LOVE FOOD, LIVE FOODIE:
Good food is worth traveling for. I may have used this sentence before, but it's true.
Another good reason to travel is to try out a new restaurant and a new menu. Shampan at the Spinning Wheel is part of the Shampan Group which has been established since 1989 in Kent. Now close to thirty years on, the group has expanded to three restaurants, one in Bromley, one in Welling and the latest at the Spinning Wheel in Westerham.
Head chef Sadek Miah at the Spinning Wheel aims to deliver authentic flavours from the Indian sub continent and in the 350 cover venue, this is not a simple task.
The new menu at Shampan at the Spinning Wheel is a simple one. I have seen some places bombard people with anything and everything. Thankfully here, you are clear about what to order and how the system works. Starter, Main and Dessert. Simple.
On a cool Saturday lunch time, Laura and I were invited to try out this new menu and this was a really cool experience. The venue has the feel of a hotel and with the ability to host 350 people it is very grandiose. The lounge was nice and chilled and the staff were on hand to help with kindness and more importantly happiness. Jokes about cocktails at close to midday were welcome and helped ease the mood amongst all.
On to the important stuff, The food menu.
Chef Sadek Miah has a balanced menu for Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, with the best of both traditional Dishes and contemporary ones that bring an innovative slant and eye-catching presentation. With some of the food sourced locally in Kent, using quality spices and herbs, the array of dishes and flavours is enough to make any man or woman travel great distances.
From their food menu, below you can see what we had:
How was it. You ask?
Absolutely stuffed. Although that was my lunch, that was me for the day. I had no space for anything else. The waiters had started the day with a basket full of popodams in three different varieties and whilst I was not starving , I couldn't help myself and just kept eating it along with four different chutneys.
The starters we had were the tandoori salmon and the duo of lamb. Both were tasty, but probably in the case of the salmon, it looked better than it tasted, I'll be honest, I very rarely order a fish dish at an Indian restaurant. This is because it never matches the quality of a good chicken, lamb or vegetarian dish. I think prawns are probably the best in terms of seafood, but like this salmon the flavours never really go deep enough. It touches the tongue briefly and then departs, not leaving much of an impression.
The duo of lamb was tender and succulent. The chops were meaty pieces and cooked very well. Some added chat from a BBQ would have been welcomed, but it was nice nonetheless. The sheesh, the lamb Gillaffe was packed full of herbs and spices and was a shame that I had to share with Laura (One downer to the marriage).
The list above was not too much, but it completely stuffed our little bellies. The starters, mains and desserts all sat nicely on top of each other and at the time was delightful. By the end, I was beyond a food coma and in a different place altogether. The generosity of each dish was amazing and meant that Laura and I even shared with others around the table.
The main courses picked up where the lamb left off. Meaty and juicy flavours came from the venison and chicken. The venison seemed to fit perfectly for Shampan at the Spinning Wheel. Being in the countryside surrounded by green space, the gamey flavours and richness was well suited. The warmth of spices of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves (The three C's) brought a fusion element to the venison and it was in a sense that chef Miah brought a mix between Kent and south India.
The Makhani was a classic choice from me. This dish, akin to butter chicken was me being lazy but also wanting to see how Shampan could do it. A little test from me. How did they fare? Very well. The sauce was nice and buttery and more importantly the chicken was plentiful. As much as we tried to be kind by sharing, the chicken would not go away. The velvety sauce coated the chicken and my tongue and stayed there for a while. This was a stand out dish for me.
From the director and head chef all the way through the team, Shampan at the Spinning Wheel was on point. Humayun Hussain excelled in organizing a great day. We were told about the importance of the team and about the local community. The Shampan Group in Kent have set their based and worked hard for 30 years. Four restaurants and many awards later it seems as though the hunger is still there.
My hunger was well and truly satisfied on this day and the finale of ice cream and gulab Jaman was a good way to end. Sweet, delicate and precise. I think that is a good way to end it. Goodnight.
Welcome to an amazing restaurant in London. The Palomar brings Middle Eastern delight to us all. Think of the amazing Ottolenghi, now think of him making you dinner and finally add a vibrant city restaurant scene. If you haven't booked a table after that sentence, then I am not doing my job well.
The Palomar brings you modern day food from Jerusalem. This modern take on Israels capital, adds influences from Spain and North Africa to delight those in London. Based off Shaftesbury Avenue in the theater heartland, The Palomar and their 16 seater bar bring great interaction and even singing and partying to their guests.
The Palomar has been around for a while, so luckily I was able to get a table on a Friday night. The restaurant is still very popular with constantly good reviews on TripAdvisor but we got a space for two, albeit not at the bar and Laura and I went to explore this new London favourite.
I had done some research before venturing in and knew about all the lovely dishes and especially their famous Kubaneh bread. Besides this; I was a blank slate and went about deciphering the menu. The menu is relatively straight forward and the waiter recommended that we share our dishes (which we always do).
On the menu, they have five different sections and the recommendation is to choose a dish, at least, from each one. The sections are titled: Rip & Dip, Raw. Cured. Chopped, Stove. Josper. Plancha, The bit on the Side and Sweets.
Here is what we got from each section:
Rip & Dip: Kubaneh Yemeni pot baked bread served with tahini & velvet tomatoes
Raw. Cured. Chopped: Beef Tataki Damaskus gate style - crispy Jerusalem bagel, tahini & spicy tomatoes
Stove. Josper. Plancha: Octo-hummous josperised octopus, chickpea msabacha & burnt aubergine
Siske Pork Belly with Ras el Hanout, dried apricot, glazed carrot & celeriac cream
The bit on the side: Josperised Aubergine feta emulsion, tomato, fresh oregano, crispy shallots & pine nuts
Sweets: Jerusalem Mess labneh mousse, almond crumble, strawberries, lemon cream, elderflower, & apple jelly & fresh sorrel (for two)
The dishes do come as and when they are ready, but treat the first two dishes as the starters bread an Beef) and the later three (Pork belly, Aubergine and Octopus) as the mains.
An important element of The Palomar is the instruments they use to cook their food. What I mean by this, is their use of the Josper or Plancha. A Josper is a combination of a grill and oven in a single machine and its aim and use is for keeping in moisture and high temperatures. Think of it as an indoor barbecue.
The same also goes for the plancha, which again has its benefits over a barbecue in the sense that it reaches the desired temperature a lot quicker.
These two cooking machines and methods are used for the Octopus and Aubergine. These two dishes, especially the Aubergine were delightful. The aubergine was cooked and blended with a feta emulsion to give a creamy texture. The charred element of the aubergine gave the dish a warmth and bite that made you want more. With the crispy onions on top, this crunch was very welcome. A delightful, elegant dish, which at £7 is one I will go back for. For any Iranians out there, it is quite similar to Mirza Ghasemi.
The starter dishes, the bread and Beef tataki, were close to my favourite and least favourite of all the dishes we had. The aubergine, was my favourite and a close second was the bread. This Yemeni bread baked in a pot comes encased in its pot upside down. The waiter then came over, tipped the pot and unleashed this light, fluffy bread. As the title on the menu suggested, you just had to rip the bread and dip it into the accompanying dips of velvet tomatoes and tahini. OH YES. I wish the bread was with us throughout the whole meal as it could have been used to mop up all the juices from our many dishes.
The beef tataki was tasty but just did not stand out among the rest of the food. The raw beef was encased on a crispy shell of bagel (check out the pic above) and put into a bowl of tahini. Now, I do love tahini and the more of this the better, but this beef tataki was just okay and not that great. (SORRY). I think I could have ordered better. My bad.
The vibe, the ambiance, the food and the venue are all great. The final two dishes of Pork Belly Tagine and the Jerusalem Mess were delightful too. The Pork was cooked well and as a Tagine style dish, it is all about slow cooking. The glazed carrot and dry fruit were welcome friends to the pork and prevented the dish from becoming too samey.
The final Sweets, the Jerusalem Mess was a great surprise. The moose, the crumble and the sorrel were all so good. The crunch, the cold, the freshness and the sweetness most importantly made me absolutely stuffed.
I now know that even if i am not the first person to visit a place, that I still must go. The Palomar waited for me and I am glad it did. There was still an air of excitement and buzz at the restaurant which made it seem like the venue to be at in London. Although, it is not in the Time Out recent Top 10 restaurants in London, The Palomar is still a place to go.
The slight fusion, the flavours from the middle east and the dishes to match the buzz. The Palomar is a great addition to the London restaurant scene and gives you a new cuisine to explore and love. Thank you good people, I will see you soon. As always catch me on my blog- thanks Weebly
Are Pizzas the new burgers? The growing love for Pizza is oh so welcome and thankfully Pizza Express and ASK Pizza are no longer the destinations, let's not even mention Pizza Hut and Domino's.
We are now blessed in London with great Pizza restaurants. Homeslice started it and now they are everywhere. Add to the list, we also have Franco Manca, Pizza Pilgrim, Sodo Pizza, Yard Sale (BLOG COMING SOON), Pizza East, NY Fold and now Joe Public Pizza.
Joe Public Pizza in Clapham serves up Californian style pizza with a full array of toppings. These are served either by the slice or by huge 20 inch Pies.
Strangely enough, the location of Joe Public Pizza is one of its key selling points. Based at a reclaimed Victorian toilet immediately outside Clapham Common station, this stall brings huge pizza to South London.
Similarly to Homeslice you can order a 20" pizza with two different halves, hence the four different pizza above. We cut the pizza between us and each slice was a mini feast in itself.
There is is a technique in managing such a big slice and the flip and fold has served me well. The goal is to make sure you don't lose any toppings and you get all the flavours and ingredients in one mouthful. If you can do it, you automatically get an Italian passport.
Joe's list of slice options is impressive and one that you need to think carefully about. The chosen four pizzas we had was to cover five people including two meat eaters, two normal people and a part time vegetarian. Out of about 10, we chose (get ready for a copy and paste job below):
TENDER-STEM BROCCOLI, ONION JAM, GOATS CHEESE, PESTO
SAUSAGE, BACON, GROUND BEEF, PEPPERONI, CARAMELIZED ONION, MOZZARELLA
CHICKEN, HALLOUMI, CHORIZO, OREGANO
CHORIZO, JALAPENOS, GOATS CHEESE, SRIRACH
With such quality in London, how does Joe Public Pizza stack up?
Simply put, Joe stacks up quite well.
The variety of toppings were all great and as a group, we all fell in love with the tender stem broccoli and onion jam pizza. The jam gave a good zing to the pizza and complimented the goats cheese really well.
All the other pizzas had great combos and were a treat. With the good weather and sun setting, spending time with Joe and his pizza was a great evening. A good Pizza down south for all those Londoners and a sign that Pizza in the UK has stepped up its game. The fact that it is just outside the station and the site of an old Victorian WC makes it an even more fun place to visit. Welcome to the hood.
Kebab? Flatbreads? What is this place?
Black Axe Mangal is a relatively new kid on the block. And when I say block, I mean roundabout.
It is not the newest restaurant but the location makes it seem like a bit of a secret that you may miss it when going round Highbury Junction.
My friend has been going on about Black Axe Mangal (BAM) for a while and we finely took him up on the request and went. A Thursday night drink and food session is always welcome. Although he was an hour late, we managed to kill time on a warm summer evening at two pubs and bars round the corner.
In my mind, BAM was a new take on kebabs. Well this was what I was expecting plus a few fusion type dishes with an incorporation from the Middle East too. When the menu arrived, it all seemed very interesting.
BAM is less kebab than Le Bab, but has great additions. Flatbreads are the starter and sharing dish throughout the meal and offer great variety. Some of the toppings on the fluffy flatbreads are lamb offal, beef dripping, squid ink and even Welsh rarebit.
The flatbreads were all really good and are small meals in themselves. You could easily order four between two and be very, very happy. The range of flavours and toppings make each a delight. The bread mops up any juices and make sure that you get full too.
For mains we ordered a few dishes to share between us. We had a Dexter Onglet with Hash Browns, Pigs cheek and Buttermilk fried Quail with mission spice. Unfortunately, on the night we went they had run out of their Mutton Chop, which I have heard since and before is supposed to be very good.
The Quail was really tasty. The mission spice and crunch of the bird made you want to have more and more. When you are sharing with five other guys, you have to get every mouthful you can. What I had was lovely and the warmth of the spices madethe Quail a dish you want to stay on the menu.
The Onglet we had came with Heart and Kidney too. These were very interesting and we all had to have a sample of these delicate organs. The dexter was a good chunk of meat and cooked well. The fact that it was cooked on a Mangal (barbecue grill) gave it that extra texture which we all welcomed.
With an ever changing menu and the fact that the mutton was not available means another visit is on the cards. BAMs location near home and Laura's work place gives two extra reasons to visit.
My advice is get there early, order a medley of flat breads and a few other dishes. Treat yourself to a nice cocktail or beer of your choice and BOOM! Winner. Winner winner, fried quail for dinner.
London is becoming the foodie place to be. That title currently belongs to San Sebastián. As the food capital of Europe, if not the world, San Sebastián and the Basque region ( with Bilbao) is home to the most three Michelin starred restaurants in the world.
This city first came to my eyes during a series of Masterchef UK. The finalists were whisked away to northern Spain and were shown what quality was. This type of quality was about using nature and fresh ingredients to produce some exquisite dishes.
It is quality and refinement which makes the Basque country what it is. When I heard that Chef Eneko Atxa was bringing his dishes to London, I became super excited. Eneko at One Aldwych is the restaurant from Eneko, the head chef of Azurmendi in Bilbao. As a holder of a three Michelin star restaurant and number 14 in the current World Top 50 restaurants in the world, I had cause to be excited.
To add to the fun and excitement of Eneko, the restaurant had a soft launch throughout August at 50% off. Another reason why I had to go. One was the reputation, two was that it's location to work and three, that 50% offer.
I had to go and luckily managed to grab a chance before the offer expired.
Now onto the tricky part, what to get and how to not have food envy. The menu looked a treat and a couple of colleagues had already been, so I asked for their suggestions and read a few reviews. This was definitely very helpful.
For the starters the decision was a three way battle. Pork buns, trio of seafood or Anchovy Tempura. Below is how they presented themselves to me on the menu. let me know which you would have chosen.
Memories of the Bay of Biscay
Oyster, crab, wild prawn tartare
Txerri Boda Pork Festival
Iberico ham, chorizo, black pudding on milk bread
Tempura of fresh anchovies, aioli , tomato
As you can tell by the pictures, I went for the Pork festival. This came in a box with the three buns filled with their special delights. I had not realized that there was a pigs head on it. Funny.
So, in each bun was a different take and use of the Pig. In one bun was the Iberico ham, the second was ground chorizo and the third black pudding like a paste.
These were all really tasty and being in a bun gave a different element to each. It definitely was not what I would have expected. But, I still enjoyed it nevertheless. The black pudding was really tasty and was delicately rich.
Main course was less tricky. The list was simple and with the recommendations I had earlier I narrowed my options to two. Although this was the case, I still waited until the last minute to decide. Below are the two dishes that stood out and were from a colleagues recommendations (Thanks Christie).
Basque style hake in tempura, confit vegetables, red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion
Roasted Iberico presa, wheat in chickpea sauce, garlic cream
I went for the Hake as I had pork to start with and it seemed very appealing. Look at the list of ingredients and cooking styles. Hake in tempura, Confit Veg, red pepper and parsley emulsion. DONE!
The fish was amazing. The batter, crispy tempura which was very light had a great bite to it. The fish was very soft and flaked off, yet was a meaty piece still. This was important as the portion size was not the biggest. The emulsion and sauce brought a zing to the hake and dish. This was needed to awaken different taste buds and give the aftertaste a happy finish.
High quality is what I would expect and I was not disappointed. Strangely enough, one happy thought came to my mind and this was that London is competing as a food destination. Eneko was delightful and very tasty. It would not be my favourite or as good as some London establishments and this is not to downplay the food at Eneko but just the fact that for three stars I was expecting a tad more.
I do want to go back and the price point does not put me off. The issue is just that at that cost, I would like to try somewhere new.
The inventiveness and delicacy of the food at Eneko is worth a visit. Good quality dishes are brought to life with exotic fusions and delight both the eyes and the belly. The service was on point, from the quality bread rolls and butter to the speed at which the food came out. I was very impressed.
To the rest of the Basque region, please do come and visit us. TO London restaurants, keep on working hard and feeding me.