at the ready – it’s been just over a year since The Imperial, a gastropub on the ‘other end’ of the King’s Road, opened. Since then it has gone on to be nominated for the Sustainable Pub of the Year award and it has recently hired itself a new head chef and new menu.

What first strikes you about the menu is that it, it and the decor of the pub, are metaphorically identical. It’s everything that you would expect from a pub, but flashier, shinier and then again, not altogether what you’d expect from a pub.

The menu boasts confit duck yolk, hay infused egg white. Not exactly what you expect from a pub either. But on the other hand you can get a burger, a steak and an (un)healthy portion on chips. Exactly what you’d expect from a pub.

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My starter of confit duck yolk, hay infused egg white, pickled wild mushrooms, pearl barley and chive puree sounded spectacular – although in reality it didn’t quite deliver. The yolk was beautiful although the chive puree was really rather grassy. It didn’t really gel.

The carrot and coriander soup – a simple dish in its nature – was the essence of homemade, fresh and warming.

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For mains I selected the pan fried wild sea bream, blackened leeks, cauliflower puree, samphire and kale foam. Again, there was something about the foam element of it – like my starter – which didn’t fit. The fish was delicately cooked and flaky, although lacked some finesse. It reminded me of something which was a bit homecooked – but not necessarily in the right way. The blackened leeks were on the tough side which should have been spotted by the chef too.

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The Irishwoman (my plus one for the evening) chose well and wisely (one must watch those Irish). Her selection of sirloin steak, roast turnip and swede, purple sprouting broccoli with red wine jus did not disappoint. Arguably this dish is what you would call more ‘common’, and not a fancy and fiddly as the foam courses above.  The steak was tender, the jus rich, and wonderfully cooked. An extremely generous portion too, if I may add.

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As a side we were recommended the cauliflower and paprika – but is was just that. Cauliflower with paprika sprinkled on top. Nothing to write home about for sure.

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For pudding (yes, I told you I am from Yorkshire) were these mini doughnuts with panna cotta and a sickly, almost crystallised pear. The panna cotta didn’t really hold itself together and the pairing of all three didn’t really complement one another.

The dishes which The Imperial owned were the simpler ones. When they dipped their toe into something more complicated, the risk didn’t reward. If The Imperial want to be both pub and fine dining, they really need to fine tune their game.

577 King’s Road
SW6 2EH
the-imperial.co.uk

SW9 – Brixton – Carioca

In every corner of Brixton – be that the editorial favourites of Brixton Village or the restaurants and establishments favoured by those who find the intensity of ‘Village Life’ a little too much to bear – you’ll find one eaterie or another which represents a further flung corner of the world.

Asmara – Eritrean; Caribbean – well you only have to open your eyes; Pakistani – watch our for The Elephant in the Village. And as for American – you’ll taste it quicker than you can say Chicken Liquor.

But where is little Brazil in the capital? Once traditionally Bayswater (dubbed rather crassly as Brazilwater) you’ll now find it in most necks of the London woods. Allow me to introduce to you one establishment which is conveniently located in our urban forest: Carioca.

And it only took me short stroll from my flat to get there (which is especially good if you’re going out for brunch – no one likes a long hike before for a weekend breakfast). To be fair, even if you are coming from the other side of town on a long hike you’ll be duly rewarded. All I can say, get there early, order big, and marvel at the colours on your morning plate.

Carioca Ipanema breakfast (credit Carioca)

The delightful spectrum emanating from this dish called Ipanema is a result of pan-chorizo with capers, sun-dried tomatoes, poached egg and chilli flakes, served on a maize muffin with avocado and salsa verde.

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This golden gem of deliciousness is no more Brazilian than I, but if you’re feeling unadventurous, then I wholeheartedly recommend the eggs royale. Perfectly cooked poached eggs which pop like giant caviar; lightly smoked salmon – with no stringy bits! Please sir, can I have some more?

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The Welshman had a long day of Super Saturday rugby ahead of him so you’ll have to forgive him for choosing the English breakfast (and if you’re a rugby fan you’ll understand that it was indeed a long day). Kudos to Carioca though – great mushroom action.

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And we return again to Brazil with a refreshing (and rather pleasant) bump; the below dish is acai with banana and granola – and a sweet drizzle of honey. I am also told the proprietor is very careful in his sourcing of the berries to ensure this platter tastes just like something you’d find in downtown Rio. The acai is semi frozen – which reminded me of being treated at the local leisure centre with a Slush Puppie (albeit with a far better flavour and none of the blue junk you get in it). So basically, just being treated then.

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If you’re not heading to Brazil anytime soon, and you’d like to be, or even if you are heading there soon and you want to experience it in our small corner of south west London – it would seem that you should follow the signs to Carioca. And their Bloody Marys are pretty awesome too. Loved it!

 

25-27 Market Row
Brixton
SW9 8LB

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carioca-Brixton/378608922236453
https://twitter.com/CariocaBrixton

Of All The Gin Joints In Soho – The Warwick

“Know your Hendricks from your Portobello Road”, was the opening gambit of my invite to The Warwick in Soho. I was to attend a gin mixology class but I had my reservations from the start.

Firstly it’s out of the borough.

Yeah, but it’s gin tasting.

Luckily I was able to reconcile that one with myself pretty quickly.

Secondly: but I don’t really need to learn how to mix gin.

I have managed to master that fine art myself.

Anyway, long story short, I was suckered into going to Soho to drink gin in a The Warwick’s newly refurbished bar which has a gin emporium.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, a gin emporium.

Actually, I didn’t really have any hesitation in going.

So what did I learn? Well truth be told there are a lot of decent gins out there which can be paired with all manner of crudities and herbs. For instance, when served with tonic (come on we’re not all alcoholics round here), a Portobello Road gin is pretty banging with a wedge of grapefruit.

However, if you were to choose a Berkeley Square gin with your tonic (notes of basil, kaffir lime leaves, lavender, and sage) a sprig of basil would be the optimum accoutrement to accompany your beverage. Hint: This one is smashing.

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What else was there – oh yeah, Hendricks of course which is a botanical gin which you all know should be accompanied with cucumber. Come on, keep up!

One of the strongest gins was William Chase at 48% ABV but was curiously deceptive as there were other gins which tasted a great deal stronger on the night. The crisp fruity flavour of William Chase are best complimented with a slice of apple.

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While William Chase may well have been strong enough to knock out a baby elephant, Elephant Gin beat them to the nomenclature. These charitable distillers give 15% of their profits to two African elephant foundations; if ever we needed an excuse to drink gin! Think of the elephants people!

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Our tasting party also enjoyed Whitley Neill (which also based on African botanicals); Sipsmith, and Boodles.

the-warwick-soho-2The gin mixology class was really enjoyable at The Warwick; I know I’d never make it my regular haunt on a Thursday night after work (bussyyy, extraordinarily loud and obnoxious music), but their gin selection is admirable and the their pairings pretty, darn tasty. Go there on a Tuesday night.

 

The Warwick
1-3 Warwick Street
London
W1B 5LR
020 7734 4409

I was graciously invited as a guest of The Warwick to the gin mixology class.

SW4 – Clapham – The Pepper Tree Brunch

A few images from my brunch at the Pepper Tree (who have just had a lovely refurbishment) and are now serving brunch as well as their dinner menu.

Cracking Bloody Mary – enough lemongrass to get you high! 😉

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A venti-sized bowl of congee!

The Pepper Tree
19 Clapham Common South Side
London
SW4 7 AB
020 7622 1758

SW18 – Wandsworth – Brady’s Review

I can never quite understand why some people don’t like fish. Fish has always been a very hefty part of my diet. I’m the kind of person who orders a fish starter and main, sometimes much to the bemusement of the waiter. My prerogative is if you like it, see fish and eat it.

OK, I’m done with the dad jokes.

For now.

I was therefore delighted when Brady’s invited me to their restaurant which is by the river in Wandsworth – near The Ship for those of you who, like me, tend to navigate London by pubs. Wandsworth residents may know Brady’s in its former incarnation on Old York Road. Now they have a much bigger establishment, complete with new bar and Thames-side views.

What can I say, it was really bloody good.

To start with I ordered the beetroot-cured salmon pictured below which, as you can see, is an astonishing shade of pink (#nofilter). Delicate and almost creamy it was presented in thin slivers; there’s nothing which puts me off smoked or cured salmon more than when it is thickly cut and has stringy bits; it reminds me of this. The door-stop bread it was served with would have been lovely slightly warmed to let the butter seep in.

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The Welshman made an immaculate selection in his starter; fried whitebait. My picture doesn’t do them justice but when you bit into them they were so fat and juicy that I dribbled once, totally fresh and with a supreme batter crunch.

**Rapturous applause**

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As side note, when we first arrived we were presented with a catch of the day list. Again, emphasis is clearly on freshness at Brady’s.

The Welshman never strays to far off the path when he chooses, you’ll therefore be unsurprised to learn that he chose fish, chips and mushy peas as his main but by Jove! he chose right. Flaky and fragile pieces of fresh haddock were encased in a light and crispy batter which was nicely seasoned. The chips which accompanied it didn’t really look that much to be honest with you; they had that ‘cooled and refried’ vibe going on about them, if you know what I mean. The taste however did give away the fact that they were also fresher than Will Smith. They were born and raised to go with that fish. Only complaint is the mushy peas were rather sweet.

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I ordered whole grilled sea bream. Crispy, charred, scored skin and well-cooked (not in the sense it was over cooked) is my equivalent of an aphrodisiac. I highly recommend it.

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I never eat pudding going out, but our host Amelia Brady twisted our arms to share a homemade apple crumble. The apples had a tad too much sugar in there for me, but bear in mind I don’t have a sweet tooth in the slightest. And because I’m also rather sour.

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You can tell the owners of Brady’s know their drinks too; a simple but nicely chosen wine list and a really rather decent selection of beers, ales and spirits. I know they would like more people to enjoy their bar just as a bar without ordering food (but definitely order some anyway) and with a decent selection of drinks as they have, I see no reason why not to. Both the meals and drinks are ridiculously reasonable considering the quality of everything.

They also do takeaway. You Wandsworthians are spoiled with this one.

Brady’s Restaurant
39 Jews Row,
London
SW18 1TB
020 8877 9599
 

I was invited as a guest of Brady’s Restaurant.

W8- High Street Kensington – Aubaine Review

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Ketchup! In a French restaurant? I remember the time in Antibes in the south of France when I asked for ketchup; I was looked upon with more contempt than a food blogger has when she opens her email to find she’s been invited to the launch of Toby Carvery’s new opening in Bromsgrove.

(For your information, I haven’t been invited there)…

(And even if I did consider it, Bromsgrove is not in the SW postcode).

Moving swiftly on from the thought of broiled meat and pulverised broccoli, I must apologise to Aubaine on Kensington High Street for including them and the aforementioned notorious ’roundabout restaurant’ so close in the same article.

For the record I was pleased about the inclusion of ketchup –  even though I am a mayonnaise woman myself – as my frites were très bon.

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Above you see The Welshman’ starter: Squid, lime aioli and coriander. It came out hot, the batter was delicate and crispy but there wasn’t enough of the ingredient which we actually wanted to bite through to; the VIP cephalopod itself. Almost too thin, the frying had made it dry – not an eek of squelch as you bit down. Shame, as it was gorgeously presented and everything else got checked off my calamari check list. I have one, you know.

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My starter above: the salmon tartare, pink grapefruit and caper dressing couldn’t have looked prettier on the plate. It was perfectly edible although I had hoped the salmon would be tartare – raw – which left me slightly disappointed. The cream cheese didn’t do all that much for me and the caviar seemed to add nothing to what were effectively ingredients I put into bagels at the weekend.

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Now for the mains. The Welshman ordered the cut of the day which was pork belly. The portion size was more than adequate and once again Aubaine’s dish was presented with much cultivation. The red cabbage accompaniment was rich and silky – so much so that we thought Christmas had come (we always have red cabbage at Christmas) and the gravy clean and moreish. The pork was on the dry side which was a shame. Again so edible and nothing that would warrant sending back but you asked for my honest opinion.

I know you didn’t but I’m telling you it anyway.

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Ah ha! My main event – moules frites. I like the small mussels so much better than those awfully rubbery giants you get at questionable Chinese eateries in Soho, so that got ticked off the moule frites checklist. The white wine sauce was not in the slightest bit salty (as some dishes I have tried have been known to be) and the chef had clearly thrown an extra-large sized lump of Lurpak in there just to butter me up.

Nice.

While the dish didn’t make me want to dance and scream,  it was tasty, unbastardised and more than satisfactory.

The frites, as I say were pretty banging too.

Aubaine is light, airy and welcomingly paced after the tourists and slow-walkers-that-you-want-to-punch-in-the-head people out in High Street Ken. While I was a guest of Aubaine, and thank them for inviting me, I have had exceedingly good meals for a similar price as they are charging. The food certainly wasn’t exceeding but it certainly wasn’t bad. If their dishes were on a par with the profoundly professional front of house team (and the presentation), then this review would be glowing.

Sadly my hands are tied.

 

 

Aubaine
37-45 Kensington High Street
London
W8 5ED
020 7368 0950

 

SW4 – Clapham Old Town – Zumbura

NB: Pictures to follow. I have recently moved house (still in the SW postcode!) and have no internet so uploading images has been a tad tricky! When I find a suitable connection they will be uploaded!

 

Despite being there since November 2013, Zumbura in Clapham Old Town had escaped me. I don’t often head down to the Old Town and from a casual passer-by perspective you might not notice it yourself as it’s a little out of place in Clapham (in a good way). The interior is minimalist café-cool; greys, blues and brick with splashes of yellow.

“But we don’t care about the interior Heather! Tell us about the food!”

The reason why I am waxing lyrical about the café, trendy-feel to Zumbura is because the dishes rather reflect that too. Small plates to me have become synonymous with an overpriced expensive dinner (I’m looking at you House of Ho) and I was slightly worried Zumbura was heading down the same path. What Zumbura has over its Soho, small-plated counterparts is that its street-food style dishes should, in their traditional form I’m told, be served on the smaller side – in shareable, social portions. If you think you’re not getting your money’s worth – you’re wrong. It’s a delightful way to eat Indian food. It makes for a welcome change from the heavy north Indian curries I have reviewed on one and two occasions.

I won’t start by saying “to start with”, because that’s not really how it works with small plates is it? Our pakora was light and crispy and it was served with a tamarind, and mint dip / relish. Brilliant…next!

My dinner date for the night was The Mauritian, as he is to be known, and as his ma is a bit of a dab hand at cooking Mauritian-style bitter gourd, we decided to pit Zumbura and The Mauritian’s mum head to head (you can tell how this is going to end). Funnily enough bitter gourd (kerela) is, well, bitter (or is WELL bitter). Honestly if you don’t like strong flavours then really don’t go for this. The only thing I can really compare it against is when you accidently and rather unfortunately bite into the skin of a chestnut at Christmas. To be honest the kerela wasn’t that bad – there was some joy in the pre-acerbic flavour which coated the inside of your mouth (the texture of the gourd is really rather lovely). While you may think we’re brave (or worse, stupid) for trying something which is by namesake bitter, then well we do have a defence. You can (and most do) soak bitter gourd in salt water to remove some of the more unappealing traits of the vegetable – but Zumbura, in perhaps a test to their customers, does not! (NOTE: Please don’t interpret this as a scathing review – just not the one for me /us)!

Ghuggni is the sort of sound I make when I have my annual bout of flu but THIS dish was the bees knees of the chick pea world. Lavish amounts of black chick peas braised in onion and mango powder – is what ghuggni is. Go to Zumbura. Try this dish, it’s like crack. Thick, nutty, wholesome and well-seasoned are exactly the words I’d use to describe it. And there you go – those are the words I have indeed used to describe it.

So glad I managed to get a crack simile in there.

The pollock with mustard seeds and fenugreek (machli ka salan) was really beautifully cooked, but the accompanying curry sauce didn’t really stand out – if you’re looking at it from a fish curry perspective, which I was. I wanted it to be richer, fishier and to feel like in some way my fish and sauce had at some point been cooked together.

The Mauritian ordered lamb chops (sikkiwe chops: twice marinated in herbs) – which are his favourites. Although I don’t eat lamb he said that while tasty, they were dry. His murghi ka salan (chicken curry) WAS rich and it WAS addictive (although not as addictive as the crack-like chick peas). Yes Zumbura!

I don’t want to end a review badly, because Zumbura is a really nice venue, with fresh, delicately spiced ‘thoughtful’ food (I mean they’ve taken care to think about the ingredient combinations). But the paratha really was horrible. In my experience paratha is light, layered – you pull it apart and the layers flake away from one another. Zumbura’s paratha was thick, leathery, and semi translucent (like it had been sat in oil – or worse, microwaved). Paratha is one of my favourite Indian breads and I wanted it to mould round my hand like a ladle and scoop those divine black chick peas up. It was not to be.

While we experienced the dinner service at Zumbura, they do open for lunch and have light bites which I think would sit pretty darned well with a lunch-time cocktail (I hear they are pretty slick). I don’t normally give scores on the doors, but Zumbura secured at favourable 7.5/10. I would go there again, and I have recommended it to a friend since. So there you go.

Zumbura
36a Old Town,
Clapham,
London
SW4 0LB