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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My food week in pictures – £5 for 5lbs – A lot of food

I will give you £5 if I’ve not put on five pounds this week. This week’s gastronomical extravaganza will be difficult to surpass.

Monday was the day of the trout; fresh from Brixton Village market, I left it whole and steamed it with ginger, garlic, bonnet chillis, spring onions and a dash of soy and lime zest. It wasn’t rainbow trout, but you can see from the spectrum of spices and colours, it might as well have been named as such.

Fresh trout, lime, soy, ginger, garlic, chilli

Although I have no pictures to show for it, I reviewed The BreadRoom in Brixton on Tuesday – check it out if you fancy a cheap lunch.

Wednesday heralded the mid-week beer (I’m trademarking that phrase), in celebration of my friend’s birthday. We may have enjoyed food from the voucher-friendly All Bar One (which I will not be reviewing), but the festivities were not complete without a quartet of cakes from the one and only vegan-friendly Ms Cupcake.

Chocolate chip

Saturday was a treat. Beating the queues at 11.30am, the Welshman and the Scouser and I sampled, what for pizza aficionados can be best be described as Mecca.  Franco Manca in Brixton Market has a reputation for its glorious sourdough bases. It has, whether you agree or disagree, been crowned as one of the best pizza joints in London. I made notes. There will be a review. Watch this space.

The number 5 at Franco Manca

On what was a very windy day post-pizza, our trio left Franco Manca and headed to the vintage market which had set up shop on Station Road. Catching my eye and nose, was not the rustle of a musty mink vintage fur coat*, but the fragrant waft of roasting coffee. This traditional Ethiopian coffee vendor, who I am assured comes down to the road opposite the Rec every Saturday, roasts whole Arabica beans in a small tin handled pot, before grinding them and brewing them in a beautiful Jebana (long necked coffee jug). You’re poured a lovely little cup; the actual coffee is thick and grainy with a comforting amount of  astringency (when unsweetened). There’s also a large reed basket full of popcorn to snack on while you sup. Please visit – it’s a real treat.

Ethiopian coffee

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better, the Sunday comfort club (me) decided to cook up, not a roast, but a hearty wholegrain smoked salmon tetrazzini (spaghetti bake) with lightly smoked salmon, cream, chestnut mushrooms with a parmegiana topping.

Smoked salmon tetrazzini with mushrooms, cream, and a parmigiana topping

Happy Sunday!

*I don’t wear fur. Please don’t e-attack me!

SW9 Brixton – The BreadRoom – Restaurant review

Homemade soup and artisan bread for £3? I can spend £3 in a Sainsbury’s Local on their not-so-appealing meal deals and come away hungrier than a pre-metamorphosing caterpillar. But this rare value is what attracted me to The BreadRoom cafe in Brixton Market; I could eat out for lunch at a very reasonably rate. In fact, I was pretty stuffed, but even if you wanted something more carbohydrate based, you’d still receive change from your fiver with one of The BreadRoom’s sandwiches.

At only £4 a sandwich, the list of fillings do not have the diversity of say, Rosie’s Deli Cafe, but gracing the menu are still the stalwart favourites; mozarella and pesto, parma ham, chicken, and cheddar slabs. Limited some might say, and perhaps a bit economical with the frills, but you’d have to be a bit fussy if your tastes were not accommodated. Quiche of the day and a salad also only came to £4, and on the saccharine front, cakes, pastries and baked goods sat out on the front bench waiting to be plucked like ripe fruit.

My soup was broccoli and coriander. Yes, broccoli and coriander. An alarming green colour (although I guess if it was supposed to be carrot and coriander, then I’d be slightly more alarmed), but definitely homemade nonetheless. Broccoli and coriander’s ring on the ears does not have quite the same familiarity as perhaps its aforementioned rooted cousin. Sometimes there is an ultimate, but not completely unavoidable tendency, to overcook any and every vegetable which finds its way into soup. You’ll know when broccoli is overcooked, it adopts like its fellow brassicas, a distinctive odour. The broccoli inhabiting my soup, was forgiveable, but not technically immune from this faint scent.

I ate it all which, considering the generous portion size, was a reasonable challenge; it was a wholesome and hearty dish most appropriate for a cold, hungry day. It was also quite thick; a little runnier would have dribbled down a bit better on my palate, but that’s personal taste. Another time and on a non-broccoli flavoured day, I’d come again. It’s nigh on impossible to get a fulfilling lunch for under a fiver in London. My accompanying bread was well toasted (and by that I do not mean burnt, just a little too dry; the doughy-ness beyond the external toasted crust had become a little dessicated).

The BreadRoom is a small and cosy affair which felt somewhat awkward when all the seats were full. I was afraid I was going to fling my spoon high into the air and straight onto the lap of my – very – proximal neighbour. It’s also the kind of place where personal noises are not welcome; that is probably the advice I’d give to my – very – proximal neighbour. Still, it was comfortable when the noisy diners left, and the generic lift music took a siesta.

I was impressed with their veritable selection of loose-leaf teas – there was not an imprisoned tea leaf in sight – and a fine selection including Moroccan mint, green tea and jasmine, and rooibos, among more traditional blends.

BreadRoom by name, and bread room by nature; all of their doughy offerings are baked with Shipton Mill Organic Flour – I assume this means it is good? Apparently the baker also creates his own sourdough liquid for  a selection of the breads which are available to purchase as individual loaves.

The BreadRoom is a cafe which doesn’t convey quite the right atmosphere to make you want to linger for a long lunch. It misses the personal touch. From the matching barstools to the god-awful tables, there’s a sense of ‘eat lunch and be done’. However, I was full, and full of homemade value-for money soup, which ensured my Scottish tight-waddedness didn’t not rear its ugly head. And with that I was happy.

SW9 Brixton – Rosie’s Deli Cafe – Restaurant Review

London is a lonely place.

Perhaps I should clarify that; OK, north London is a lonely place; maybe it’s because the number of people I know above the Thames is a relative quantity – rather like the amount of shrimp you get in a £1 Tesco prawn sandwich – relatively nothing. London is labelled as a lonely place, but you don’t have to let it be, especially south of the Thames. As I sit here, in south London, in the Borough of Lambeth, in Brixton, in Market Row, in Rosie’s Deli Café, I feel that essentially I am not alone (she says, eating her solitary lunch). My point is, I could strike up a conversation with the guy on his day off, reading the 900-page novel sat opposite me. I could start talking to the girl wearing the snood typing on her laptop to my left, or even the guy wrestling noisily with a chair, whose padded cushioning won’t quite sit straight. Why don’t I talk to them? Well, that’s because I’m furiously typing away at this review. My point is, we all have something in common, and that is, we are sat in Rosie’s Deli Café.

Writing a review of a café probably shouldn’t start like this. Nor should it start if you’ve had nothing to eat all day, save a Burger King coffee (one of those powdered all-in-one jobbies), partnered with a client meeting where all we did was discuss flatbread and tandoor cooking – delicious – but not helpful.

It’s 12.59pm. I’m hungry.

On the chalk-board menu which stands out on the pre-school grass-green wall, is an array of sandwiches – all of which tempt me like a vulture hovering over a zebra carcass (note to self: less carrion-based meat metaphors in restaurant reviews). A mackerel pate and tomato sandwich catches my eye, as does the Capocollo and aubergine ‘generous salad’ (I’m not suggesting it isn’t generous: Rosie’s words, not mine); but then the hummus and antipasti will definitely float my boat. I vote for a goat’s cheese and onion marmalade ciabatta. I fear the standard bread sandwich, as opposed to the ciabatta: not because I think it won’t sate my hunger, but because very often their breaded partitioning almost certainly consists of crap bread. But as I move seats to make way for a mamma and baby, I face the prep area and a bouncy, brown, and flour dusted loaf sits alongside its partner-in-crime knife. I needn’t have worried.

My ciabatta arrives, warm. It’s well toasted but with a great deal of give as I bite in. The layer of bread which borders the filling is really moist, and much welcomed, as goat’s cheese can occasionally have that dryness, which only a pastey cheese can have. The cheese is sour and soft – and strong, but the marmalade, as you’d expect, sweetens the blow – but can I say, it’s not too sweet. Many an onion marmalade has befallen these crimes. In fact, I’d go as far to say it could do with a thicker layer but maybe that’s just me. Spinach adds the crunch – thank god it’s not rocket – bit of a pet peeve of mine. Why sandwich vendors feel they can add £1.50 to the shittest sandwich on earth because it has rocket, disgusts me. While we’re on peeves, why do people insist on serving things on top of napkins on their plates? The napkin goes on my knee, not underneath my food. Rosie was guilty of this, but I’ll let it go. If anyone can enlighten me, I’ll happily redact the above sentence.

People drop in and out, there’s a takeaway option, a mixed clientele, old, young, fat, thin. I saw them all. You’d be welcome here. It’s a homely-looking place – rather like a room-sized version of somebody’s pantry; there are tins and jars, cardboard boxes, and crockery. The hotchpotch chairs remind me of year eight in art class, and a token library of foodie books and classics looks like a book exchange (I don’t think they are, so don’t take them because I said that). I feel like I’m in someone’s house.

I want to order more, but I’m not going to. I’ll save it for another time – I want to come back here. It’s somewhere that I’d like to support, not that it needs it; it’s busy, and Rosie seems to have made this part of London, her part of London, a much smaller place.

And they play Joan Armatrading.

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