Thursday, 30 May 2013

pied a terre, fitzrovia - review

I’m the first to recognise the benefits of a bit of forward planning and there are few times I exercise this gentle nod towards my mildly controlling nature more than when it involves the consumption of food. 

If I’m visiting a new city, it is necessary for me to conduct prior research in order to establish the best eateries in the area and for the best value. If I’m visiting a new restaurant, I must peruse the online menu for some pre-dining salivation and decide ahead what I’ll be ordering (heaven forbid they don’t have a website or I’m presented with a different menu at the table). If I’m going food shopping, I simply must enter with a list or else I’ll have to invention-test the week's dinners from jumbo roasted corn kernels and Caerphilly, and not much else. 

roasted filled of pollock with glazed baby artichokes,
wild asparagus, mushroom cream and tarragon orzo
I have welcomingly had this week off work and I already knew that tonight myself and a couple of friends would end up at the London Cocktail Club on Goodge St. for some school-night merriment stretching into the wee hours (none of us had work the next day) – the great cocktails, dance-like-no-one-is-watching music from our yesteryears and fabulous staff make it our favourite haunt. 

What we desired was an afternoon occupied by a long lunch consisting of equal parts exceptional solids and posh fizz as a pre-cursor to rolling ourselves over to the LCC in time for Happy Hour. And what better placed restaurant to help execute such an intricate plan than the one Michelin starred Pied a Terre on Charlotte Street strategically placed, quite literally, around the corner. I do love it when a plan comes together.
Boasting a lunch time deal that is reputedly ‘the
 best value Michelin star menu in London’ conjured up by Head Chef Marcus Eaves and his team, the term ‘pied a terre’ is given by the French to a small second home in the city – if the welcome, service and our leisurely and extended stay was anything to go by, it certainly lived true to its name. 

My companions and I were seated at a corner table towards the rear of the restaurant in a dining area noticeably occupied mostly by men in suits on business lunches talking about closing deals. After some initial confusion on the waiter’s part with our order for a bottle of the Prosecco (which went something along the lines of ‘a bottle of Prosecco please’, ‘a glass?‘, ‘no a bottle of Prosecco’, ‘we only do champagne by the glass’, ‘no we’d like a whole bottle of Prosecco, not champagne’), we were presented with some very fine tasting bubbles and I’m not even the world’s greatest fan of white grapes. 

To amuse the bouche our table was quickly furnished with quite exceptional fresh and warm bread (a particular favourite being the pillowy form of the walnut and pecan with a crisp and flavoursome exterior showcasing bread making skills to be applauded) and the creamy texture and mild flavour from what I think were Sicilian nocellara olives tossed in lemon. In addition, we were presented with hot potato and leek croquettes with truffle and a pretty scallop tempura served in a bowl I wanted to pilfer.

scallop tempura
potato and leek croquettes with truffle

wonderful bread

The tasting of rabbit starter had an overriding flavour of earthiness and included our furry nympho friend presented encased in a delicate ravioli, in the form of a ballotine I believe, and also with half a kidney thrown into the delivery. Whilst conservative in its offering, the plate was quite lovely on the palate an
d the frequent returns of the warm breads were welcomed and necessary to mop the white asparagus velouté. Unable to stomach the thought of consuming a flop-eared Disney extra, my companions decided upon the chestnut and juniper gnocchi; smooth in texture and seared in a pan for a crisper outer finish, this was served with mushrooms, quite beautiful marbled shavings of spring truffle, green beans, a mushroom vinaigrette and an arrangement of wild garlic flowers.

a tasting of rabbit with wild garlic, pommery mustard,
grelot onion and white asparagus velouté

chestnut and juniper gnocchi with saint george mushrooms,
spring truffle, green beans and mushroom vinaigrette

For mains, the roasted fillet of pollock was topped with a crisp crown of very good colour with equal taste and served with glazed baby artichokes, delicate and fine wild asparagus, a frothy mushroom cream and tarragon orzo – its vibrant and airy presentation singing all the right notes of spring. 

I had selected the pork cheeks with a form of state that seemed as though the very molecules themselves were breaking down under the slightest pressure from the cutlery - meat that was delightfully falling away from itself and rich in the intense flavour characteristic of a long and low heat treatment. To accompany the cheeks was a quenelle of polenta with a smoothness of consistency I can only imagine is akin to eating spun silk and a basil jus which when poured neatly hugged around every individual item resulting in the plate just needing a frame to finish off the picture.

slow-cooked pork cheeks with courgettes, sweet garlic,
soft polenta, confit garlic and basil jus

After plates were cleared, our trou normand was a mango sorbet topped with nuggets of dried yoghurt, nestled beside a coconut foam dressed with more nuggets in the form of concentrated dried passion fruit, and finished with a sprig of Thai basil – a perfect combination to cleanse the palate. 

All three of us selected the same dessert from the du jour menu – a hazelnut praline mousse and Pedro Ximenez jelly, but we each requested the salted peanut ice cream from the a la carte menu instead of the rum and raisin as suggested. The waiter jovially joked that he had to dodge an incoming black eye when relaying our requests to the chef, but that they had been granted. The flavour of the dish was good with the addition of aniseed globules decorating the plate but the texture of the mousse and jelly was less appealing – a little rubbery and difficult to separate bite-fulls with the spoon.

mango sorbet and coconut foam

hazelnut praline mousse with salted peanut ice cream,
pedro ximenez jelly

We’d been darting glances of food envy across adjacent tables when we noticed small hot balls of sugar coated doughnuts delivered towards the end of diners meals and believed we had missed out on this petit fours, assuming it was a perk of the a la carte menu. 

But praise to the powers that be, we were not only delivered these soft and warm balls of bliss, but also each received a trio of more petit fours – mango jelly, a miniature lemon tartelette with chiffon thin crisp pastry and a blow-torched top, and a piece of smooth tongue-coating white chocolate fudge. And the sweet treats didn’t stop there – in addition to our toy patisserie spread we were also treated to dark chocolate marbles filled with coconut ice cream. Like the familiar Italian chocolatier, they were really spoiling us.

petit fours
lots of warm doughnuts
Spoiling us not just with the delights on offer, but also with the service we received from the maître d' and our waiter. We were repeatedly assured to take our time and enjoy ourselves despite the venue emptying as the end of the lunch sitting drew closer. 

When the waiter noticed our eyes light up at the arrival of the much coveted doughnuts, he assured us that should we desire more he would happily request them for us. An offer against the nature of three girls who like their food to pass, and true to form they were delivered. Not only that, but another trio of the jelly, tartelette and fudge as well as top-ups of our coffee. Impressive and more over, fully appreciated. 

The expedition of the delivery of our courses was a little stalled with a noticeable expanse of time between ordering and receiving our first course. However, the front of house exercised great efforts to ensure our stomachs were not given the chance to rumble with frequent re-visits of the bread basket to our table. 

The façade and interiors of Pied a Terre are sharp yet at ease, the dining experience one of unmonitored and comfortable relaxation. The devices of our small party were left to pave the beginnings of what turned out to be a great journey that evening, with staff still demonstrating attentiveness and leaving us feeling we had received special treatment.  And a journey the evening truly was. It culminated in bumping into, and having a drink with the legend that is Monsieur Raymond Blanc. I suspect there are few finer ways of rounding off an already delightful day.

Liked lots - service, presentation, bread, bubbles, pigs cheeks, the relaxed atmosphere, petit fours, location around the corner to our favourite cocktail haunt
Liked less - dessert
Good for - business lunches, value Michelin lunch, first time Michelin experience, small groups, eating at before hitting the LCC

My rating: 4/5
Alfiyet olsun.

Pied à Terre on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

mexican chipotle chicken wings with creamed corn

We might not all be lucky enough to experience the hot-blooded culture and cuisine of Mexico first hand, but we can certainly do our bit to help bring a little Mexican sunshine into our lives and cast out the lingering grey.

This recipe was developed for the Great British Chefs website and can be found here: 

Get the coals out for National BBQ Week and perhaps give these a try this weekend, if the sun decides to put on a show.

chipotle marinade
marinade ingredients

marinating wings
 Alfiyet olsun.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

blueberry and almond smoothie

Here's a pretty good start to the day and completely divine. Great for using up berries sitting in the fridge now past their best, that you just haven't got round to using. Alternatively, put them in straight from frozen. This will be ready before you've rubbed the sleep out of your eyes. And here are some of the health benefits of blueberries, which you of course already knew: highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit - they contain 20 different antioxidants while other berries contain just three or four; neutralises free radicals; softens dry skin; reverses age related memory loss; the list goes on.

I think they're deserving of the little flared crowns they have.

Blueberry and almond smoothie

Makes just over 3 x 250ml glasses

225g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
350ml milk
2 x heaped tbsp fat free Greek yoghurt
2 x heaped tbsp ground almonds
1.5 tbsp honey
5 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender and wazz until silky smooth. Decant into glasses and drink immediately. If you let the glass sit for a while before consuming, some settling will occur so give it a quick stir before drinking.

Alfiyet olsun.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

harrington's pie and mash, tooting - review

In the heart of Tooting in South West London, amongst the throngs of great Indian and Pakistani restaurants and market stalls, nestled in the bosom of a thriving and buzzing Indian sub-continent population
, you can find a little nugget of London’s English culinary history. 

For on Selkirk Road stands the same establishment that has stood for the past 105 years and all the time remained in the hands of the same family – Harrington’s Pie & Mash shop.

As London’s pie and mash shops go, they’re a dying breed. Once the staple diet for the cockney geezer, these days they face lofty competition from the latest pop-up, new and exciting cuisines, and places that serve your drink on fire in a jam jar with a fig roll - it’s a tough old market for an establishment where both the interiors and menu have changed little in over a century. 

But there’s a lot of love for this place and for the other remaining pie and mash shops in London – the loyalty from customers who once visited with their grandparents, now grandparents themselves, gives Harrington’s a special place in people’s hearts. I suspect many of their customers would sooner keel over before eating anywhere else – there’s a lot to be said for that.

The format is as such – you order your pies (£1.50 each). One, perhaps a couple – they’re not huge. To accompany this is a standard side of mashed potato (£1.00), scooped up with a spatula and arranged on the rim of your bowl. And for lubrication, a portion of liquor (50p) – otherwise known as parsley sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not sample the jellied eels. 

Whilst it wasn’t the prettiest plate I’ve ever been served, I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t half tasty. 

Home made pies are churned out from the back throughout the trading hours, delivered to the front bar in the pie trays they were cooked in and piping hot. Filled with ground mince beef and gravy, they’re fresh and tasty. The mash was a little dry for my palette, but the parsley sauce helped loosen it up. Notice the gelatinous consistency of the liquor – it’s traditionally made from the water the eels are stewed in. Embrace it.

Harrington’s is a bit like an old dear – sure the tiles are cracked, the paint is peeling and the vinegar is served in old wine bottles with pierced screw tops. But the heart of it is still beating strong and stands steadfast as a pillar in the community, serving up tasty home made pies at low prices, feeding generations that span decades. 

While we were seated at around 5pm on a Sunday, a queue began to form leading out the front door – families ordering take-out for their tea at home; an old lady ordering what seemed to be a week’s worth of pies with jugs of liquor decanted into Tupperwear; a very fragile couple sitting and eating in a comfortable silence familiar to those who have been together for decades – I like to think they’ve come here every week since they were childhood sweethearts. The lady behind the counter knows almost everyone’s name and engages with the regulars – people feel comfortable and at ease here.

If you want a chance to live out any East End cockney fantasies and visit a slice of history frozen in time, don your flat cap and make your way to Harrington’s for a taste of London’s past that hasn’t changed in for ever, and probably never will. 

The bill

pie x 2 £3.00
mash £1.00
scoop of liquor £0.50
Total £4.50

My rating: 3/5

This review can also be found on the Your Local Guardian website.

Harringtons Pie & Mash Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, 24 May 2013

arancina, notting hill - review

It’s certainly no challenge finding somewhere in London that sells a pizza for under £8. What is a challenge however, is finding a pizza that comes at least somewhere close to the authenticity and unmistakable excellence of pizzas from Italy, and specifically Naples.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Naples, round about this time last year. I ate my way through the Amalfi coast, sampling lip-puckering lemons as big as melons from Sorrento; sucking on sweet and garlicky clams in my spaghetti vongole by the sea in Positano; drinking an espresso above the clouds at the top of Mount Vesuvius. If it’s a part of the world you haven’t yet ventured to, I strongly recommend paying it a visit for some of the best Italian food you’ll ever get your chops around. The pierce de resistance though, the plate that somehow managed to exceed the other already exceptional dishes from that trip by miles, the food that rendered Matt and I to stare at each other wide eyed in silence at first bite, dazzled and slightly confused by just how good it tasted, was the pizza we had in the city of Naples itself. A shack of an establishment fronted by a perpetual queue at every minute of every trading hour, it had simply two items on the menu – marinara and margherita, of which we ordered the latter. A plate of just four components – thin dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella and a few leaves of basil. But four components so fresh, the sauce so flavoursome with garlic and oregano, the dough so thin and crisp from the treatment it received in the wood fire oven, it was perfection in simplicity at its best. And if you want to see what the most incredible pizza in the world looks like, here it is.

pizza in Naples - other worldly

Once you’ve tasted a pizza from Naples, you will spend the rest of your life desperately trying to seek out the same experience somewhere closer to home. That, or you’ll give in to the calls of the divinely intervened dough, up sticks and move there. I bet people have done it before. Arancina has two establishments in Notting Hill and whilst it doesn’t make Naeopolitan pizzas, it serves up Sicilian pizzas; if there’s going to be anywhere in the region of Italy that has the balls to dare rival the food from Naples, Sicily is probably it. And low and behold, the pizza and the atmosphere in Arancina certainly made a decent stab at providing the next best experience to being there.

On entering, my companion Aarti and I were presented with smiling female staff and a pizza counter housing some ready made slices for those who wish to take away, along with a range of salads. We ascended up the stairs to the main seating area – a small room overlooking the main street with a few rustic wooden tables and two ladies already seated at one of them. Once we made ourselves comfortable, we soon realised the two customers already present along with the waitresses were all speaking Italian. And then another two diners entered, also conversing in Italian. As I’ve said many times before, if you find natives in a restaurant, you know  there’s a good chance it’s going to be good.

If you want to order a pizza authentic to Italy, a margherita or a marinara is the only way to go. Peppers, onions, meats, sweet corn and heaven forbid pineapple (whoever came up with that as a pizza topping should be strung and quartered) are all additions to help satiate the American palette – you certainly won’t find an Italian eating pizza with fruit on. A marinara is a base topped with just a tomato sauce and oregano – no cheese. A margherita is a marinara but with the addition of mozzarella and basil. True to the Italians, Aarti and I ordered the margherita and decided to share it so we could sample some other delights on the menu whilst still keeping within the £8 per head budget. Should you wish to just order the margherita however, you would still have £1 change (£6.95).

For a pre-pizza whetting of the appetites we ordered a portion of arancine – deep fried saffron risotto balls encasing a filling of spinach and ricotta (£2.60). I was expecting a few to be delivered, but it was in fact a single large ball. We cut it in half and happily devoured – the ricotta provided a pleasant acidic tang, the filling well seasoned and the casing crisp and light. The pizza was rectangular (14” x 8”) and presented on a wooden board. The base was wonderfully thin, and the sauce was top draw with lots of garlic and oregano as it should be. There was a little too much cheese for our liking – another trait of an authentic margherita is a small amount of cheese – and it was in fact the bits of dough with no cheese present that were the tastiest, allowing the flavours from the sauce to fully shine. Perhaps a marinara would be the way to go next time. To accompany our pizza, we had a salad of roasted vegetables with chopped lettuce, sliced black olives and tomatoes. It was dressed with a tasty vinaigrette and seasoned with more dried oregano.

The search for the pizza I had in Naples somewhere in London still continues. Perhaps I’ll search forever – it may be it just can't be replicated outside of Italy and of course, the country itself in which it is eaten is a huge part of the experience. But in the meantime, Arancina certainly isn’t a bad place to begin such a search. Grab your Italian phrase-book, pay a visit and pretend you're there.

The bill

Between two:

arancine £2.60
margherita £6.95
roast vegetable salad £5.30
Total £14.85

Alfiyet olsun.

Arancina on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

dishoom, covent garden - review

The main encounters I have with Indian food involve the always excellent, authentic and homemade doggy bags Indian friends bring me; leftovers from what seem to be almost weekly occurrences of some sort of event revolving around the eventual climax of a wedding – engagement parties; pre-engagement parties, pre-wedding parties, a pre-party party (these guys know how to have a good time). Or, dining out at a good local curry house – I tend to gravitate to those catered for the Eastern palette rather than customised for the West. A good example of these are Saravana Bhavan or Lahori Karahi (the latter more Pakistani cuisine than Indian). If you find natives in a curry house, you know there’s a decent chance of it being both good and authentic as is the case with both of these.

What I haven’t really experienced is making a specific trip to a ‘proper’ Indian restaurant as opposed to a curry house. I see the differences being that the former would be a larger establishment well kitted out, centrally located rather than local, innovative dishes alongside traditional, enticing interiors, and with most if not all of their business coming from meals dined on the premises rather than take-away. Dishoom in Covent Garden certainly ticks these boxes, but it was hard to dismiss an almost glaring observation on this visit – amongst the packed out tables and ever increasing queue outdoors, it was a challenge to spot a single person of Indian heritage.

If I had stepped into a venue that hadn’t already bowled me over with some wonderful aromatics as soon as I had entered and descended down the steps into the basement bar, this observation would have set alarm bells ringing. But this place achieved just that, and along with some questionable over-Americanised but well intended greetings from a person not in waiting uniform and a cocktail quickly in my hand, I was more than ready to see if what came out of the kitchen matched the jaunty and vibrant vibes from the front of house.

My companions and I ordered what seemed to be almost every third dish from the menu – each entry read as something I wanted to consume and it was challenge to apply a filter to prevent a cry of ‘we’ll take one of everything’. But realistic we remained, and within mere minutes of ordering our table surface area soon dwindled as plate after plate was delivered.

The ‘small plates’ or starter proportions were generous, with a cereal bowl sized vessel presented to us, and actually with a component of cereal in it. It was the bhel - a sort of upmarket Bombay mix with the addition of puffed rice (just like Rice Krispies but without the sugar), seasoned with lime and mint, speckled with jewels of sweet pomegranate kernals, and a hell of a lot of ginger - never a bad thing. It was crunchy, spicy and very flavoursome. The bowl of skate cheeks (the cheeks of skate – who knew fish even had cheeks) were battered and looked like appetising chicken nuggets but with a better colour. They were accompanied by a fruity date and tamarind chutney which helped lubricate what were otherwise slightly dry bites. Okra fries were a great take on busying the fingers with the familiar form of chips but green, spiced and salty.

okra fries, bhel and skate cheeks
okra fries

From the grills we chose two meats and a vegetarian option. The paneer tikka while spiced did not lose its delicate flavour which I felt was quite impressive. It was the texture that was more so though - one that gave way to more of a crumble under pressure than previous experiences I’ve had with the cheese, quite delightful. The murgh malai consisted of chicken thigh meat seasoned with garlic, ginger and coriander – while tender and moist, the depth of spice and flavour did not quite lend itself to the expectations from the overnight marinade it had received. The lamb boti kebab however was outstanding – furry with the fibre of ginger, tender and moist, seasoned with impact from a whole host of spices – completely delicious and I could have done with a portion to myself.

paneer tikka
lamb boti kebab
murgh malai

To provide a purpose for our naans and kimono-silk thin roomali roti, a thick and creamy bowl of the house black daal was ordered – while relatively mild in its inclusion of spice, the texture was completely gorgeous and one of my favourite things on the table (after the lamb) for this reason. It reminded me a lot of refried beans and with a squeeze of lime and fresh coriander it could have been Mexican – a bigger stamp from Indian spices would have helped differentiate it more. But this did not detract at all from the pleasure it yielded. The portion of raita to help cool the table off was of generous soup proportions and my personal preference would have liked it a little more strained.

roomali roti and garlic naan

house black daal

Dishoom sells itself as a fond memory to the fast dwindling and traditional cafés of Bombay. While it’s hard for me to tell if the dishes that come out of its kitchen are true to these roots (I’ve never been to Bombay, let alone a Bombay cafe), I don’t think it really matters. Perhaps this is the reason I found too few natives within, but while the food is delicious and the staff are friendly, the restaurant will continue to be busy and I think rightly so. Don’t discount your local curry house now that Dishoom is here as there is no need to – what they provide are two quite different range of products and experiences.

It’s not possible to secure a table for less than six for dinner, but you can for breakfast and lunch reservations. I was quite eager to top the night off with some of their warm and spiced house chai, but caffeine after 3pm for me these days will render a sleepless night. All the more reason to return and perhaps try out a different time of day – I can think of few things more appealing than starting off a weekend with a buttered bun maska or two dipped into spicy hot chai. Already there.

Alfiyet olsun.

Dishoom on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Friday, 17 May 2013

food for thought - review

Whenever I see out-of-town families and couples alike seated in the window booths of a depressing Garfunkel’s, a desperate Angus Aberdeen Steakhouse or a dejected Frankie and Benny’s, all strategically situated in the tourist hotspots of London town to coax over-stimulated and disorientated visitors into their dull and uninspiring interiors by means of familiarity in both brand and menu, my being gives way to a full body shudder.

These faces often read despair – mine would too if I had just paid £10 for southern fried chicken strips slightly more moist than cardboard but with the same flavour
Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Charing Cross Road, Oxford Street are just a few of the areas littered with these and other equally vapid excuses for eateries – the footfall fodder of the culinary world. 

It is only the threat of police intervention that stops me from marching into these establishments, throwing Dad’s tough-as-old-boots steak to the ground, grabbing Mum by the shoulders in front of wide-eyed children frozen mid face-stuff with limp and greasy chips in their hands, screaming ‘But why? WHY are you here?! There are so many, SO many better places to eat than here. You’re in London - one of the culinary capitals of the world! Take a side street, venture into the realms of a new cuisine, an unfamiliar name above the door. You never know, you might ENJOY it’.

that most incredible aubergine dish

But I do understand that it must be hard to resist the calls from such establishments when you’ve been on your feet all day, the kids are hungry and whining, and you only have one hour before the show starts. 

There isn’t really time to wander round, working out where might be good or different that won’t blow the bank. This is central London after all - everything here must be expensive unless it’s a McDonald’s or Subway, right? Wrong. 

I introduce to you somewhere slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden, where you don’t need to book a table, where the food is both healthy and off the scale delicious, where they welcome BYO with no corkage charge (one for you Mums and Dads), and where you can fill your boots for under £8 per head. I present to you, Food for Thought.
inside Food for Thought

My regular London Cheap Eats companion (Aarti) suggested we try this place to see if it would make the grade in the form of a blog entry. It’s a place I’ve failed to notice or hear about before, yet after some research it turns out it’s been reviewed highly and has been established in the same location for around 40 years. I’m already excited.  

Food for Thought is an eatery where the focus is on fresh food and a friendly service – ‘simple decor of pine tables, stools and whitewashed walls, enlivened by original artwork’. It’s also located in an 18th century listed building where the low seating alcoves were once used for ripening bananas, apparently. 

The menu is vegetarian (don’t wince – this is at absolutely no detriment to any flavour let me assure you), changes daily (while the prices stay the same) and is as fresh as it gets. The format is a two floored establishment – the ground floor has a few window stools and a take-away service counter while down the stairs you’ll find the main seating area, still cosy in its proportions. 

Once the stairs have been descended, you take a look at the menu and order what you fancy, pay with cash, then take a seat. You may well end up sharing a table as you cosy on up with your neighbour, but who cares. We felt it all added to the charm and atmosphere of the place.

Both myself and Aarti ordered the same hot dish out of three options (all options £5) – it was soft baked aubergine with chunky slices of fennel, courgettes, and puy lentils, coated in a wonderful yoghurt and dill sauce, topped with large croutons intense with the flavour of olives, with melted and then hardened savoury bites of cheese. 

I can’t tell you how completely gorgeous this was – all I was reading from it was the love, effort and consideration that had been put into both the design of this dish, and its execution. I am determined to replicate it at home. And I was almost certain I didn’t even like fennel – I'm not so certain now. I would take a tube ride from Clapham Common to Covent Garden after a long day at work just to eat this aubergine dish, it was that good. 

On the day of writing this up, some of the ‘hot dishes’ options include Jamaican black bean pot in a medium spicy coconut and tomato sauce, and butter bean and asparagus primavera in a yoghurt and sour cream sauce. These both read as things I would happily devour. And don’t forget this menu changes every day – what joy.

With my aubergine dish I intended to order a couple of slices of the freshly baked bread which was mushroom and sage on the day we visited, but they had alas run out. I can only imagine it was equally superb – must get there earlier next time. Instead I ordered a bowl of brown rice (£1.20) and a portion of Greek yoghurt (30p) to accompany my main. 

Interestingly enough, the yoghurt was not charged for and the rice was only charged at £1, different to what the menu stated. I of course was not complaining. Also available on the menu is the soup of the day, quiches of the day, an array of homemade salads, a daily evening special, brownies, flapjacks, desserts and scones. And the scones are certainly something to write home about. 

My companion opted for that day’s savoury scone (£1.80) to accompany her aubergine, one with rosemary and cheese. I chose to have their other scone offering as a dessert, a fresh strawberry scone (£1.80). Both were almost the size of a side plate on their own and in particular, the latter was completely sublime. Buttery but light, not too sweet, a wonderful melt-in-the-mouth texture, and punctuated with fresh strawberries.

a quite wonderful fresh strawberry scone
Glass tumblers are continuously washed and placed on a drainer by a member of staff behind a large sink and are used for both the table water already present and any BYO that may have accompanied you

The food is served in and on quite lovely and weighty earthenware crockery.  We arrived at about 18.15 and had to hover around the ordering counter for just a handful of minutes before a couple of stools made themselves available - tables cannot be reserved. As time moved on, the seats started to empty out further, with a little flurry of clientèle just before last orders at 20.00. 

After devouring our hearty and life-affirming meals, swiftly emptying a bottle of very drinkable Beaujolais purchased from the M&S round the corner, and enjoying great conversation, my companion and I were quite far beyond the realms of mere satiety and were positively basking in the after-glow of a fantastic meal that barely brushed past our purses. The guilt of our consciences foreseeing the imminent descent into cocktails was at least slightly abated by the goodness that lined our stomachs and with bellies full, our night was yet young.

Next time you are in town for shopping, a show, seeing the sights or simply with an agenda to meander, I strongly urge you to try out Food for Thought. I have no doubts you will thoroughly enjoy it and return for more, as will I.

Liked lots - food, atmosphere, location, clientèle, staff, price, BYO, almost everything
Liked less - they had run out of incredible sounding bread - sad face :(

Good for - couples - wait for a private corner to free up, take in a bottle of wine and get cosy; spontaneity - no need to book a table; small groups; students; catching up; vegetarians and meat-eaters alike; hippies; the gut; the wallet

The bill

aubergine & yoghurt bake £5.00
brown rice £1.20 (but was charged £1.00)
fresh strawberry scone £1.80
Total £8.00*

*NB Also ordered Greek yoghurt £0.30 (but was not charged)

aubergine & yoghurt bake £5.00
rosemary and cheese scone £1.80
Total £6.80

Afiyet olsun.

Food For Thought on Urbanspoon

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