Thursday, 26 May 2016

May 2016 Favourites List

May in Britain is a wonderful month! Trees spring into blossom, green leaves make their presence known. Spring flowers give us a hint of the colour and vibrancy to come in Summer. Even on slightly chilly days I am reminded by the colours of the blooms, by the longer daylight hours and the sense of joy which Spring brings to be content; even in the event of needing a scarf to warm me. After all, it wasn’t long ago, I was basically walking around in a full duvet!

I hope you are feeling the benefit of no longer requiring gloves, hats, mittens and double layers of socks. I am certainly relishing retiring my boots to next Autumn. My lawn is growing faster than I can keep up which delights me in a peculiar way. I feel an amazing joie de vivre brought on by the season and weather. Getting on top of the rapid growth of everything green in my garden will take a little getting used to, but the fact everything is full of life is joyous.

This month’s pictures are of llamas, vicunas and alpacas from my trip to Peru. They are impossibly soft and fluffy creatures with generally good tempers. They produce great quality wool which is used widely in Peru for many types of clothing and bedding. They are pettable, accommodating animals which let me coo and stroke them to the point where their patience became saint like. 

If only I could have brought one home…  I’d have a fluffy pet, devoted friend and perfectly trim lawn in one fell swoop! UK quarantine rules are such an annoyance, or  I would have had my way!

Anyway – enough frivolous ramblings! Onto the main attraction – my month’s worth of handpicked, gorgeous stuff!


Diana Henry with another winner of a recipe; chicken thighs in soy, honey and lime. I love her practical, simple, hugely tasty recipes.
Red peppers (the pointy kind) stuffed with luscious lamb. New recipe post from Cookwitch Lisa:

These are all light, cream-free soups, so I don't see any reason why they can't be enjoyed after Winter!

Pimms with a twist - sweet, beautiful pomegranate!

Super useful - 10 steak sauces you can make quickly and easily.

Just like Indian street vendors serve up, this is how to make chick pea chaat - you can find chaat masala, tamarind chutney and coriander chutney in Indian grocers. Vegetarian, low fat and packed with fibre.

I love coconut rice with Thai food. Here's how to make it at home:

Articles/Know How:

The current fashionable pretence about "good sugar", "bad sugar" is unscientific scaremongering which detracts from what we've known for years; a little of what you fancy does you good and a balanced diet is the key to good health. Angry, passionate, sweary, brilliant reading:
11,000 recipes are hosted on the BBC website. Many of us learned how to cook from them. Many of us added to our repertoire with them. Many of us just love drooling over them. With libraries closing, with no cooking being taught in school, surely a national resource like this should be saved? Please sign. Please share!

What's the fuss about ‪#‎BBCrecipes? The removal of the BBC Food service. Recipes will be moved to BBC Good Food. Is that a problem? Well yes… 'The recipes are being “archived or mothballed”, a source said, and will “fall off the face of the internet” after the food site is closed.

Despite the fact the content already exists, is useful, helps those who can't afford expensive cookbooks, and is a genuine public service, our free BBC food recipes are likely to go. This is a sad loss for food fans, home cooks and those who just want to learn how to cook...

A must read article: Ruby Tandoh on her experiences of "wellness" eating and what is wrong with this craze:

Eat yoghurt, marinade your meat, eat more fibre. Simple, easy, achievable things which could lower your risk of cancer. No fiddly diets or spurious "wellness" or "detox" advice.

Foodies' travel guide to Bangkok. I love Thailand. So much to see and do. Wonderful people. Such fab food!!

Easy fruit preparation. Some are obvious, but watermelon pops and kiwi "barrels" are cool!

I found this via Meemalee's Kitchen's Facebook page. A fascinating memoir of being Prince's on-call private chef. Rest in peace, Prince, you beautiful, talented, quirky, musical genius. Even now, it's hard to believe he's gone.

My favourite annual fundraiser is back - celebrate curry (whether you eat it out or cook it yourself) and help Find Your Feet!

Some very interesting, unusual and kooky cookbooks; historical leaders' fave foods and famous photographers share their recipes. Coming out this month:

A fascinating, opinionated and thought provoking look at the 50 Best Restaurants list:

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Speedy Lamb stir fry! Easy, quick, tasty simple. Don't be scared of cooking beautiful tasty lamb at home!

We know Champagne, Prosecco and Cava. Cremant is also made with a second fermentation in the bottle for fizz and bubbles. Who's ready to try something new?

Informal tacos, burritos and cocktails at Benito's Hat brings some Mexican sunshine to London.

My review of Lotus' highly original and superbly executed five course tasting menu. Indian food at its best.


Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes

Steve Mason - Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time

Blur – The Magic Whip

Beck – Modern Guilt

The Arcs – Yours Dreamily

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.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Speedy Lamb Stir Fry – a Love Lamb Challenge recipe

Lamb is a meat I love. I will eat it curried. Why? Well, what beats a slow cooked curry made of chunks of leg of lamb complete with bones full of succulent marrow?! Or maybe roasted, perhaps the most grand of all the roast dinners! It is great minced; koftes, burgers, keema, kebabs, all wonderful! Braised lamb shank is a slow cooked treat for weekends or days spent at home.

But people are turning away from lamb, thinking it is difficult to cook or time consuming. This seems to me to be a terrible shame. There is so much more to lamb than Sunday lunch with mint sauce! It can be quick, fun and awesome!

This speedy lamb stir fry is a quick, simple supper dish where the only real call on your time is the preparation, which is only 10 minutes! The cooking comes in at under 8 minutes. So much faster than ringing your local take away and faster than heating something ready made in the oven. Great when you're busy, great for weeknights!

You need a wok and a saucepan. Otherwise, all you need are plates for the prepared ingredients and a mug for the sauce mixture plus a mug for the egg (which will be beaten).

Lush lamb steaks to make this simple quick dish

If you want more ideas on how to cook lamb and make it tasty but super easy, just visit:

Speedy Lamb Stir Fry

Serves 2


2 small lamb steaks, about 200 grams in total, very thinly sliced, (between 3-5mm) (LIFE HACK TIP: If you find the thin slicing difficult, freeze the lamb for 10-15 minutes and the slicing will be much easier!)

3-5 spring onions, depending on size, sliced into thin diagonals (5-7mm)

6-8 baby corn, depending on size, sliced into thin diagonals (5-7mm)

7-9 asparagus spears, depending on size, cut into 3cm lengths (cut diagonally)

3 cloves garlic, very finely cubed/diced (2-3mm)

4-5 cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and very finely cubed/diced (2-3mm)

1 birds eye red chilli, very finely cubed/diced (2mm, unless you can manage smaller!)

1 star anise

1 egg

125g egg noodles

Sesame oil

Ground nut (peanut) oil (or use sunflower or rapeseed oil if you have a peanut allergy

Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Sesame seeds

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons (45ml) light soy sauce

3 tablespoons Shao Sing rice wine

1 tablespoon sesame oil


   1.        Prepare the vegetables, meat and aromatics as set out in the ingredients list. You need to do this as the cooking is rapid and needs your attention. 

2.       It will help to put the chilli, garlic and ginger and star anise on a single plate or in a single container.

3.       Cook the noodles according to the instructions; mine involved putting into boiling water for 4 minutes.

4.       Whilst the noodles are cooking, combine the sauce ingredients in a mug, mix well and set aside. Break the egg into another mug, beat with a fork until yolk and white a blended, and set aside.

5.       When the noodles are cooked, drain, run under the cold tap to arrest the cooking process, ensure excess water is shaken off, dress with a small drizzle of groundnut and sesame oil, working through until just coated. Set aside.

6.       Heat some ground nut oil in a pan, around 2-3 tablespoons for my wok, but you need enough to cover the base of your wok, which will vary. Heat until searingly hot, pretty much smoking.  

7.       Toss in the baby corn, stir for less than a minute.

8.       Toss in the spring onions, asparagus, chilli, garlic and ginger, stir fry for a minute. Keep the heat high because the moisture in the vegetables will lower the temperature of the wok and you need to keep the wok as hot as possible. Stirring is essential to prevent the ingredients burning!

9.       Throw in the thinly sliced lamb, the thin slicing will help it cook quickly, evenly and without bringing the temperature of the wok down too much. Stir fry for a minute to two minutes, ensuring the lamb is being constantly moved around the surface of the wok.

10.   Add half of the sauce mixture, mix well and ensure the sauce is boiling. Your wok should be hot enough that you do not need to wait long for this to happen. A matter of seconds.

11.   Now add the dressed noodles and beaten egg. Mix well over the heat.

12.   Once mixed, add the rest of the sauce mix. Allow to bubble for 30 seconds or so, mixing thoroughly as you go.

13.   Add the fresh coriander leaf, fold through the rest of the dish. Remove from the heat immediately.

14.   Serve in a bowl, dressed with the sesame seeds. As you will see I used a mix of white and black sesame seeds.

15.   Enjoy whilst freshly cooked and hot.

Snigdha has written this blog post as an entry for the #LoveLambChallenge competition run by Tasty Easy Lamb ( She has received no incentive for posting this recipe, whether financial or otherwise.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cremant, the undiscovered bubbly

We Brits love our bubbles. We enjoy celebrating with a chilled glass, whether it's a once in a lifetime wedding or just the relief of getting to the weekend. We love sparkling wine so much, our yearly sales have passed the £1billion mark! Of course, we know Champagne, Cava and Prosecco. But what would Cremant? 

Champagne is a term which can only be used for sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France - two small pockets of land up in the north east. Special rules have to be followed; grapes must be harvested within the Champagne region, second fermentation in the bottle and there are rules on permissible grape varieties. 

In the same way, Cremant can only be used to describe a sparkling wine which is hand harvested, either in whole bunches or destemmed grapes (a highly labour intensive process, which helps guarantee quality), an initial 9 months fermentation in lees, disgorgement, a further 3 months second fermentation in the bottle before sale. Like the better known AOP wines of France (Appellation d'Origine Protégée), only designated regions can call their creamy and delicate sparkling wines Cremant. These regions (which are 7 in number), include some of the most world famous wine regions of France; Loire, Bordeaux, Rhône Valley, Bourgogne (Burgundy), Limoux, Jura and Alsace. Household names, but not necessarily for fizzy wine. 

I was recently invited by Business France, the French Trade Commission to their Cremant wine tasting. 15 winemakers from 6 of the Cremant regions were exhibiting. I found some wonderful wines which can be bought in the UK online along with several which I hope will be picked up by supermarkets, online stores and wine merchants very soon.

First up was a Bourgogne Cremant made from 100% Chardonnay grapes in Macon Loche. Made organically and biodynamically by family producers Celine and Laurent Tripoz, the Celine et Laurent Tripoz Brut Nature was a great discovery. Available through Wine Sensations (, retailing for £17.95, this was a very authentic Cremant de Bourgogne; exceptionally light colour, low sulphur (meaning no hangover in the morning!), no added sugar and a good taste of the wine behind the bubbles. I loved the freshness and acidity.

Another super Cremant de Bourgogne was the Veuve Ambal "Cremant de Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Veuve Ambal". Founded by Marie Ambal, the widow or "Veuve" after whom the winery was named, in 1898. This Cremant is blended from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Aligote and Gamay grapes. The colour was a touch more yellow, much more like Champagne. Similarly, the yeasty, sweet brioche smell of Champagne was present here, something I love in sparkling wines. Peach and pear fruity notes, with subtlety in the flavour makes this a layered bubbly perfect for food, particularly fish. The wine is available from Enotria and Coe, and won the Gold medal at 2015's Effervescents du Monde competition. 

A not-to-be-missed Cremant de Bordeaux was the "Black Pearl" Brut Blanc de Noirs by Celene. Unbelievably, this wine is currently unavailable in the UK. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes, it is a sparkling white wine made of black grapes hence the "Blanc de noirs" of the title. Situated in the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, sea breeze and mist is a vitally important influence on the flavour in the grapes. 

The cellars where the wine is fermented were carved into the chalk soil on the right bank of the Garonne way back in the 16th Century. The wine is ultra pale and delicate in colour with a pronounced floral aroma. The gentle bubbles with absolutely no harshness is a testament to the skill of the makers. Smooth front of mouth flavours, sophisticated middle, great finish and super aftertaste. I'm sure UK wine lovers will embrace this wine. Let's see it available!

The best rose I sampled was from the Loire Valley, the Bouvet Cremant de Loire Rose, Brut. Whist being dry, it has no harsh acidity. The smooth finish was a distinguishing feature, as was the gentle flavour. Available from Watermill Wines in the UK, Bouvet Ladubay have been making wine since 1851 and at the end of the 19th Century was known as the number one producer of fizzy wine in the world. A fabulous wine for sunshine Summer Wedding parties!

One of the most individual and unique Cremants I had the pleasure of trying was the Jaillance Cremant de Die Brut Bio. The winner of the Silver Medal at the Challenge Millesme Bio competition 2016 for organic wines, this wine has smoothness and sophistication across every element of the flavour. It is difficult for the initial taste, middle and finish to reconcile. Smoothness on the first sip, through the middle with delicate pear and a silky finish, topped off with a good yeasty aroma. This is a wine which UK consumers will enjoy, it's a worthy prizewinning wine. I hope that someone enterprising with good taste will pick it up, and soon!

Domaine Jean Bourdy in the Jura region produces the UK available Caves Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura Brut made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. Dudley Craig wines represent them in the UK, and you can buy this biodynamic, smooth, light Cremant with slight yeastiness and fine bubbles for £16.95 a bottle. Pale, delicate with a good finish (no dryness at the back of the throat), it is a real treat. A family run winery for 500 years, Jean Bourdy has an enviable heritage. The same ancient techniques are used to ensure the wine is typical of the Jura Appellation. Jean-Francois and Jean-Phillipe Bourdy are the 15th generation running the Domaine. Now that's a family business you wouldn't mind going into!

I will round off with another treat: Langlois-Chateau's Quadrille de Langlois-Chateau Extra Brut Cremant de Loire. A 2007 vintage, made from 60% Chenin, 15-20% Chardonnay, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Pinot Noir grapes, this is something special. The bubbles are delicate, non aggressive, small and regular. The Chateau has been in production since 1885 and are now owned by none other than Bollinger! They approach production with some exacting standards; only first pressings of the grapes are used and the wines are aged for a minimum of two years. The wine has an effervescent initial taste of beautiful, mellow fizz. Pale elegance abounds with deceptive mildness. Available through Mentzendorff, this was part of an overall batch of 15,000 bottles. Don't let the "extra Brut" label put you off, this is class in a glass.

I have had my eyes opened. Too often I opt for the easy choice of Prosecco when on a budget, Champagne when pushing the boat out, Cava with tapas... It's high time to broaden my horizons. I hope I have encouraged you to try something different next time you choose to crack open a bottle of bubbles!

Snigdha visited the Cremant tasting organised by Business France as their guest. This review represents my honest opinions. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Benito's Hat, Farringdon, restaurant review

Founded by Ben Fordham and Felipe Fuentes Cruz, Benito’s Hat beings a novel take on Mexican food, showcasing good ingredients and freshness. Ben is a man after my own heart; a lawyer with a passion for food. He decided to pack it all in for the restaurant trade after being turned onto Mexican food whilst living in Texas. Felipe is Ben’s partner in crime, a Mexican chef from Puebla who first started helping his gran in the kitchen as a small child and who learned the art of Mexican homestyle cooking from his mum and gran.

Since opening the first Benito’s Hat Bar and Kitchen on London’s Goodge Street, Ben and Felipe have expanded, bringing their fun, colourful and friendly vision to 5 other locations.

Benito’s Hat wants its customers to enjoy a casual, colourful and friendly dining atmosphere. I visited the Farringdon restaurant, close to the station, amongst the thriving dining scene of St John Street. I brought my hubby, Him Indoors along on a Monday night. Monday is all day Happy Hour with cocktails on a 2 for 1 deal, making our first decision of the evening super easy!

Him Indoors went for the Pomegranate Margarita (£6.50); a fruity and highly refreshing blend, where the sweet fruit disguises the healthy dose of alcohol. A generous amount of Tequila made this a heady but lush drink. Not for those who prefer dry cocktails, definitely for those who prefer it a bit sweeter. 

I opted for a Mojito (£6.50), and I was not disappointed. Oodles of lime juice, plenty of mint and a good hit of rum. I love a lime-heavy Mojito, so this was just what the doctor ordered! Very, very good, I stuck with Mojitos for the rest of the evening. 

If you are not up for cocktails, or need to take it easy on the booze, there are several Mexican brands of beer available. I spotted a black Modelo, an Amber Modelo and Pacifico Lager. Sol and Red Pig are also available. (Beers are from £3.60 to £4.05 a bottle).

If you're having a dry day or just don't fancy having alcohol "on a school night", then non boozy options are available, and I found myself drawn to the rainbow colours of Jarritos, a fruity fizzy drink well known in Mexico. 

Time to start eating! We were feeling like trying a variety of things, as we often do. Some might call it greed, but we'd call it a spirit of adventure! We decided to go for a sharing plate starter. We chose the Carne Antojitos platter (£7.95). 

That's a very generous amount of food for under eight pounds. We were impressed by the amount we received. But how good did it taste? 

First up, we cracked and crunched our way through the house made corn tortilla chips with guacamole. The chips were beautifully thin, meaning you could enjoy a reasonable amount without feeling too full (there's nothing worse than going crazy on bread or poppadoms in a restaurant and then not being able to eat your meal!). They made me realise that many of the supermarket versions are too salty; these tasted natural and were all the better for it. The fresh and flavourful guacamole was chunky and funky. It's official, the UK loves avocados, and this guac is a great way to get a day's avo fix.

Next was the slow cooked pork tostada. The slow cooked pork was tender and melting. If it had not already been shredded for us, it would have been fall-off-the bone tender. A touch of spice, the meat was moist and mouthwatering. The avocado and pickled red onion relish brought tartness and freshness. The tostada tortilla, small and compact, was soft and delicate. A lovely little morsel of food. 

The Antojitos plate was completed by a tostada of Achiote braised chicken. This time the tostada base was a crunchy corn flatbread, topped with chicken, sour cream, spring onion and coriander. The chicken was excellent; my favourite item of the whole meal. Braised in a warming achiote sauce made from tomato and chipotles, the chicken was rich and spicy. The chipotles give it a kick which is enjoyable, but doesn't burn the mouth. We were kind of upset there was only one of these each, as we enjoyed the tostada immensely.

Time to choose a main course, and having seen the signs up in the restaurant for a new beef dish the "beef barbecoa pulled prime brisket", we had to opt for the burrito (£6.90 for regular, £5.50 for baby size). We chose the regular. 

The burritos are made from a 12 inch round flour tortilla. You can choose cheese or no cheese. There are lots of chopped veggies and salad to select from, which can be topped with the salsa of your choosing. We chose Felipe's Ranchera Salsa, an incendiary sauce made from tomatillas, coriander, lemon juice and chilli. Plenty of chilli! When I tried the salsa by itself on a tortilla chip, it knocked my socks off - very fiery indeed! But I was assured that the sweetness of the pulled brisket would mitigate the heat.

Thankfully, I was not steered wrong! The soft, floury tortilla brought together the succulent and slightly sweet meat. Brisket is one of those old fashioned stewing cuts of meat that is rightly coming back into fashion, and it suits this kind of low and slow cooking. Forget those burritos filled with mince, this is a far better way of enjoying a little piece of Mexico. 

We couldn't have had a burrito without trying a taco. These are not your rigid, shell like tacos, like the "Old El Paso" kits you can buy in the supermarket. They are soft, light, wheaty flat breads. They are gently warmed on a flat grill before being filled. 

The filling; cubed, grilled, marinaded chicken was piled on with abandon, dressed with sour cream before the salad, salsa and cheese was added. This time, I chose the hot salsa, which was nowhere near as fiery as the ranchera. Phew! 

A full portion of tacos (£5.20) would consist of 2 tacos, with the option of adding a third for £1.50. We did not want to order and not finish 2 tacos, since we totally hate wasting food. As a result, we had a half portion. Somewhat difficult to eat as the taco is not rolled up, we still enjoyed the combination of chicken, flatbread, salad and cheese, although it was not our favourite dish. 

Our "tapas" like accompaniment was a small but substantial portion of Black beans with Chorizo (£2.95).

The beans were comforting, cooked down until beginning to go creamy. Copious slices of freshly fried chorizo scattered on top. A rustic, home cooked style dish which isn't photogenic, but is tasty. 

Sadly, there was no space for dessert. I had hoped to dig into some Tres Leches Cake or Bunuelos, but it wasn't to be. I was stuffed! 

All in all, Benito's Hat serves up unfussy, fun food, made with care. Their value for money is excellent for Central London on both food and cocktails. Staff are always keen to explain the dishes and to help you choose fillings, ingredients and toppings. The fun decor with bright colours, neon lights and lamps made out of old buckets, tins and enamel jugs makes it well suited to informal eating with friends. A great place to meet for a bite before a big night out. 

Snigdha and Him Indoors ate at Benito's Hat as guests. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this review. This review represents Snigdha's honest opinion.

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.