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! ūüėČ


A venti-sized bowl of congee!

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


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…


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?)!


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. 

SW12 Clapham – Old School Thai curry pastes

So you’ll probably have guessed by now, either from this blog or my Twitter account, that I am middle class enough to have taken a Gap Year. I am not however, sufficiently upper class to have taken a Gap Yah. I’ll leave that for my pashmina-ed pals across the river in South Ken. But yes, yes…I’ve been to Thailand. I’ve bought a Chang vest from that chap on the Kao San Road. I got a PADI qualification in Ko Tao. I’ve drunk Thai whiskey out of small buckets with¬†iridescent¬†straws. Those days however, are over. I am¬†wise enough now to know there is another way; if you stay in the comfort of your own home, then the buckets are much larger.

I didn’t have a spiritual awakening in Thailand; I was too busy eating for that to happen. Travelling to the Isaan region in the north east, completed the trip with respect to Thai cuisine. When Mekong catfish is barbecued, served with steaming sticky rice in a reed basket, with a side of som tam (a spicy salad comprised of unripe papaya) it is like eating what you’d dream of serving up to Daniel Craig if he were to attend your imaginary dinner party. Me and ‘Dan’ are pretty close* so I don’t have to imagine – I’m sure he told me once that he liked a good Laarb Gai.

Thai curry, be it green or red, is the most overdone thing in the book, right after pad Thai. I rarely make it because the sheer volume of ingredients make it a ridiculously expensive – cost per head – dish. Also I can guarantee you’ll always find, some weeks later, a lemon grass stick at the back of the fridge which is beyond redemption.

I was approached by a company called Old School Thai¬†(presumably they had not heard about my lewd exploits in Pattaya – I jest, I jest!) who asked me to try a couple of their Thai curry pastes. They’re based around south west London, and, as as you know I’m always in the business of supporting good, local producers. Founder Brett Cowie claims his pastes will take you “on a trip back in time to Thailand when my grandma was still making curries herself”. That’s marketing speak if ever I heard it (in the day job I hear it a lot). But let’s get down to brass tacks; what we all want to know is, are they any good?

Well yes, they’re not bad. I like the idea of having something which is incredibly fresh at hand which negates those ‘bugger it’ moments when you realise you missed out ONE ingredient on your Tesco shop (you’d sworn you’d bought everything). I put together a prawn curry with the red curry paste. All the ingredients I added were some sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, prawns, coconut milk, chilli, Thai basil and palm sugar. Still seems like a substantial amount of ingredients – but then there’s about double that in the paste itself.

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste

Some additional ingredients

What I missed from the sauce was the rich intenseness of flavour. The packets tell you to add more paste to increase the heat; I didn’t find this. Adding more paste made the sauce darker with more floaty bits of lemon grass and galangal (etc.). It was a nice,well-rounded taste – aromatic – but I sought more of the spikes in flavour that Thai food is so famous for; the peaks of the salty, sour, and sweet. I don’t wish to convey that the sauce was un-flavoursome – it just didn’t pack a punch. My taste buds need a royally good arse kicking and the backbone of the curry paste wasn’t going to be that bully – regardless of my extra additions of lime, chilli, fish sauce and palm sugar. Milder palates would disagree, I’m sure.

Old School Thai Red Curry Paste with king prawns and sugar snap peas

The recipe card ideas which come alongside are useful are informative. I especially liked the inclusion of Tod Mun Pla infused with the Gaeng Ghet paste – fishcakes in any shape or form are consumed in abundance at mine and the Welshman’s house. This is something that I know I’ll try with Old School Thai’s pastes in future (they’ve got a reasonably long shelf life).

What we’ve got then is the raw materials for a busy person to make a decent, Thai-inspired meal. I know other food bloggers read other food blogs, and maybe Old School Thai wouldn’t be the one for them: GOD DAMN IT – ¬†they’ll make the sauce themselves, rogue or no rogue lemon grass stalk! Even if it is just to take Instagram snaps for every stage of the recipe.

Old School Thai curry pastes can be bought online on their website or at selected stockists priced around £3.90.

I was generously given the pastes by Old School Thai.

*we’re not sadly.

SW18 Wandsworth – Amirah’s Kitchen – Restaurant review

Declining popadoms might have been controversial. I think it was controversial because everyone around us was clearly enjoying said popadoms. I also think it was controversial because our waiter did double check – triple check in fact that we were sure we didn’t want any. But that’s by the by. I wanted to see what Wandsworth’s Amirah’s Kitchen¬†had to offer in the way of starters – to fill up on popadoms when the starter menu promised so much would have been ill conceived and irresponsible. Street food marks out the Old York Road Indian’s appetiser menu; small and intricately flavoured dishes pieced together with the grace of a skilled food-Jenga player; seared scallops with spring onions, cherry tomatoes, garlic and cracked pepper; lamb patties with cardamom and spiced yoghurt; warmed aloo tikki chaat with tamarind and mint chutney.

Criticise if you must but I opted for Amirah’s mixed pakora – fried potato and spinach bhajis, onion, and potato pakoras. Unadventurous? No, I beg to differ. When you’ve eaten something with great frequency, and it is that simple, it should be – well – simple. Pakoras can be monstrous in this country and in polarity also ludicrously divine. Eating something again and again gives you a benchmark; you know what to expect, its nuances and even its shortcomings. I had set Amirah’s Kitchen a challenge. The fried potato and spinach pakora was floury and moist on the inside, but getting there was the best part. The inaugural bites inward had texture and a brittle crunch which popped as your teeth anticipated the coarse, toasted coriander seeds on which your eyes had already feasted.

Amirah's mixed pakora

Amirah’s mixed pakora

Again to start; Punjabi fried fish. In detail, tilapia coated in gram flour and deep fried until it’s the colour I like my beer. Golden. In less detail. Melting gloriousness. And so good with the tamarind and mint chutney accompaniment which gave it the spicy slap round the face it could withstand. Tilapia really is a wonderful fish when fresh and well cooked. Haddock and cod really leave much to be desired with their wetness.

Punjabi fried fish

Fried tilapia and a spicy tamarind and mint chutney

Things done not so well? Well the onion ring in Amirah’s mixed pakora was a bit nondescript, and the batter a bit dry and thick for my liking. Plus the advertised mint chutney didn’t quite make it through the pass on this occasion which is by no means a deal breaker but it’s nice to try these things.

My main, kadhai jhinga, was small yet perfectly formed. The congruence of the red chilli, peppers, toasted coriander and the substantial, succulent prawns were not lost in a silver vat that one is often served in Friday Night Curry House X. The tiger prawns were the dish Рand the thick sauce clung to them. There was no leftover watery gravy which had to be apologetically mopped up with cardboard naan. The prawns were cooked as their quality deserved. Oily? No. A very good dish, if slightly over seasoned.

Kadhai Jhinga

Tiger prawns, ginger, chilli and crunchy peppers

Amirah's Peshwari naan

Amirah’s Peshwari naan

The Welshman always chooses a lamb curry. At Amirah’s Kitchen his habitual leanings were rewarded in his rogan josh. Large hunks of bone tender lamb sat in an ochre bath of ginger, browned onion, and tomato. Robust and hearty, with only a slight hint of immiscible oil, but that’s if I am being especially fussy.

Piglet – I am. Amirah’s Kitchen was very generous and brought out desert. Shhh, don’t judge. I still had room. The warmed gajjar halwa (carrot fudge) was muted with subtleties of cardamom, and the grains of almond and pistachio gave the carrot sweet threads of texture. Served with vanilla ice cream the hot-cold combination was creamy and rounded. My initial interpretation of halwa is that it is sticky and fudgey, so I was surprised when this desert was wetter and less glutinous and cohesive. It was also not as sweet as other Indian deserts I’ve had experience of – which was no bad thing in my opinion.

Gajjar Halwa

Carrot, cardamon, almond, and pistachio halwa

Amirah’s Kitchen on Old York Road, Wandsworth, is trying to serve authentic Indian street food. Its lunchtime menu offers kathi rolls, shashlik, and other on-the-go bites. The starter menu also nods to the street food scene – like I said before structured, definite flavours stacked around a small bitesize centrepiece. Conquering street food is ambitious – the ingredients must stand out, be entirely fresh, and be of¬†snack-worthy¬†digestibility. There are reasons why Amirah’s Kitchen doesn’t continue their street food manifesto past 5pm which personally I think is a shame. If those reasons are financial or to do with turnover then that obviously must factor in the owner’s business decision, and I can completely see that, especially for a restaurant which has only been open 10 weeks.

For now Amirah’s must build its reputation as a great Indian restaurant in Wandsworth, and from the excellent standard of last night’s meal, I can see that it is doing this. The street food backbone is not lost, but ‘translated’ throughout the post-5pm mains. I mentioned beautifully-cooked tiger prawns, an emphasis on high-quality ingredients, detectable notes of individual spices – oh the ginger! Yes, it really was rather good.

I really hope Amirah’s Kitchen is able to nurture and cultivate its street food promise. There are so many ‘curry houses’ doing great curry very well. It would be a crying shame for Amirah’s to have to directly compete with them. I look forward to seeing a menu that is refined as the weeks and months pass. Street food and fast feasting really are in vogue in the foodie scene so I think they should make the most of it.

Old York Road in Wandsworth feels like a very homely place, and somewhere I would like to unearth in future. Fortunately I will be returning much sooner than I had anticipated thanks to the Old York Road Unplugged Festival which is happening this Sunday (16 September) between 11am-5pm. If I may put the plug back in for a second just to let you know that, as its name suggests, it’s a street festival with an emphasis on music. But don’t let the three music stages distract you from the tens of stalls, cask ale, street food and entertainment that will be lining this small south London street. I’m assisting with the event, and despite having to set my alarm for 4am, I am ecstatic to be part of such an occasion. Please join the Facebook group or visit Old York Road’s website to discover more.

Amirah's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I was a guest at Amirah’s Kitchen.

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SW17 Tooting – Dosa n Chutny- Restaurant review

Where is the ‘e’ I ask you? Where is it? I am always dubious about restaurants who give themselves oddly spelled versions of everyday words. Chutney? Chutny? And, well, using ‘n’ as a grammatical conjunction is something best left to the pop ups who serve ‘mac n cheese’.

“Mac n cheese?”

“Why yes, I’d love a portion of macaroni and cheese.”

That aside, I’d heard good things about the dosas at Dosa n Chutny on Tooting High Street. I invited a friend to come along – let’s call him the Pseudo Frenchman – seeing as though I give most of my friends these semi-biographical pseudonyms for the purpose of this blog. Don’t ask me why. Anyway he and the Welshman joined me on my excursion to Tooting.

Dosa n Chutny is like a truck stop cafe. Candy floor tiles, lurid peeling orange metal chairs, and communal metal water jugs arranged with uniform precision on every table. I was fooled by the age-old trick of lining one wall with floor to ceiling mirrors too.

The dishes are so cheap on the menu that all in my party were confused about how much we should order. Having lived in London for nearly two and a half years, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if a bowl of olives came to ¬£3.50 on my bill. It’s a shock to be faced with dosa dishes on the mains section which range between ¬£1.95 to a *whopping* ¬£4.25. The boys were baffled; the Welshman ordered two main meals while the Pseudo Frenchman willingly gave in to adding a starter to the order, just in case. I hate to be a ‘told you so’ kinda person, but I was more reserved with the quantities I ordered.

OK, I love to be the ‘told you so’ person.

Shortly after a lot of food arrived at our table.

A starter of crispy fried vegetables was first up. Colourful and showcasing all the colours of a Sri Lankan market, I could tell it was going to be hot just looking at it. This may or may not have been something to do with the dried and fresh chillis which liberally sided every fried potato and onion. The fried coriander and cashew nuts sprinkled on top gave the dish a decent crunch; think of an Indian / Sri Lankan version of crispy fried seaweed and you’ve just about nailed the texture. ¬†The array of vegetables were not worth writing home about; a bit of potato, mushroom, onion, and pepper. Moreish though.

Crispy Fried Vegetables at Dosa n Chutny

Crispy Fried Vegetables at Dosa n Chutny

The special masala dosa was thin and even. While being crisp enough on the edges, it was also rippable and spongy enough in the middle to soak up the sambar, raita, and coconut. I really liked the dosa. The filling of pulpy potato and carrot didn’t do it for me however. Mushy and wet, I felt it could have had a bit more flavour to it. Although the sambar was quite mildly spiced, and perhaps a little too salty for my personal consumption, it was oddly comforting. What is with the luminous green mint chutney though?

Masala dosa

Masala dosa

I ordered a vegetable kothu paratha which is basically an¬†Indian bread (denser and oiled unlike a traditional chapati) that has been shredded on a hot tawa. It’s then mixed with vegetables and spices. I found it chewy and doughy, and after about five mouthfuls inordinately filling too. It was served in a large bowl with raitha and ‘gravy’ – a runny lentil dahl on the side. These provided a distraction to liven it up. I found it bland and not really appropriate to have solely as a main – possibly as a side dish for the very hungry. The regimented carrot cubes gave their origins away; mixed frozen veg packet!

Vegetable kothu

Vegetable kothu

When one pays so little for a dish, it’s probably no surprise to find that some of the ingredients have been watered down, and in that respect I’m willing to ease off on the criticism. I thought the dosas themselves were pretty good and I rate our fried vegetable starter too. I think I’d like to experiment with some of the starters, perhaps they’d put a bit more fire in my belly rather than doughy dosa. Between the three of us however, we were only ¬£26 worse off.

*Shrugs* Meh. I’d go back.

Dosa n Chutny on Urbanspoon

SW2 Brixton – Curry Paradise – Restaurant review

I am not cool. I never have been and I never will be. I was a bit of a geek in school, and even if I did have a bit of a punk phase when I was 15, it was very much a bandwagon which I was tardy to board. I am so not cool; last week I mistook my friend’s record bag as a cool bag, and although she was mortified I had confused her expensive DJ-ing satchel for a vessel that keeps your sandwiches chilled, I brushed it off – not quite realising the extent of my faux pas.

How then have I come to live in Brixton? Food bloggers flock here, you’ll spot a couple of undercuts and NHS-style prescription glasses, and Brixton Village…where does one begin? You only have to look at this infographic which has been doing the rounds on the t’interwebs.

London’s hipster neighbourhoods

I love the wave of Brixton Village restaurants which have ingeniously captured the gastronomic imaginations of this big city; quick, street-side food which relies on simple well-thought out ingredients. It’s not expensive, and great food is accessible to all. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes its bloody¬†marvelous¬†to eat in a place which you’ve been able to book, and where you can sit down on a chair (as opposed to an old beer crate). But it is not that cool is it? Normally one has to go to Clapham for that sort of thing (chairs).

I also found myself heading back to Battersea for a decent curry. You know, like a proper curry. There didn’t seem to be anywhere in Brixton which would fit the bill, everything is – you know – ¬†a bit trendy. Heading up Brixton Hill though there is Curry Paradise. It has such a terrible name that I’d forgive you for not even registering it as a place to eat in Brixton, but perhaps that is something we can address in this blogpost?

Curry Paradise sits on Brixton Hill just below the¬†monstrosity that is the South Beach Bar…yeah you know the building! It’s very pleasant inside (Curry Paradise – I’ve never been in the bar – the BOGOF offer on rose¬†wine bottles has not drawn me in, yet). There’s no neon lighting, and I’d go so far to say that although it’s quite contemporary it’s reasonably cozy.

Our waiter was diligent and blooming friendly – two thumbs up for service. Let’s not beat around the bush; Curry Paradise has everything on the menu that you’d expect from a curry house. I ordered a king prawn channa (medium, mixed spice dish with chickpeas). It never claimed to be super hot (how I eat my curries) so I had to ask for a few fresh chilies on the side, but that’s by the by. This was the second¬†occasion¬†that I had been to the restaurant. The first time was unexpectedly delicious (What! I can get a decent curry in Brixton? ). ¬†This time round I’d say my dish was too oily, which was a bit of a shame as I hadn’t remembered my previous dish being like that. The other complaint I had was that they didn’t include whole king prawns in the dish; they had been halved. I think it is always wise the err on the generous side in curries, don’t you? The ingredients were however very fresh – spices can’t always hide a multitude of sins. Yeah, I’m looking at you Brick Lane.

The Welshman’s lamb pasanda (leave him alone, he can’t take the heat) however, was very flavoursome, and the¬†creaminess¬†was nicely counterbalanced with some piquancy.

I never order rice with curry, and a decent naan for me can make or break the night. Curry Paradise’s naans are very soft, spongy and I know it’s a ridiculous think to say – quite bread like. They don’t top the scale as the best peshwari naans I’ve ever had, but they weren’t too sweet and were buttery and moreish.

Take Curry Paradise as you will. If you fancy a reasonable quality curry that delivers (in more than the literal sense), then it will leave you feeling more than satisfied as long as you are not expecting anything fancy. The ingredients are wholesome and there are even chairs too!

PS. No photos. Not even Instagram can make a curry look that desirable (it was too dark)!

Curry Paradise on Urbanspoon