Monday, 2 May 2016

Lotus, Charing Cross Road, Restaurant review

Lotus Restaurant on Charing Cross Road has set itself the mission of bringing fine Indian dining to the West End. Taking his inspiration from the huge diversity and vastly varied culinary heritage of the Indian subcontinent, Chef Bhaskar Banerjee (the Chef and Manager of the restaurant) wants to create a fresh and luxurious experience for the diner. 

Chef Bhaskar Banerjee, who guided me through the dishes

Diners must dismiss all notions of the standard chicken tikka masala, or the other typical “curry house” dishes and get ready to embrace something more adventurous, authentic and rewarding. When presented with the menu, there were so many things I wanted to try; from home style dishes like your auntie might make for you as a child to sumptuous food fit for a Maharajah. From simple Indian street vendor dishes to time consuming, aromatic biryanis cooked in a sealed pot. Faced with a severe case of indecision, we opted for the five course taster classic menu (£59.75 each without wine, £109.50 with a paired glass of wine with each course).

Amuse bouche; Mulligatawany

This dish is primarily known in the UK as an Anglo-Indian soup which is thick and heavy, and flavoured with curry powder. By contrast, this was a light, fragrant broth, gently spiced with turmeric and coriander. Because no chilli has been used, the flavours are “spicy”, but without heat. This allows the lentils and coconut to deliver their warming and soothing flavours. To me, the soup tasted like a gentle blended sambar, and built up my anticipation for the dishes to come.


Most pappadums are made from lentil flour, hence their creamy, off-white colour. These pappadums are made in house which is uncommon, given how difficult and time consuming the process of making the dried discs ready for frying, but they are also made from rice flour, potato flour and finger millet flour. As you can see, the rice and potato pappadums are completely white and are wafer thin, crispy and exceptionally light. The finger millet is crunchy, with a satisfying texture and a discernible flavour of its own. The pappadums were served with three chutneys all made in house.  The sweet mango chutney had a lovely balance of sweet and sour. The mint, chilli and green tomato chutney packed a delightful punch of heat and herby flavours. The sweet apricot whilst delivering sugar, had a touch of masala in amongst the fruit. 

Pre –starter: Potato chaat

Potato (or aloo) chaat is an Indian street food dish which deserves to be better known in the UK. “Chaat” is a word which is often used generically to describe savoury snack foods, particularly sold by street vendors. The idea behind the dishes is that they are inexpensive, insubstantial (made of simple, light ingredients) but packed with a veritable riot of flavours; sour, salty, sweet, spicy and tangy. Often with a little dash of heat. 

Here we were treated to a superb mix of textures, ingredients and flavours; al dente chick peas, boiled potato slices, tart and tangy tamarind chutney, hot chilli, fresh coriander leaf, crunchy sev (fried lentil noodles) with a dash of strained yoghurt to cool and bring everything together. A perfect little pre-starter.

Pre –starter: Gol gappa

Small fried unleavened dough discs are fried, causing them to puff up into a brittle, crunchy little shell, making the “gol” (little balls) for this dish, also known as Puris. Gol gappa (also known as either Pani puri or Phuchka) is another street food classic, which is all about the clash of contrasting textures…and a flavour explosion which occurs in your mouth!

The very top of the Puri is tapped out, filled here with corn niblets in chaat masala (a spicy, salty spice mix) with chopped coriander leaf and very finely diced onion. (More usually the filling is cooked chick peas and boiled potato cubes). The filled shell is then topped up with Jal jeera (spicy, sour, cumin flavoured water) and the whole parcel must be immediately put into your mouth, whole. Making sure your mouth really is CLOSED, you bite down and there you have it – the big flavour explosion as the sour, tart, spicy water gives way to crispy crunchy Puri, and as you keep chewing, the corn brings sweetness and its own texture. This is then followed by a warming but humane chilli heat. An original spin on a dish which is not well known in the UK, but loved by curry aficionados. 

Starter: Rabbit keema with green peppercorns and Missi roti

A fiery little curry made of rabbit mincemeat served with a small, buttery, rich hand bread. The soft mince is contrasted by the bite in the bread. The green peppercorn and chilis combine to create both a deep and a surface heat, felt in different areas of the mouth and tongue. This dish disappeared quickly, we were enjoying it so much.

Starter: Cod cheeks, bream and tuna

A trio of fish, battered in semolina and fried, served with curry and coriander dip. The tuna is the most spiced, as the dense flesh can take the extra flavours the most. The bream is mild to allow the fish to be savoured.  My favourite was the cod cheek which was light, delicately spiced and fluffy. These cute little fish morsels are ungreasy with a good balance of batter to fish. The curry and coriander dip is a great herby foil for the bhajis. 

Starter: Duck sheekh kebab

Very meaty and generous, these kebabs were made from fiery duck meat, flavoured with ample red chilli, hot but appropriate. The rich, fatty duck can handle heat very well. Served up with a sweet and fruity sauce to mellow out the chilli heat. The side serving of delicately home pickled onion slices has a just-sour flavour which is no too vinegary. As a result, the combination of contrasting flavours and acidities gives a balanced overall effect which makes this a highly effective kebab dish, designed to be a precursor course to the mains.

Kebabs: Lamb chops and rump

Marinaded, grilled lamb chops and rump, served with garlic pickle, Indian onion and chilli salad. Two different cuts of lamb, to give a very different experience of bite, texture and flavour. Forget cutlery, the chop just has to be picked up and nibbled to fully enjoy it. The rump is softer and more delicate. The spicy yoghurt based marinade has a robust heat which pleased my taste buds but didn’t leave me with a warm glow over my face. The onion and garlic was exceptionally gently pickled, nothing like our English pickled onions (which I love), pickled enough to lose the raw harshness, but not so much that the lamb is overpowered by sour flavours. 

Lamb shank with raw papaya pickle

I think that slow cooked whole lamb shank gilded with real gold leaf is going to become the “must have” dish at Lotus. It is a true show-stopper. Inspired by the legend of the kitchens cooking for the Raja (King) of Ranpur in Odisha, Eastern India. The Ranpur Palace was, in its heyday, the epitome of Indian opulence. Now it is a damp and dilapidated shadow of its former self. But in its day, food for the Raja, his family and guests were made using real gold leaf. The principles of Ayurvedic medicine say that use of gold is to make the warriors, kings and princes strong and battle ready. Don’t worry, gold is inert, so it won’t do anything strange to your insides.

The lamb is melt in the mouth tender, cooked in a warming but mild curry sauce. The house made raw papaya pickle gives a touch of sourness to cut through the richness and to assist digestion. Ridiculously extravagant, but completely delicious, this was a true highlight of the meal. 

Lobster and Queenie with ginger, curry leaf and coconut curry

“Queenies” are scallops sourced from the Isle of Man. Chef Bhaskar is keen to use ingredients from India where needed for authenticity of flavour, but great British ingredients are used wherever possible. 

This lobster and scallop curry is strongly influenced by the seafood cookery of South India, where coconut milk, cream and oil are used liberally to bring a taste of the sunshine and tropics to the fruit of the sea. Ginger has always been an apt flavour partner to seafood, lobster in particular. This is a classy and restrained dish, full of subtlety. 

Vegetable side dishes:

It is often overlooked, but Indian vegetable and vegetarian cooking is one the best in the world, being full of variety and vibrant tastes. As part of the classic tasting menu, the vegetable dishes are served up as “sides”, but they are cracking little dishes which would make fabulous main courses for vegetarian diners. This is the closest to Indian home cooking that you are going to get without a kindly epicurean auntie inviting you to her house for dinner!

The lentils are slow cooked, for over 12 hours. They are rich, creamy black lentils with just a hint of bite, flavoured with tomatoes.

The Paneer pudina, a dish of paneer cooked with spinach and mint is stir fried, spiced spinach with soft paneer creating silky, indulgent textures.

Aubergine with cashew nuts; roasted aubergine, cooked with curry leaves until smooth and yielding, then mashed up into a paste. Perfect with traditional hand breads.

Green chick pea balls, like curried falafel; grainy on the outside and both smooth and a little flaky on the inside, small dense and flavourful in a mild yellow, sophisticated gravy with delicate flavours and gentle well observed spicing.

Classic potato cubes cooked in tomato, spiced with black mustard and kalo jeera (onion seed) garnish for a little added bite. These dishes would have been a good meal in themselves, in truth, but I was getting a little full and wanted to sample the desserts. 


Kheer is a traditional Indian rice pudding. It is one of the tastes of my childhood. When I say it on the menu, it simply had to be ordered to see how it compares to my memories. It should be very sweet, sweetened with jaggery (a natural, unrefined sugar product used in Indian food) and can be flavoured with a variety of wonderful things; saffron, almonds, raisins, cardamom, cashews or pistachios. This kheer was not as indecently and cloyingly sweet as some Indian desserts can be, so it is suited to a Western palate. Aromatic with saffron, sweetened with an almond date jaggery, the exotic flavours are infused into the milk and rice. The chocolate, made with parsnip, milk and jaggery is a highly original touch.


Rassomalai when described, doesn’t sound like it should work, small balls of homemade fresh unaged cheese, initially cooked in hot sugar syrup and later in flavoured condensed milk. Food madness to the unitiated; dessert heaven to those in the know. These were sophisticated little sweet dumplings served in the “malai” (condensed milk flavoured with saffron and pistachio) which were airy and fluffy. Sometimes things can go wrong, but in these safe hands we were in no danger of thick, syrupy rassomalai, a classic of East Indian cooking. The pineapple raisin chutney was another original touch; some fruity sour tastes to balance out the sweet; well observed and executed for Western diners who commonly find Indian desserts too sweet. A great end to a magnificent meal. 

The 5 course classic tasting menu left us feeling extremely full, happy and satisfied. You get excellent value for money. I will definitely be coming back to Lotus and would want to have this excellent and highly varied menu again.

The wine flight is generous with a 125ml glass of wine with each course, paired with skill to match either the key ingredient or level of spice of the dish.  The Head Sommelier at Lotus is Debbie Henriques, who was previously at Claridges and Hotel du Vin. She has done a fabulous job with the pairings. Wine and curry can be tricky to pair, particularly with the dishes packing heat. Why not push the boat out on a special occasion?

I want to say something about the a la carte menu for the sceptic. This menu will appear to be more expensive than your local Indian restaurant. However, that is not the proper comparison to make. Here, the dishes are original, authentically flavoured, made freshly with premium ingredients. Were you to compare with one of London’s high end Indian restaurants, you would find that the five course classic tasting menu represents very good value for money. This is food which takes skill to prepare and cook and takes time. There is a theatre menu, which I would suggest makes this a great place to have a great quality meal in conjunction with a show, rather than going to one of the cheap chain or tourist trap restaurants in and around Leicester Square.

I am looking forward to returning to Lotus, which deserves to be recognised as one of the top 10 best Indian restaurants in London.

Snigdha and her dining partner dined as guests of Lotus. Snigdha has not received any form of incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review. This review represents Snigdha’s honest impressions of the restaurant. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

April 2016 Favourites List

Welcome to this month’s list of wonderful stuff! This month's pictures are from Machu Picchu in Peru, a place I was lucky enough to visit earlier this month.

It is hard, in words, to do justice to the place. It did leave me gobsmacked and a little breathless (which was due to its beauty, not the altitude!). It is mystical, spiritual and ethereal. At the same time, it is solid; the terraces have been hewn into the mountain, the carved, carefully placed stones very hard and substantial.

Equally, I am not sure my pictures do the place justice. They seem flat. The elusive third dimension is obviously missing from my photos, which do not properly capture what I saw for myself over the course of two days. They do not capture the scale of the citadel. The misty atmosphere is merely hinted at.

Machu Picchu was on my “bucket list” for over 20 years. I had dreamed of seeing it and experiencing it, but had to wait for my moment to truly be there. Perhaps these photographs feed your desire to see it for yourself. If so, great – make it your mission to go. If you are sceptical now despite your initial wish to visit – I promise you, being there is very different from the pictures. It is a place which has to be seen, it is unforgettable, extraordinary and completely unique.

Honestly, I am still finding it hard to believe I was really there.

But enough ramblings from me, I know you are also here for the collection of lovely stuff. Well, here it is. Obviously, the passing of music genius and hero Prince has influenced the cultural selections. I’d always meant to see Prince play live, but never got round to see it. An element of my bucket list which never was fulfilled. A reminder that you should do what you can to achieve the aims of your lifetime if ever I thought of one. 


Vegetarian friendly creamy lentil soup made with green lentils.

A lovely, fresh and simple salad, ham, beetroot, feta, leaf and potato salad:

Mussels done Thai style; cooking beyond Moules Mariniere and Moules Provencale. Super easy with some fantastic flavours!

A fruity salsa full of colour, for eating with tacos, burgers and salads.

A salad of farro grain and feta and a highly contrasting beef skirt... Spring cooking by Thomasina Miers:

One mess up I make quite frequently in the kitchen is forgetting to soak beans and pulses overnight. Here's how you can save yourself, with the help of a pressure cooker:

Easy make ahead lunch box dish for eating al desko; Lentil, carrot & ham salad:

Bengali style prawn coconut curry recipe from the excellent Mamta's Kitchen website:

The noodles used here are not actually "glass noodles" - those are like vermicelli but made from moong/mung bean flour. These noodles are more like ho fun/pho flat rice noodles. But this pork tenderloin noodle salad from Andrew Wong's cookbook looks simple and tasty:

Articles/Know How:

Ben Tish, Adam Rawson, Paolo Elesbani, Lewis Sulley, Tom Hunt, Fah Sundravorakul, John Chantarasak, Claudio Cardoso, Tim Siadatan and Yasuhiro Mineno share their hero ingredients and tips for achieving umami flavour in your cooking:

Can a mobile app makes us less reliant on recipes? Why are we often afraid of making it up as we go along? Some interesting thoughts.

Drunk cooking: don't do it! Epic fails that could only result from too much booze...

A clothes optional naked restaurant? No. Just no! [Feel free to insert meatball/ sausage joke here...] 

Guide to Hong Kong's best dim sum eateries plus a video on how to Yum Cha!

The Lewisham "Street Feast" food market set to return for Summer 2016:

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

New blog post - Gastronhome, Restaurant review, a beautiful little French restaurant punching well above its weight.

My review of the restaurant launch of Soho's Mister Lasagna, devoted only to baked pasta wonderfulness!



The Big Short


Prince - A Purple Reign


Prince – Sign O The Times

Prince – Art Official Age

Prince – Plectrumelectrum

Prince – Purple Rain

Ephemera – Sun

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters - Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mister Lasagna Restaurant Launch

Pasta is a simple but wonderful indulgence. I love how comforting it is, like a cuddle on a plate. I am fond of fresh, dried, long, short, stuffed and saucy pasta. I often joke that I have never met a carbohydrate I didn’t like (a stolen joke, the provenance I can no longer remember), which particularly applies to pasta!

LASAGNA. See that spelling? It’s the original Italian way. “Lasagne” is an Anglicised version, in the same way as “bolognaise” is an English corruption of “Bolognese”. Sorry to be pernickety, but pasta is a very serious business! So let’s start getting it right!

Lasagna is a classic, hearty pasta dish which I adore, but confess make rarely at home. It seems too much of a mission to make two sauces only to face the assembly of the layers and final baking. Facing 3 hours of preparing, cooking and waiting, I end up going through the stages of slight food craving pangs, full on tummy rumbles, crippling hunger only to find I can’t bring myself to eat.

It would be a dish I would eat when out and about more often, but lasagna has often been messed around with. Inferior quality meat, lack of care when making the ragu/Bolognese sauce, cheap cheese toppings…. Bad lasagna is an insult to a great dish.

I was invited to the launch party of Mister Lasagna, the dream turned reality of Alessandro Limone. He wants to bring real, authentic lasagna to London. Lasagna like his “Nonna”, his grandmother, used to make for him, back in Naples, Southern Italy.

The idea of Mister Lasagna is to specialise solely in Lasagna. Eight (yes, eight!) regular varieties will be available with two specials each day. In all, a whopping 21 varieties will be cooked up for fellow pasta lovers! My much beloved Bolognese lasagna with béchamel sauce is obviously on the menu. A stone cold classic. Mister Lasagna’s classic Bolognese lasagna is very generous on meaty sauce, which has been cooked for ages and ages. Thankfully not swimming in béchamel sauce, this is just the way I like it. Browned nicely on top, this is super comfort food!

Some unfamiliar types will be available for you to discover; ham and cheese; pesto; vegetable; creamy carbonara; sophisticated mushroom; a “Quattro Formaggio” or Four cheese lasagna (blue cheese, feta, brie, and cheddar); Napoletana (meatballs, egg, Bolognese, ricotta and béchamel).

For fans of unpredictability and surprises, the “Special” lasagnas will reflect some of the great produce of Italy or depend on the season. Expect truffle, pumpkin, chicken and chorizo, aubergine, artichoke, courgette, vegetable, cherry tomato and basil, mashed potato and egg, smoked salmon, spinach, onion and spicy tomato sauce. More than just a one trick pony!

I was pleased to see that vegetarians do not miss out. The spinach lasagna had a thick, soft layer of spinach at the bottom, cooked with the merest touch of slipperiness. Thinner layers followed in between the pasta sheets. The topping of mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan brought flavour and richness. The aubergine lasagna had a herby tomato sauce coating the pasta and aubergine chunks, tasting authentically Neapolitan. 

The pumpkin lasagna was creamy and rich. It could have done with a little more pumpkin, if I am honest, but perhaps the sauce to filling to pasta ratio I was served is the typically Neapolitan way. A little bit of sage would have added to the flavour, too.

A regular portion of Lasagna will cost £5.90 to eat in, £5.30 to takeaway. If the full portion seems too big, or you want to keep space for puddings, a half portion is £3.50. Most interesting is the option for either the glutton or the indecisive person; a trio of lasagna £7.89 (made up of three half portions)! A great way to try the variations of lasagna available!

Diners will be able to have their lasagna with sauce. The choices are Bolognese, béchamel, mushroom, four cheese or tomato. I didn’t opt for sauce, because I wanted to see how well the lasagna spoke for itself. 

My conclusion is that we have some great old fashioned home style cooking, which I mean in the nicest possible way. This is food made with love to warm, comfort and cosset. Perfect for when you’ve had a bad day at work, or lunch on a Monday, or when you want to meet with friends for a quick bite to eat before heading out for a night on the town.

If you are still hungry after a big, satisfying slice of lasagna, you might want afters. Cute little homemade cupcakes are available for a very reasonable £1.50. 

In addition there is the quintessential tiramisu, or a caramel panna cotta or a white chocolate soufflé. The tiramisu (£3.50) is creamy, with a humane rather than overwhelming hit of coffee. The layers are beautiful, and I confess to having had more than one helping!

Mister Lasagna will be an all-day restaurant, serving coffee, sweet pastries and traditional Italian savoury tarts in the morning, with the lasagna making its appearance from lunchtime.

Whilst you can take your food away for lunch “al desko”, you can have lunch or dinner inside, with a cheeky beer or glass of wine. Selected spirits will also be available. The back of the premises is a proper restaurant with 40 seats. Some are tables for couples and small groups, but there is a big communal table for people who want to get friendly.

If you love all things food and drink Italia, you will be able to stock up on supplies. There will be pasta, sauces and a selection of Italian liqueurs available to buy.

Mister Lasagna opened on 20 April 2016. I think it is a fun, informal place for easy going food. If only it were within walking distance of my workplace, as it would be perfect for a lunchtime treat!

Mister Lasagna
53 Rupert Street

Snigdha would like to thank the owners of Mister Lasagna for inviting her. Snigdha has received no incentive for writing this review. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Gastronhome, Clapham, London - restaurant review

“I never thought it would happen/With me and the girl from Clapham/Out on the windy common/That night I ain’t forgotten…” So begins ‘Up The Junction’, the epic story-song by Squeeze, a tale of love found, love lost, heartbreak and solace found in bar, street and bookie. It is melancholy but in a quintessentially English way, like an American country music song, transported to London. (Lyricist Chris Difford had wanted to be the David Bowie of Deptford, but Squeeze proved to be something different – a typicially South London band with an ear for a melody.)

Gastronhome is like a little corner of perfect classical French gastronomy transported to South London. Situated in Clapham, on the Battersea borders, it is an unlikely location for the kind of fine French food you would expect in the West End or Mayfair. The reviews on Tripadvisor are overwhelmingly glowing, except for one somewhat grumpy fellow complaining it is in the “wrong area of London”, as if South London has no right to expect a high quality eatery.

You can choose from a seasonal  “A la carte” menu. Starters range from £10-13, mains are £20-26, desserts £9-12. We had, however, heard about another option… a five course “surprise” tasting menu for £49 per person. Feeling in need of a treat on a rainy weekday lunchtime, and with time on our hands, we simply couldn’t resist!

Our starter was Asparagus in a parmesan crust, with asparagus foam, home pickled bell onion, poached quail egg and parmesan crumble. 

The asparagus and crust made a very pleasing combination, with the strength of the parmesan and crispiness of the crust contrasting well with the asparagus itself. I personally could have done with the asparagus being a little less cooked, but my personal tastes are such that I truly like my asparagus done al dente. The very delicately pickled onion retained its original sweetness, and the lack of any vinegary tang meant the onion complimented the asparagus foam’s gentle flavours. The cute little quail’s egg was soft poached, providing a tiny dose of oozy creaminess in the dish. A good start.

The fish course was cod two ways; pan fried cod and a cod brandade, served with a piperade and broad beans.

The pan fried cod had a wonderfully crispy skin, with moist flaky fresh. Cooked to the point where it is literally “just cooked” is how I love my fish. The cod brandade was herby, with a light crunch on the outside. The piperade of pepper, tomato, garlic and a little bit of onion tasted of Summer sunshine in the South of France. Broad beans when young and tender are the perfect sign of the Mediterranean Spring. These were tender, sweet and delicious. 

The meat course was lamb, roasted aubergine, aubergine puree with Pomme Dauphine. 

The delectable lamb, cooked beautifully so that it was rich, yet soft and tender was served with Pomme Dauphine, a classic French way to prepare potatoes; a fantastic but non diet type of potato puff created by mashing potatoes with choux pastry and making little deep fried dumplings. The combination created and indulgent but wonderful combination of flavour and texture that surely only the French could have devised. It is super. 

We washed it down with some wonderfully smooth and rich Ripasso red from Italy, a wine I mention and post a picture of because I intend to seek it out for home consumption.

The cheese course was up next. Since our waitress has been so capable in choosing our wines for us, we asked her to help us with choosing our cheeses. 

Our two cheese were ones which were very different from each other; Le Montrachet and Le Salers.

Our cheeses were served with some crunchy, artisan crackers full of seeds, crunch and flavour. You need  a good foil for your cheese, and these were it. But what about the cheeses?

The Montrachet is a goat cheese from Burgundy. Obviously, this is the same region of France where Burgundy wine and Beef Bourguignon is from. It is aged in a vine leaf to provide protection and impart flavour. The cheese was creamy and rich, but with a delicate, sophisticated flavour. 

The Salers is a cow milk cheese from Auvergne (the home of Blu d’Auvergne, a famous creamy blue cheese). This cheese was quite solid, and had a nutty, satisfying flavour with the slightest touch of Umami. The cheese, Salers, holds the same name as the cow that provides its milk. A poetic and lovely mark of respect. 

Finally, the dessert was a tarte au citron (lemon tart) with meringue and flowers. 

As you can see, it is a beautifully deconstructed lemon tart, with a tangy lemon cream on top of light, fluffy pastry with a slight crunch on the outside. It’s an ingenious way of ensuring none of the pastry is made soggy by lemon filling. I enjoyed every spoonful of this inventive and delightful pudding. 

Gastronome is a charmingly sweet little restaurant, whose modest size belies its culinary punch. The food was excellent, as you can see. Special mention must go to the front of house staff who are passionate about food and wine, keen to make recommendations and do everything they can to make your experience a pleasure. 

You never thought it would happen in Clapham? Think again. 

59 Lavender Hill, Battersea, SW11 5QN, 
020 3417 5639

Snigdha and her lunch companions ate as ordinary customers at Gastronhome, paying for their lunch in full. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review, which is unsolicited.