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

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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

SW4 – Clapham Common – The Dairy

I’m not a romantic type, but I am a pedant when it comes to choosing a venue which is appropriate for the atmosphere, company and of course food. The Welshman and I had a free evening on Tuesday, and as it was just the two of us at the beginning of the week, we though it an appropriate occasion to try The Dairy in Clapham; subdued quality dining which would be relatively informal.

It’s a small, narrow restaurant which squeezes itself between two units (which I forget the name of) as the pathway from the Clapham Common Tube station gradually bends into Old Town. In a sense it is enigmatic from the front; upon walking in, it suddenly strikes you that it is much, much bigger (or should I say longer) than you might expect. The high benches at the front exude ‘wine bar’, sharing snacks and shifting uncomfortably on stools. At the back, you find the restaurant, with the traditional table and chair set-up. The tables are small, and with the sharing platters that the menu proffers, alongside the dim candlelight – it is a slightly cramped, elbows-at-dawn intimate affair.

The low lighting is the stuff of food blogger nightmares. Sadly, and as a result of this lack of ambient brilliance, my photography efforts were somewhat hindered. I have credited the photographer where I have borrowed an image.

Each dish on the menu is starter sized. Between us we chose seven dishes (including two deserts) and we were offered, on the house, bread and smoked bone marrow butter (heavenly), and a complimentary appetizer to go with our aperitifs.

The menu is sectioned into: snacks; garden; sea; land; sweet.

Snacks

The truffled brie de meux on toast with acacia honey was obscenely decadent (not that I am complaining). A beautiful combination of sweet, salty and textured crunch. (£8.5)

The padron peppers, cod head, smoked cod roe (£6) was one of my favourite dishes. This is the perfect aperitif if you enjoy strong flavours; the kick of the chilli, the soft creamy roe with the added surprise of the delicate head meat. Sublime. A perfect sharing dish.

Photo by Wrap Your Lips Around This

Garden

To be fair, I wasn’t overly enamored with the selection on here; nothing really appealed. In the end we chose the rooftop carrots, goats cheese, oat granola, buttermilk (£7.5) – it was more to fill us up and reach the seven-plate quota we were recommended. In truth, it wasn’t necessary. However, the sharp textures of the pickled vegetables, the heartening crunch of the immaculately cooked carrots (which had that slightly leathery, caramelised structure to their skins) and the crunch of the walnuts, made it a very welcome dish indeed. And, frankly, one of the most beautiful which left the pass.

Sea

If you try one dish, please try the mackerel. Nigel’s mackerel – as it was described – with Swiss chard and bonito butter (£9) was a delight. The fish was seared and still pink on the inside. It melted like butter.

Photo by Wrap Your Lips Around This

Land

The presentation of the 32 day aged Irish onglet, butternut squash, black cabbage (£9.5) was divine. And, even though I would consider myself a butternut squash skeptic, this was a delight on the tongue. The onglet was a bit disappointing – slightly tough and lacking in flavour. The steak The Welshman enjoyed at L’Eto was better.

Photo by Wrap Your Lips Around This

Sweet

For the sake of a comprehensive review of the menu, we shared two puddings. While I normally have no sweet tooth at all, the clementine with brown butter ice cream and rice (£6.5) was a phenomenon. Butter ice cream will change your life. As The Welshman said: “Well, I wasn’t going to live that long anyway.”

The other sweet dish – a deconstructed Eton mess – was boring and unimaginative. It paled into insignificance against the butter ice cream and the other fantastic dishes we’d enjoyed.

What defines a good restaurant? The Dairy is certainly good one – and at just under £40 a head including drinks, it’s incredible value for money for the quality dishes served up. I was initially contacted by Match.com who asked me to recommend a place where a couple on a date might enjoy an evening out. I do think The Dairy could be that sort of place – it’s somewhere to impress, but is understated and unpretentious. It’s not raucous and you can freely enjoy conversation while there is still a foundation atmosphere which would put a new-ish couple at ease.

It’s definitely somewhere, if you live in the area, you must try…but if I’m honest, I think it’s a ‘once only’ place for me. I’d much rather go to somewhere like Abbeville Kitchen or Bistro Union where they have ‘robust’ dishes with more complex flavour combinations – and – just that little bit more space to bend your elbows.

SW4 – Clapham Common – Clapham Tandoori

I’m going to save you my usual preamble and jump straight in with this blogpost. On tonight’s food blogger menu is Clapham Tandoori which is opposite Clapham Common tube station.

To start…Baingan E Bahar on the menu was described as baked aubergine steaks stuffed with paneer. The image does allude to something similar, although it looks slightly different; more like an aubergine sandwiched between two chunky of paneer – not really stuffed. The aubergine was as one would expect and the paneer really was quite bland. There wasn’t any sauces or condiments save for the garnish and swirl of mixed sauce which had a bit of a skin on it – as if it has been sat under the heater, waiting for everything to be plated.

Baingan E Bahar at Clapham Tandoori The SW Food Blog

The Welshman and I ordered something more unusual I spotted on the menu as I do like to try out new things. This dish was significantly more rewarding in flavour – Patty Bola Chingri…

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The gram flour pancake, which surrounded the prawns in the mild tomato-based curry, was tasty enough and crispy on the outside. Gram flour, as I’m sure you are familiar, is made from chick peas and therefore has a similar flavour to popadoms which are made of the same thing. This pancake was crispy on the outside but a little tough as I bit through. The additional peppercorns embedded in the flour mix did give it a little more lift.  The prawn mix was well flavoured but could have done with a few more prawns. What is with these wet iceberg lettuce garnishes though? Please cut it out (or be more inventive – does anyone ever eat them?)!

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Photographing curry at Indian and making it look delicious, is never an easy task regardless of whether you have an iPhone or a DSLR. I apologise in advance.

Onto the mains, first up was the The Golda Chingri Morrisha – grilled king sized prawns, cooked with green peppers, onions and fresh green chillies in a hot sauce. Allegedly it was awarded the Best Seafood Curry of 2006. That’s not that strange, but closely followed after that statement was this – House of Commons –  in brackets. Whether or not this curry has been honoured in statute, remains to be seen. The sauce was a little cloyie (suspiciously shiny and a little gloopy) but had a decent kick which pleased my taste buds. There were more giant king prawns than you could throw a stick at, although they’d been grilled a little too  much beforehand and were slightly chewy and overcooked.

Golda Chingri Morrisha The SW Food Blog

Th Welshman ordered Chicken Xakuti; a South Indian-style curry which was prepared with freshly ground coconut – again bestowed with a House of Commons award and looked something like this…

Chicken Xakuti The SW London Food Blog

As I’ve mentioned before, The Welshman is a man of few adjectives and still he described the chicken as a stringy and dry. The sauce was fresher tasting than mine but was too coarse as a result of the nobbules of coconut. The sauce didn’t do too much to bring out the individual spices and they were lost as a result.

Chicken Xakuti The SW Food Blog 2

The Peshwari naan was pleasing enough, although why they drowned it in sweet syrup is beyond me. My saag paratha had been waiting under the heater for way too long – DRY!

The service was good and despite this not being the most favourable review, Clapham Tandoori wasn’t a terrible meal. They’ve been in the same location for about 70-odd years and the business is still run within the founding family – they’re a stalwart compared to the vast majority of Clapham Common restaurateurs. It does appear they are trying to give that ‘finer dining’ experience to that of your average curry house. The execution was haphazard in places and although there were some pleasing flavours in both mine and The Welshman’s dishes, there were the tiny details which had been neglected. It would be the place to go if you had a lot of hungry friends and were searching for a substantial Indian / Bangladeshi meal in Clapham, but if you’re after finesse and beautiful flavourings and accompaniments, it’s probably not for you.

Clapham Tandoori on Urbanspoon

I was invited by Clapham Tandoori for this review. 

SW4 – Clapham – Venn Street Market

I am fortunate enough to work as a freelancer – legitimately – this is not code for unemployed. Technically I can wake when I like, wrap up the working day when I like, and take arbitrary random days off without aeons of notice.  I also used to work from home; in my pyjamas, mostly. Officy people are curious about the world of freelancing.

Officy person: “Do you work set hours?”

Me: “I try to keep as closely to a working week as possible, it’s easier that way.”

Officy person: “But what motivates you to work?”

Me: “Money, mainly.”

You see, if I don’t get up and work, then I certainly don’t get paid. And any time I take off – those arbitrary random days I mentioned earlier – is not paid either. Like any form of employment, there are pros and cons. I always like to look on freelancing positively though.

However, times are a changing. For the last two months I have been invited to work in an office which belongs to one of the companies for whom I freelance. Conveniently, the office is about a mile from my house, so even the commute walk into work isn’t bad. I’ve lost at least half of you now, haven’t I?

A short stroll from my desk is Clapham High Street, which even when I lived in Battersea, was a misnomer to me. I think the only thing I have ever successfully done on the High Street was to have a haircut under £25 (successes are relative). The bars are dire, the restaurants (save for Fish Club) leave much to be desired. There are barely any decent shops either.

Now that I work in the vicinity I have forced myself to try to seek out the diamonds from the (my own self-perceived) rough. Clapham High Street must have some interesting foibles which a food fan like me could entertain?

The most obvious (and middle class) of intrigues is of course, Venn Street Market. I’ve not blogged about it properly before, so where better to start? Just off the Clapham Common end of the High Street, this petite marche consists of a handful of stalls. Cheese, cake (Brixton’s Ms Cupcake too), some live action – a hog roast, burger flipping and rotisserie chicken – are the stands which stand out, if you will.

Chocolate chip

Une Normande a Londres

Une Normande a Londres

Unless one is buying mild cheddar for a child, there’s no excuse for going supermarket for cheese. You buy cheese at the supermarket? How could you? Get off my blog! You must try before you buy (it also appeals to one’s inner freebie seeker) and there’s no finer place than a market to do it. I’m no expert on cheese, but I knows what I likes. Plus, the person behind the wheel of cheese knows their shit. Ask them, try different things, chances are you’ll end up buying something which you can barely pronounce but you’ll thank me for it when you’re in the la la land of a cheese coma. The Borough Cheese Company were really helpful when I bought some of their Tomme de Savoie; initially creamy and sweet finished off with an earthy mushroom kick. How their stall supports the huge wheels of Comte I’ll never know. I also got a pretty awesome pecorino from Italian cheese specialists Gastronomica.

The Honest Carrot is another producer which intrigues me. Think vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free burgers and morsels; chickpeas, beetroot, and carrots creatively and attractively made into falafel and patties. I haven’t yet ventured to trying any, so if anyone has ever bought from The Honest Carrot then let me know what you think.

Although they weren’t at Venn Street Market when I was getting inspiration for this post yesterday, the Arancini Brothers frequently make an appearance. Fried risotto balls in a wrap. Need I say more?

The Honest Carrot

It’s a carrot, only more honest.

I don’t need to add my voice to the hype about Bahn mi 11, and I won’t because I’ve not tried them, but they had sold out of baguettes which pissed me off (I was hungry, OK?). I want one!

*Sad child’s face*

So Venn Street Market is the first contender to add its voice to the ‘save Clapham High Street from Room 101’ campaign. But who’s next? All suggestions will be seriously considered, unless you try to convince me about trying the Shalamar kebab house which plays Backstreet Boys videos on a loop.

I’ve already tried it.

Venn Street Market is open 10am-4pm every Saturday.

www.vennstreetmarket.co.uk

SW11 Battersea – Entrée Restaurant – Cheese & Wine Evening

Is is me or is it an excellent afternoon? It might be to do with the fact that it has been glorious for the past week. But then, come to think about it, I have been working so I haven’t been outside. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I’ve been listening to Bruce Springsteen’s discography since I woke up this morning and that I am going to see him play in Hyde Park this summer. Listening to him in the coming months is merely an amuse bouche to the main course. *Boast, and a la carte puns over*.

There is one other thing which is making me smile today (I promised the boasting was over, but if I am honest it has only just begun) and that is cheese.

Cheese is one type of food I don’t buy often. Save for the occasional dried piece of cheddar which has ambled its way to the back of the refrigerator, you’ll not find any in my kitchen. I love it, and not buying it is a damage limitation exercise to prevent the bulge. Despite this, I love strong flavours and am not one to shy away from a stilton, St Agur, or any curded goody which is marbled blue.

I’m reluctant to tell you about Entrée restaurant. Nestled in on Battersea Rise, it’s a bit of a local secret. But if you promise not to tell, I’ll give you a few more details. Last night was their inaugural cheese and wine evening hosted by their new restaurant manager, Chloe Gounder-Forbes.

Cheese Board at Entree

A knife tinkling on a crystal glass signalled that the night was to begin. Sitting side by side in the Bentley Bar, each of us were brought five cheeses on a board with delicately sliced French bread. Chloe, who has been a judge at the British Cheese Awards, entertained us with a description of the first cheese – Sante Maure – a medium goat’s cheese which had been matured for a minimum of 10 days to give it the thin blue circumferential rind. The complimenting wine, Les Acrobats, opened up the creamy, firm yet well-roundedness with a pineapple kick.

We were given a chance to sample the cheese on its own, with the wine, then discuss our findings and thoughts. The evening was really relaxed and Chloe couldn’t have been more helpful – even to a complete Luddite like me (I love and know a little about cheese, but I’ve had little experience of pairing good cheese and wine together).

Chloe ran through each cheese and wine pairing one by one. The lingering mushroom hints of the English (Hampshire) Turnworth Soft, not dissimilar to a Camembert, were a favourite of mine. But the combination of Bleu d’Auvergne and The Opportunist – a 2010 Australian Shiraz – finished the evening off strongly. Late night snogs were definitely off the menu.

The intimate Bentley Bar

I believe Entrée will host more events like this in the future, but in the meantime they are open Monday to Sunday for dining, and or, just drinks. The speak-easy atmosphere and the Bring Your Own on a Monday night in the restaurant (£5 corkage) is going to see my return quicker than you can say fromage.

Entrée Restaurant
2 Battersea Rise
London
SW11 1ED

SW4 Clapham – Nardulli’s Ice Cream – local producer

It was snowing only a few weeks ago…what the hell has happened? I find myself without coat, in a skirt with a thin long-sleeved top, eating ice cream on Clapham Common. I’ve certainly picked the right day for it,  and by the taste of it, I’ve definitely picked the right ice cream.

Nardulli’s Ice Cream parlour sits conveniently opposite the common – going towards Clapham Old Town. On Sunday it was as busy as a summer’s day, albeit the beginning of March – I had to queue!

Nardulli Ice Cream

As you’d expect from an Italian gelateria they’ve got the whole shebang of flavours. I would say that the ones they offer are more classical than some of the weird and wonderful that I’ve tried on my imaginary vacations on the Italian riviera (I went to an ice cream parlour in Sardinia once – does that count?), but the shop is petite and we are in Clapham, lest we forget.

There’s still a comprehensive selection as you can see from the photo.

Among the flavours were coffee, cherry, pistachio, rum and raisin, chocolate, coconut, hazelnut, and several sorbets were available to cleanse the palate. I opted for cardamom flavour – not one I’ve tried before – and hazelnut. Two small scoops set me back a little over £2. Considering one cannot get a Mr Whippy 99 these days for, well, under a £1, I’d say you are in safe hands with Nardulli.

The first few licks of hazelnut were delightful; but like Bruce Bogtrotterafter a whole chocolate cake, one tends to feel a bit sickly. The cardamom was like chai. Delicately spiced and milky, it was a new and welcome taste experience.

Ice cream! Ice cream! We all scream for Nardulli's...

Nardulli's cherry ice cream

With summer on its way (18 degrees I hear on Thursday) Nardulli’s is going to be my frozen cream destination of choice.

 

Nardulli on Urbanspoon