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.

Carioca-brixton-4

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?

Carioca-brixton-5

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.

Carioca-brixton-1

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.

Carioca-brixton-3

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

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.

SW18 – Wandsworth – Queen Adelaide

I love old fashioned, scruffy pubs. They can have dirt and grime on the chairs, as many tatty beer mats and wine stains on the tables as their surface area permits, and at least one corner which is occupied by a (working) neon fruit machine. I’ll still love it. There was a phase in the early 90s where these bastions of culture were turned into ‘gastropubs’. Their original décor was stripped out, floorboards and walls were painted the most yawn-ful shade of magnolia, and any sort of gamification was replaced by a touch-screen version of Deal or No Deal.

Thankfully gastropubs have moved on considerably since then and the Queen Adelaide is refreshing, even in 2014. It’s cosy as you walk in – comfy chairs, roaring fires, scatter cushions and tartan upholstery. It’s not twee in the slightest before you jump to conclusions. The menu is clean and interesting. It doesn’t raise too many surprises in terms of the variation of dishes it serves – in the sense that you could go elsewhere for something similar, but the chef makes an effort to veer from sticking to the tried-and-tested mainstream versions of these dishes.

To start, I enjoyed a broad bean and goat’s curd, truffle on sourdough toast. The green in my photograph (although slightly grainy, apologies) shows – for those of you who cook your veg al dente – that they were tender and exactly cooked. Only aspect of note was that broad beans are in themselves quite floury and goats’ curd is creamy – the two need to be evened out, in my opinion, with something more acerbic.

Starter of broad beans, goats curd, watercress and truffle

Starter of broad beans, goats curd, watercress and truffle

My guest, The Welshman, enjoyed a platter of Suffolk fennel salami, chorizo, olives and sourdough toast.  Simple. Did. The. Job.

Charcuterie starter

Charcuterie starter

I ordered a main of steamed mussels, coconut, lemon grass and chilli broth. The mussels were steamed for a matter of seconds, all opened, it was garnished with aesthetically-pleasing micro herbs – yes! I wish the sauce who have lived up to to great quality ingredients. Woah, too salty. A little taste by the chef would have gone a long way. I pointed this out to our waiter, so I do hope the message was relayed.

Mussels, coconut, chilli and lemongrass

Mussels, coconut, chilli and lemongrass

Our  other main was a home made chicken Kiev with celeriac and truffle mash, summer greens and smoked bacon.  Ah, the pain of cooking chicken breast; ever so tasty but the meat was slightly dry.

Homemade chicken kiev

Homemade chicken kiev

The Queen Adelaide is a gorgeous-looking pub, between Wandsworth and Putney, selecting well-known dishes which are thought out and are that one step above what you might expect from your average Young’s pub. Although I haven’t sampled their Sunday dinner, if you’re part of the Sunday Lunch crew, it might be worth a visit –  it really is a nice place. There’s plenty of space and in the summer, there’s a large conservatory space and outdoor eating area. You know, I so wish my sauce hadn’t been so salty – I might have sung The Queen’s praises some more – but you know what – I’d like to go back. That says enough, right?

SW2 Brixton – Boqueria Tapas – Restaurant review

The 101 of writing is that you always start with something to captivate your reader. I tell this to people I’ve taught to write in the past. As we all know, every good teacher lies and breaks their own rules. Every good teacher also however, works long hour days and becomes fatigued with time. So, I trust you are in a captivate-able mood and allow me to bewitch you with my review, as the title of this post suggests, of Boqueria Tapas on Acre Lane in Brixton.

Pan con ali-oli, as you great linguaphile Brits will know, is garlic mayonnaise. Except it wasn’t garlicly enough at Boqueria Tapas, there was very little flavour – even the olive oil flavour didn’t shine. I needed a bit more *hmm*. My compañera and I couldn’t find the right adjective, but we decided if there was an adjective that sounded like a growl, then that’s what the ali-oli needed. More growl please.

Pan con ali-oli

Pan con ali-oli

When the Calamares a la romana (deep fried squid and lemon mayonnaise) arrived, we’d almost forgotten that we’d ordered it. We were still picking at the small plates on our table anyway, so it didn’t matter too much that it had come with a substantial ‘interlude’ between the first set of tapas that had been served. Not to worry, we tucked in. The squid itself was hot and freshly cooked as it should be; tender and nothing like the Michelin-tough cephalopods I’ve had in bygone times. And by Michelin I’m referring to the rubber tyres. So far so good. There were a few little things however, the batter was a bit thin and something was lacking. When I bite into crispy fried calamari I want to jump for joy, and I just couldn’t seem to find the jump in this particular dish. I enjoyed the lemon mayonnaise dip though.

Calamares

Calamares a la romana

Alcachofas salteadas con ajo, perjil y guindilla was a very, very delicious dish. It probably looks the least appealing from all the pictures I have taken, but these sautéed artichokes (served warm) with garlic, parsley and chilli were really fresh and simple. I was struck actually, at how infrequently I eat non-tinned artichokes, so much so that my brain was already expecting the vinegary sour aftermath. It didn’t materialise which made me have second thoughts: “what have I just eaten”? I almost had to do the palate equivalent of a double take. They were a lovely surprise.

Alcachofas salteadas con ajo, perjil y guindilla

Alcachofas salteadas con ajo, perjil y guindilla

The next dish was tortilla española. Could we have chosen anything less adventurous? Probably not. The Welshman sneered at me when I told him that we’d ordered it. But it’s like I said in my last post when I reviewed Amirah’s Kitchen in Wandsworth, you’ve got to check that the establishment is A. capable of the basics, and B. put through their paces. I also need to stop apologising on this blog for what I order. It’s my food and I’m darn well going to eat it.

Tortilla espanola

Tortilla espanola

As the side of my fork pressed into the golden slice of egg, potato and onion, the tortilla crumbled into fluffy semi-aggregated chunks. It was a beautiful, delicate texture and I heaped the morsels into a stable triangle on my fork – like you do when you’re trying to savour every bit of sponge remaining on your plate, long after you’ve finished your allotted portion of cake. The onion, potato, eggs – yes – all the flavours came through and lived up to the very moment I’d pushed through the bronzed top of the tortilla. But hang on a second. What is that? Sweetness. Yes, really sweet! It was not like the sweetness of carbohydrate that finds its origins in a potato. Like caster sugar sweet. This was not good. I hardly ate any more after that, save for the time when I needed a second confirmation on the true seasoning of this dish.

What happened? Had the chef put sugar in instead of salt? It certainly tasted that way. Oh dear.

Patatas bravas were less disappointing. Lovely, perfectly-seasoned potatoes with a millimetre-thin crisp coating were served piping hot.  Naturally they were topped with a piquant tomato sauce (could’ve been a dab more piquant for my taste buds, but then I have an asbestos tolerance to chilli), and ali-oli. Weirdly this ali-oli had the ‘growl’ my companion and I had lamented earlier in the evening.

Patatas bravas

Patatas bravas

Selección de quesos – it’s no surprise I almost forgot to write about the selection of cheeses. They arrived very late indeed. All our plates, cutlery and empty vessels had been cleared. It was a bit odd. Again, my companion and I had forgotten about this dish – tapas is a very distracting meal and we were getting quite full.

Spanish cheese selection

Spanish cheese selection

I asked the waiter if he could provide an description of each of the cheeses. He did. It was vague. “This is manchego. This is goat’s cheese.”

“And what is this one please?” I enquired.

“That is blue cheese.”

Revelatory. I can see that. After he had left, my companion and I looked at each other in the eye, sighed, and then laughed out of bewilderment.

Boqueria Tapas is doing some things very well. There’s freshly prepared ingredients – as we saw with the artichokes and patatas bravas – being executed with a degree of authority. Then we see a few inconsistencies or some attention to detail which is missing – such as the calamari, and the ali-oli (I really did want to jump for that calamari, but I just couldn’t).

Then of course there are the points that I don’t want to have to dwell on, nor skip on the basis of fairness. Sweet tortilla, no thanks. Blue cheese? I know that.

The venue itself was refreshing – a little cold – but so much bigger and more contemporary than I expected; there’s a huge area downstairs which caters for parties and a day cafe annexed next door. But going big is ambitious; they need to make sure they find their growl to fill it.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

I was a guest at Boqueria Tapas.

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SW11 Battersea – Sambrook’s Ale – Brewery Bash

I’m sure you’ve made the joke in your head already. A party? In a brewery? With beer? Well, yes, we all made that joke yesterday. Even the Welshman did – and he’s not known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Beer barrels – disappointingly not made of wood

Although I can feel the wind turning September ever more wintery, yesterday was a cracker of a day – sunshine with the need for a scarf. My favourite kind of weather. Hay bales and the smell of Ginger Pig sausages on the barbecue greeted the real ale fans (some of whom I have encountered before) who came to celebrate Sambrook’s successes, and four-year birthday celebrations.

Sambrooks Brewery Bash

Hay bales and a hoedown!

The usual favourites were on tap; Wandle, Junction, and Powerhouse Porter. Tokens could also be exchanged for the new (ish) Lavender Hill pale ale which was overly drinkable, infused with honey and had notes of orange blossom. Pumphouse Pale Ale was also a winner in my book (glass).

If I wasn’t in drinking an industrial estate in south London, I would have thought I was getting merry at a hoedown in Somerset. A live band on the back of a lorry played jigged up versions of pop tunes that made you want to squeal – yee haaw!

Thought I’d share some of the snaps with you.

A man proffering sausages

Legal tender at the brewery

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Hywel fawr jet stream

There are lots of things which make me happy. Is it the smell of home made bread in an oven warmed kitchen? Is it playing an unnecessarily long-winded game of Uno with the kids? Or is it getting them involved in the kitchen with food colouring and a sponge mix, whiling away a few hours to make this?

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

Perhaps is it sitting out in the evening sunshine, with a barbecue on the go, and a cold beer in hand?

That one ranks pretty highly actually.

All of those things which make me happy happened this weekend. Yeah, although I sometimes like to give the Welshman a bashing in my blogs, a long weekend away in the Brecon Beacons is one of the few perks I get from going out with someone whose balance oft becomes a daily liability, and whose sense of humour can be childishly inane.

Having lived in Cardiff, I know that Welsh weather can be tremendously shit. I’ll take this weekend’s glorious sunshine as a small life win and I’ll lift up my chilled Peroni and bid adieu to the jet stream which has festered around us for weeks like a bad smell.

My trip to Mid South Wales has given me a bit of blog fodder; it has made me want to write about working hard and what you can achieve from scratch with drive and talent. I wanted to write this post because although I am effectively giving a plug to the Welshman’s ma,  she is also a mighty fine baker and cook who has worked astonishingly hard to get her business to where it is today. Regardless of my connection with her, she deserves the recognition in this small humble blogpost (trust me, if she wanted to promote herself she could – she’s got an audience of several thousand Twitter followers). In the beginning she just made bread and cakes for friends, and with word being spread as quickly as the jam that buttered them, she quickly gained a reputation for melt-in-the-mouth Welsh cakes, flapjacks, juicy pork-filled sausage rolls, in addition to so many other things. Then the business started expanding, and for a while she catered for a local society, stood outside Crickhowell Market every Saturday come rain or rain (remember this is Wales), and catered for well-attended local events.

Then came Welsh Cakes Online. It does what it says on the tin, but you’ll have never had a Welsh cake like hers before, I can guarantee.

Deb’s Kitchen opened in March. Initially she’d wanted it to be just that, a kitchen shop; a place where you could pick up a light bite to take away and have a browse at kitchen utensils and equipment made by local traders. A few enquiries for a fresh coffee with their sausage roll, and a a couple of patio chairs later, Deb’s Kitchen is fast becoming the honey pot cafe of Crickhowell.

Deb’s business started off from home; long hours spent quite literally over a hot stove, 4am starts, midnight finishes. It all started in her home kitchen. Despite all the hard work that has, and still does go on, I love coming here. There’s fresh eggs from the chickens and in the corner and you can guarantee there’s leftovers waiting to be picked at on the family-sized table. The shelves alternate between clear glass containers of sultanas, dried coconut, demerara sugar, and family photos. Pots and pans hang from the ceiling; everything has its own space and is tightly packed in – I dare you to remove something – it’s like kitchen Jenga that Debs has perfected.

Free range eggs

Free range eggs

Country kitchen (with the cricket playing in the background, naturally)

Whenever I leave Wales I get an irrepressible urge to cook more at home, be more experimental, and just generally make more of an effort. Working can quite quickly shake that sort of idealism out of you. However, I do appreciate the time spent in here to give me that kick up the backside every three months. And let’s not forget, when you see a view like this for the past four days, with a cold beer in one hand, there’s no finer way to recharge.

A view from the Breacon Beacons

A view from the Breacon Beacons

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

My food week in pictures – Seafood and eat it, but watch for the whelks

My weekly post ‘my food week in pictures’ comes to you not on a Sunday night, as I normally would have planned, but on a Tuesday. Sundays are the best  time to cook up a decent carby dinner, and before you start to get that digestive-dozy feeling, I find that the 45 minutes after you’ve eaten is an excellent time to bosh out a blogpost. Unfortunately I decided to drown my sorrows after England’s defeat to Wales in the Six Nations on Saturday night, and as a result, Sunday was a write-off. I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t eat. Frankly, I couldn’t even talk.

As a result, my photographic record of food and culinary adventures is pretty sparse – but the ones I do have, are as colourful as you could wish for, and more ecologically diverse than your average rock pool. Take a look:

Plateau Impérial at Le Bouchon Battersea

Plateau Impérial at Le Bouchon Battersea

Plateau Impérial at Le Bouchon Battersea

The Welshman and I seized a deal on the Telegraph Selected website for the Plateau Impérial at Le Bouchon on Battersea Rise. Full price, it is not something I would shell out (ho ho ho) for, but considering we paid a smidge under £20 a head, it definitely wasn’t bad value.

Included on our industrial platter were cockles, prawns, oysters, mussels, whole Devon crab and half a native lobster. They were served with either lemon, homemade aioli, or a red wine vinaigrette. All was fresh which made for a brilliantly messy lunch (I had bits of mollusc everywhere).  However, there was one item on the plate which I can barely bring myself to write…

Whelk.

There, said it.

Can anyone explain to me why in the devil someone would want to eat that? I am not a fussy eater. I am willing to try anything once, and generally, I’m offended by not a lot. The whe…gastropod which cannot be named is disgusting. Even having them on my plate made me feel like I was a guest on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Just, no.

Fingers crossed I will be as right as rain tomorrow, continuing to gorge into all the foodie delights south west London brings us, save for the whelks.

SW9 Brixton – Franco Manca – Restaurant review

There are rules to a dinner party. You don’t talk about politics or religion. It’s just not the done thing. Arguments do not make for a pleasant and sophisticated night, which is what most of the middle classes expect from such an occasion.

But when blogging, are there any rules? What is the protocol for new bloggers such as myself? Neither politics nor religion will touch the lips of the SW Food Blog, rest assured. But are there any restaurants which I cannot review? Are there any food establishments which are sacrosanct, save for a couple of notorious food critics, which grace the pages of the most well-established broad sheets?

Pizza is contentious. It’s contentious among the Italians. So when a pizza joint pops up claiming to be ‘the real deal’, that’s exactly what we foodie Brits expect: and nothing less. Once a pizza restaurant has been heralded as such, it’s difficult for people to eat there objectively, or at least being able to express their true thoughts without causing a commotion (see the comments which followed Mama Lan’s TimeOut review).

This was my thought train when the Welshman suggested I review the famed Franco Manca in Brixton Market. Its sourdough pizza bases are known throughout London to be the most moist and textured. I was frightened of reviewing it; I’ve had delicious pizza in Battersea when I lived there previously – Pizza Metro and Donna Magherita – and I admit, it was going to be a challenge for Franco Manca to match them.

In order to escape the wrath of my impatience (I hear the queues are long) the Welshman and the Scouser and I arrived at Brixton Market around 11.45am (it opens at 11.30am). Apart from one family who had just sat down, we were alone.

I am a creature of habit, and for me, anything which has anchovies has its own gravitational pull. I am helpless to the universal forces that be. I chose the Number Five; anchovies, capers, olives, oregano and mozzarella. If I was going to be clichéd, this is like my equivalent of an orgasm on sourdough.

The Number Five at Franco Manca

My Scouse comrade chose the same thing, while the Welshman seized his chance to eat pork in my company, selecting the home-cured Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, and wild mushrooms.

The Number Four at Franco Manca

One has to tear the inch-worth of sourdough crust, which can barely be described as a crust, in order to get to the topping. Nibbling is a precursor to the main event. The sourdough, while never crunchy, has a toughened layer which sinks and then rips like a leathery skin when you bite into it. The centre is moist and doughy.

Now I’m into the middle. The sauce is light. This is good. I’ve had pizzas where there has been way too much reduction and way too much garlic, but this is not one of them. I must admit, I’m a bit perplexed by the inclusion of what looks to be Kalamata olives, but I’m certainly not put off. The quality of the mozzarella is superior to what I’ve had on top of a pizza before, and there are sufficient ingredients to avoid making the Number Five look like a barren circular wilderness of dough. The centre of the pizza is thin, which results in a wetted and top-heavy pointed corner of cheese that I have to scoop into my mouth quickly like a Neanderthal.

As the pizza disappears before my eyes my white plate is left with a carbonised smear – a good sign of stone-baked dough.

By the time we had finished, shortly after 12.30pm, the queue had started to snake out of the main entrance to the market. What you must understand about Franco Manca is that it is street dining. It is not a place to while away a Saturday afternoon, especially when the snake of people start staring at you, willing you to move on (we’ve all done it).

I will lend my voice of support to Franco Manca, I enjoyed it. However, it only just pips my favourite Battersea pizza haunt… by a smidge. I think it was the toppings that done it; definitely more flavoursome and better quality than I’ve experienced previously.

Anyway I’m struggling to finish this post in a witty or cheesy way, so all I am going to say is, bring on the Pizza Off: Franco Manco vs. Donna Margerita / Pizza Metro.

Only a review of the latter will truly settle this debate, unless you have your own thoughts?

 

 

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