Monday, 21 February 2011

Café Rouge – Breakfast and Dinner - The Printworks, Shudehill, Manchester M4 3JS

Article: Cafe Rouge, Printworks, Manchester - review

Day of the week and time: Friday 10.30am (for breakfast), Wednesday 6.30pm (for dinner).

Ahhh, I love having a fancy breakfast. I think I deserved this little treat with my hubby considering I had just handed in coursework nice and early for University.

Café Rouge is a nice little café/restaurant that has many chains across the UK, so it’s very likely you’ve heard of it, and perhaps, sat in and experienced a bit of France. OK, I wouldn’t go that far, it really doesn’t give off a French vibe, but how would I know, I’ve never been to François. Nonetheless, I love the hospitality from the staff here at every chain I’ve been to (London and Manchester mostly) and the décor - rich reds and a collage of French-related paintings splattered on the walls. The atmosphere is very sophisticated but casual.

For breakfast, we tried the Salmon Benedict, which was an easy choice having tried it before. This is a plate of sweet toasted bread, coated with smoked salmon and poached eggs, topped with hollandaise sauce (see pic below).

The salmon is lovely and delicate, not too over powering (for those fish-haters). It goes well with the hollandaise sauce soaked up by the sweet bread. The hollandaise sauce is at a nice consistency and tastes mild, not taking away the salmon smoke. I love the balance of flavours this meal provides; every bite is a piece of fancy heaven. The egg is lovely too and the yolk gooeyness adds a lovely additional sauce. I shall certainly be serving up this fancy breakfast for my parents and sister who will be visiting over Easter!

I want to add that Café Rouge have recently added a potato and onion mix to accompany the salmon Benedict, which is perfect as the meal becomes satisfyingly filling and you feel that it’s worth the money (£5.50). This accompaniment is lovely and light, giving that extra carbohydrate to get you through until lunch. Moreover, with a TasteCard, Café Rouge do 2 for 1 for all their breakfast and dinner dishes, so our meal cost us £5.50 for two here - Tres bien!

We had dinner at the Manchester, Printworks chain, but were a little disappointed with the lack of welcome. Waiters took several minutes to notice us and a few other hungry customers at the door (very shocking!). They were busy, but there is no excuse - I had to wave down a waiter myself.  However, service was friendly and our waiter was attentive but a little rushed off his feet by other customers, once we were seated.

We ordered the Saumon à la Niçoise (salmon fillet on a mixed leaf salad) and the Cromesqui d’Eglefi n Fumé (haddock fishcake on spinach with butter sauce).

The Saumon à la Niçoise was nice in taste, but ooh-la-la, the portion size is dedicated to the calorie-counter (not me). The salmon was gently pan-fried, the outer light and crispy, and with a slice through it, the fish flaked into beautiful pink fragments. The salad was made up of mixed leaves, totato pieces, potato and some egg – not extremely inspiring – I’ve cooked up this meal at home without referring to a recipe, minus the egg  and anchovy addition, and I’m no cooking whiz. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a classical French cuisine, more like a dish from Nigella Lawson’s guide to quick and easy cooking (don’t get me wrong though, I love Nigella Lawson!).

On the other hand, the Cromesqui d’Eglefi n Fumé was delightful. I unfortunately did not order this - my hubby did… so I was filled with hunger pangs and jealousy when I took a few forkfuls of his choice meal. The creamy and buttery sauce was calorifically heavenly, and there was plenty of it too , so as advised by the waiter, we ordered extra new potatoes (side dish – £3.00) to lap up the excess sauce until finished. The haddock fishcake was huge, and I mean HUGE – not a great presentation really. However, this big ball of light and fluffy goodness melted in your mouth joyfully, although failed to fill you up. The haddock was mild, not too overpowering. I would strongly recommend this dish if you like all things buttery and j'adore your poissons, like moi.

The quantity and quality for breakfast dishes at Café Rouge are splendid, and I will certainly treat myself to a morning-off there again. However, dinner was mildly disappointing – the servings were modest and the meals lacked inspiration. I was left hungry and even opted to go to a chippy and get myself a chip-butty to satisfy my tummy. If a restaurant leaves you hungry, I don't think that could ever be a good thing!

I am now eager to find an authentic French restaurant for classical French cuisines, and when I do, you’ll be the first to here about it!

p/s can you tell I'm learning French? : )

My palate's choice:
Salmon Benedict £5.50
Poached eggs & smoked salmon on toasted brioche with Lyonnaise potatoes and Hollandaise sauce

Cromesqui d’Eglefi n Fumé £10.95
Panfried smoked haddock fishcake on a bed of wilted spinach with a lemon butter sauce

Saumon à la Niçoise £10.50
Pan fried fi llet of salmon with a French bean, olive, anchovy, new potato, egg, tomato, red onion & mixed leaf salad tossed in our house French dressing.

Ambience = 7/10
Food = Breakfast: 8/10; Dinner: 6/10
Service = 6.5/10
Speed of food = 5/10
Restrooms = 7/10
Alcohol: unfortunately served
Price: with TasteCard = 7/10; without TasteCard = 4/10

Room For Improvement
  1. Produce more inspiring dishes for the main menu.
  2. Improve the portions for the main dishes, bring in some French-ier dishes.
  3. Dishes are overpriced - for example, salmon on a bed of leaves for £10.50 is a potential choking hazard!

Soups for Flu/Colds - ABC Malaysian Soup Recipe

I lived with a Malaysian International student in my first year at our halls of residence. She was absolutely lovely. Better yet, she introduced me to Malysian food -  healthy, tasty and easy to make food. Everytime she cooked in our communal kitchen, the air would be filled with tantalising aromas; every sniff made my mouth water - I just had to know what she was cooking up. One dish that she introduced me to was the notorious Malay ABC Soup. I'm not sure what the 'ABC' stands for, but I reckon it has something to do with how easy this dish is to make (easier than your A, B, C's - get it??).

It is a soup, that with only a few ingredients, is rich in flavour and goodness to help fight those bouts of flu/cold that us British people can never escape.

So, here's the recipe:

4-5 halal chicken drumsticks, with skin on if you like
Roughly 4 large potatoes
2-3 carrots
1 tomato
2 big onions
3L of water
Soy sauce, or oyster sauce

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

My recipe:
  1. Prepare the vegetables: peel and cut the potatoes and onions in wedges. Peel and cut the carrots in sections. Cut the tomato into quarters.
  2. Bring the water to boil in a pot. Put the chicken drumsticks in and cook for 30 minutes, or until done.
  3. Put in all the vegetables except the tomatoes. Cook until potatoes are done. Taste then season (salt and/or black pepper).
  4. Add the tomatoes when potatoes are done. Further cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve piping hot, with small drops of soya sauce or oyster sauce in the serving bowl (my own addition).

This is a lovely, healthy soup, that will help get your defences up! Try it and let me know how it goes. I will be making this today as it is a miserable, cold and wet day in Manchester today, and a little comfort food will just do the trick for the revision I have waiting for me. I'll post pics for you later on.

Wish me luck with my upcoming exams!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Creme Brulee & Chocolate Fondant Recipes

After writing the review for Stef's Italian Restaurant, I wanted to tell you more about my two favourite desserts: Creme brulee and Chocolate Fondant.

These are absolute pieces of heaven; one a silky and creamy custard, and the other a rich chocolate gooey pudding. The Creme Brulee is a French dessert, whereas the Chocolate Fondant is (according to google) either French or Italian.

I don't have pictures to show you from when I first tried making these desserts, because I made them waaay before starting this blog, but I tell you, they are easy peasy to make! The Chocolate Fondant proved a bit of a challenege, for me anyway, but a little practice and perfect timing helped me nail it and get that cooked outer case down with the melted surprise in the centre.

Here are the recipes I used:

Creme Brulee


When I prepared this recipe, I had no vanilla pods or essence, so just left it out completely - it still tasted lovely! I know the dessert would have been that much better with the vanilla, as I've had them in restaurants before, but I really think it's fine without if your supply of vanilla is non-existent.

It's amazing how simple this recipe is, and the finished product is so delightfully delicious! It just goes to show a little (in terms of the number of ingredients) goes a long way. I will be making another attempt at this French masterpiece once I've moved out of my cold, ovenless apartment, and into a new one! Moving day is just around the corner, I hope...

Chocolate Fondant

I created this decadent dessert after watching Come Dine With Me. I've had this dessert many times before, yet never attempted to make it because I was always threatened by the amount of skill it might have taken to get that dreamy melted centre perfectly right. However, after watching Caprice make them when she was on the show, I got hold of the recipe from Channel4, and then, hey presto, I could make a decent chocolate fondant (albeit having to try a few times before reaching perfection). Long gone are my childish hypothesis of how they got that gooey centre, mostly made up of beliefs that the melted chocolate was somehow injected into the cake (???). I'm embarassed that I never bothered to look it up, but not embarassed enough to expose myself on my blog!

I think it comes down to the type of chocolate you use, aswell. I used cheap chocolate for cooking from ASDA, so that might have something to do with the way the middle would solidify in my first few attempts. If you have better luck with this recipe, i.e. nail it on the first attempt, please let me know... you must be a culinary genius!

Here's the recipe:

And the Come Dine With Me episode with Caprice:

Once I've got myself a working oven, I shall post pics of the desserts I make, just to convince you just how easy and ego-massaging it is to make these pots of scrumptious delights, and for those who have never had a Creme Brulee or Chocolate Fondant before, you can see what you've been missing out on all your lives....

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Stef's Italian Restaurant - 3 Berners Street, London W1T 3LD

Article: Stef's Restaurant, Italian Cuisine - review

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road, London
Day: Saturday, 3pm (ish)

Please note: does not serve halal meat - tried a vegeterian dish here.

Aside from the fact that this restaurant sounds more like a cafe that belongs on the set of Eastenders than in the heart of Central London, I had a wonderful time with my mum and sister at this venue. No, this restaurant did not slide fried eggs, toast and beans across the table to me or shout out orders to the kitchen staff as I ate, rather, the food was healthy and scrumptious and the staff were professional.

Stef's is a small and pleasant Italian bistro, just off Tottenham Court Road, London. The décor was nothing too fussy or fancy; splashes of red and dark brown with a soft light setting created a romantic atmosphere. The seating was comfortable and the restaurant’s staff were polite and attentive. Prices are affordable - a pleasant surprise considering this place sits in the heart of the city - with most main dishes under £6.00!

We stumbled in to the empty(ish) venue, just missing the lunch-hour rush, but we were content with that – we love the feeling of having a place to ourselves. A polite waitress showed us to our table, handed our menus and took our drinks order. The three of us didn’t take too long to decide what to have as this restauraunt didn’t serve halal food, so the  vegeterian dish we opted for, the Alla Primavera, was our lunchtime choice. This is a penne pasta with roasted peppers, aubergine and zucchini/courgettes, lathered in a tomato and basil sauce. It sounds really simple and flavourless, doesn’t it? It was anything but. 

Considering the four part solid ingredients, I didn’t expect the generous portion that made its way to me. It was huge! – I felt smug having turned down the starters and saving my pennies – this serving was sure to fill me up. The colours in the dish were fresh, summery and organic – true to the season. I usually feel regretful after ordering a vegeterian dish because I miss the taste of meat, but my relationship with this dish was completely different. I ate it without a complaint and finished the excess sauce on the plate with pieces of bread. It was incredibly yummy. The sauce was amazingly tasty, nothing like the Ragu and Dolmio versions - they don't do justice to authentic Italian food!

I feel urged to elaborate on the flavours. There was a neat balance of rich tomato and basil with the freshness from the vegetables. I confirmed with the waitress that the pasta was homemade and I think it was this very thing that propted me to start making my own pasta at home (which is easier than you think!). The sauce was just so tasty, I could have eaten it with crusty bread all on its own.

My sister opted for dessert, but mum and I felt the heat wave that day, so chose not to eat anymore. She chose the decadent chocolate cake that had its centre filled with melted chocolate goo that I simply couldn't resist; luring me to dig my spoon into it, stealing a few bites when she turned her back. It was delicious and obviously made by a skilled chef. I know this only because I’ve had a go at making a cake like this a few times (a Chocolate Fondant) - they were overcooked and the gooey centre solidified quickly at room temperature; a potential tooth chipping experience. In contrast, Stef's version took us straight to chocolate heaven! It wasn't too rich or sickly, just a perfect finish to the Italian dining experience.

My mum was especially pleased with the food, pestering me to ask the Chef for the recipe, to which we were told it was a "family secret" – a classical Italian cliché, yes, but all the more enlightened us to search the internet for the recipe and have our own hand at Italian cooking at home. I don't think it's quite the same though, when an amateur like me tries to replicate the dish in their own kitchen, so I'm sure to go back to Stef's at some point in the future, hopefully as a treat to myself after a hard day off shopping!

Highly recommended!

My palate’s choice for the day:
Alla Primaverav £5.20
Roasted peppers, aubergine and zucchini in a rich tomato and basil sauce.

Chocolate Cake (with chocolated melted centre) £?

Ambience = 9/10
Food = 9/10
Service = 9/10
Speed of food = 9/10
Restrooms = did not visit
Alcohol: unfortunately served
Price: 9/10

Room For Improvement
  1. The restaurant was great, but I would have wanted to try a meat dish, so if they served halal meat  then I would have definetly ordered that. It would make me go time and time again because the prices and portions compliment each other.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Tampopo - The Trafford Centre, Manchester, M17 8AA

Article: Tampopo Restaurant review

My hubby and I embarked on a shopping trip to Trafford Centre. This was about a year ago when Trafford Centre was our hot spot for shopping and eating out. It helped that it had a free car-park and a roof; Manchester can get bitterly cold and wet during the Winter. For those who do not know what the Trafford Centre is, then, where have you been? It’s only the nicest place in the North-West of England - a gigantic building designed with the high-end shopper and diner in mind.

Naturally food was the next item on the agenda after I bought some expensive makeup and hubby bought comfy cotton socks. We strolled endlessly in the food court where we discovered a growing queue outside a restaurant we hadn’t tried or heard of. It was Tampopo.

After scanning for the halal sign and menu, we decided to take a detour from the preferences at the time - Pizza Hut or Nandos – and settled for a meal at Tampopo, awkwardly sat by other diners. This is a common theme in Far-Eastern restaurants; canteen style seating with a posh twist.

The venue is softly lit with a casual atmosphere, and the staff are no different. Waiters don't pretend to be working for a michelin restauraunt, but they are polite and do their job.

For halal eaters, Tampopo nicely provide a ‘Halal and Allergies Menu’ that tells you whether the dishes contain halal meat, nuts or alcohol (1). A great effort made on Tampopo’s part, albeit the lack in appearance of the thing (printed on white A4 paper and probably laminated by a child).

I’ve had pretty much every halal starter and main dish on the menu. I lie - I’ve definitely had them all.

For starters, I recommend the Sesame Prawn Skewers (Malaysian) - juicy and crunchy all in one bite and the presentation isn’t too bad either. The Prawn Crackers are nice too. But the starter that explodes in my mouth with all things fresh and crunchy is the Goi Cuon (Vietnamese style spring rolls). Don’t be put off by them being served cold though – seriously, this just adds to the exquisite freshness. They are a little pricey though, for two rolls priced at £3.75 – the pleasure of such a tantalising starter is annoyingly brief.

I absolutely love this Pan-Asian concept; slices of Japanese zest with touches of Thai flavours and Vietnamese freshness splashed across the menu… and much, much more.

The main dishes are great too. However, before I go on, I will mention this crucial detail now. I have noticed Tampopo's portions have minimised over the year, not befitting to the value-for-money seekers (me). Whether this is related to the unsettled economy or my greed, you’re not left with a satisfied tummy.

The Vietnamese main dishes are my favourite - Ga Xao Xa Ot (a sauce based stir-fry) and Com Hue (wok-fried rice). You need to order a portion of rice (white rice for £1.90 – and looks like a ridiculous tablespoon helping) to go with the Ga Xao Xa Ot. Other than the obvious disproportionate stir-fry to rice ratio, the aroma of fresh peppers and lemongrass really get the juices flowing. A bite into this releases the delicious flavours of soft spices with an imperceptible sweetness. The slices of red chillies give you the option of removing any unbearable heat from this dish. My hubby would also recommend the Singapore Noodles (mild curry flavour) - he liked the touch of this dish served on bamboo leaf. For me, this dish took me back to my childhood, with mum serving up something similar and just as yummy.

For dessert, I have only tried the crème brulee (with ginger). This is an odd one, because this is a classical French dessert that I can proudly say I can make myself. If you’ve never tried one before, then you have never lived! It’s a creamy vanilla custard that feels oh-so-smooth in your mouth with a crunch from the broiled sugar top - my favourite dessert of all time. Tampopo’s version with ginger sounds kind of, erm, yuck. But give it a try. The ginger is barely sharp, rather, just adds a slight texture to the creamy silkiness.

This place suits the adventurous type, seeking Far-Eastern cuisines in the comfort of a cosy dining space filled with conversation, laughter and soft taps of chop-sticks. The prices do not compliment the portions, but as a one-off experience… I would highly recommend Tampopo.

Things I have tried:
Sesame Prawn Skewers (Malaysia) £4.95
Three skewers of grilled marinated king prawns topped with toasted sesame seeds & served with fresh lime.

Thai Spicy Prawn Crackers £1.95
With sweet chilli sauce.

Goi Cuon (Vietnam) £3.75
Fresh rice-paper rolls filled with vegetables, glass noodles & Asian herbs, served cold. With Soy & Ginger or Nuoc Cham dips.

Singapore Noodles Singapore £8.75
Rice vermicelli with prawns, chicken breast, spring onion & carrot, with a mild curry flavour.

Com Hué (Vietnam) £6.95+
Wok-fried rice from the imperial city of Hué, flavoured with sesame seeds, lemongrass & coriander.

Ga Xao Xa Ot (Vietnam) £6.95
Chicken breast, green pepper & carrot wok-fried with fiery red chillies & lemongrass.

Crème Brulee (with Ginger) £?

Ambience = 8/10
Food = 8/10
Service = 7/10
Speed of food = 6.5/10
Restrooms = 7/10
Alcohol: unfortunately served
Price: 5/10

Room For Improvement
  1. Larger portions and smaller prices would go down well with anyone. Or just price dishes that suit the portions, although the former is (naturally) the preference.

  1. Halal and Allergies Menu:

Monday, 14 February 2011

Saffron Eastern Cuisine - 107 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester M8 8PY

Article: Saffron Eastern Cuisine review
Day and time of visit: Friday, 6.30pm

Not a pinch of saffron flavoured dishes in sight? Potential theft? High blood pressure? This restaurant really disappointed me from its name right through and beyond my exit.

Friday nights are usually busy in restaurants, and I expect that. However, when asked if there is the possibility of sitting somewhere quiet, I also expect to be spoken to politely. I was responded with a harsh tone and told they were “busy”. So, Saffron won no points for welcoming me into their venue.

Once shown to the dining area, the place was not even half-full. If this was “busy”, then I’d love to see what quiet time was like here. I did get my quiet seating area though, nicely tucked away from all the children running inbetween the chairs and tables, unsupervised.

There were many families here and couples along with some Uncles who were engrossed in the grilled meals they had ordered. This place has two menus: a special grill and buffet. But with no menu in sight, I didn’t notice the grill option at all. In fact, the waiter failed to tell me there was a grill option, even though I specifically asked if it was just a buffet restaurant. Not impressed.

Stuck with the buffet option, I sat down. Table dressing was lacking, except for the four dusty glasses with cheap paper napkins placed inside them as “décor”. I wasn’t advised where the plates and cutlery were too. Although the waiters were generally very polite, it became frustrating having to shout “excuse me” a dozen times to request the whereabouts of my dinner set. One waiter realised I wasn’t given a plate, so immediately went to get one. Finally. After ordering a glass of mango lassi, I then joined the uncivilised stampede of faces that lined up (if you want to call it a line) for their food.

I absolutely hate buffets for this reason. I cannot stand the bad manners and narcissistic mindset that develops just to get a piece of chicken tikka. Not to mention the pushing-in “just because your family member is in the queue”. And using small children to emotionally blackmail your way to the front is simply sickening. It's worse than the pushchair-mums' who claim the entire pedestrian walk; armed with buggy, child and the determination to rule the world!

Ok, I’ve realised I’ve been a tad harsh up to now, so I will quickly jot down the few things I did like about the place. Firstly the restaurant had personalised plates and cutlery, which was nice because I’m not a fan of those who describe themselves as ‘passionate Restaurateurs’ then opt for the cheaper IKEA dinner sets. I also noticed that the salt and pepper on the table were stained with my worst nightmare – greasy splatters of curry. However, the general hygiene of the venue was decent – I didn’t see any rats and it looked like they mopped and hoovered regularly, which is always nice. The waiters were generally pleasant, although never attentive. Some of them hovered on their spots, probably waiting for closing time – which I can sympathise with.

See. I was nice. But honest.

I loaded a piece of all the starters available. Stir-fried mushrooms (soggy outer, undercooked inside), sish kebab (tasty), roast chicken (very dry and hard to swallow), Chinese chicken corn soup (tastiest starter), Morroccon wings (greasy, fatty, tasteless), fish tikka (lovely - crispy outer, succulent fish inside) and the slow roasted lamb (a definite divine bite). Therefore, a few starters qualified as decent in my books, so it was an OK start.

The main dishes (white rice, lamb nahari, lamb karahi, chicken korma) could be described in three words: flavourless and salty. If you are asking for high blood pressure, come to this place for an early death. These main dishes were in complete contradiction to the statement made by Saffron’s website - dishes that you, I and anyone else have “never tasted before”. In contrast, I have had better karahis, kormas and baltis - even when I cook for myself (yes, it was that bad!). However, I did appreciate one of the waiters serve me a plate of white rice as there was none in the buffet - odd as that may be.

The words “innovative” and “refreshing” were also used to describe the buffet. I would like to replace them with unimaginative and disappointing, which perfectly depict the desserts (shop bought banoffee and cheese cake, supposedly homemade custard and apple and gulab jamans). However, their homemade (?) Burfi were delicious. Addictive, even.

I certainly left this venue with my belly full having sampled pretty much every unsatisfying dish available. I paid my bill of £13.99 - which I gasped at (a rip off!). I was handed back £6.00 change (where was my penny change??). Then, when almost reaching my apartment, I realised the mango lassi cost £1.70, so I was short-changed by 31p. You do the maths. I know that sounds really petty - it is only 31 pence after all - but try telling that to the Manager who took it.

Not recommended.

My palate's choice for the evening:
Buffet £11.99
Mango Lassi £1.70

Tastecard: not used here

Ambience = 6.5/10
Food = 2/10
Service = 5/10
Speed of food = Buffet
Restrooms = did not visit
Alcohol: not served
Price: 1/10

Room For Improvement
  1. A nice warm greeting at the door would get you into the customer's good books, and set their evening to a good start. Also give them their options (grill, buffet) and let them decide.
  2. Produce quality food that represents true South Asian cooking - Saffron Manager, make your mother proud!
  3. Service with a smile - some waiters looked like they had all the fun sucked right out of them - motivate your staff, perhaps.
  4. The personalised dinner sets were a nice touch - extend this to the quality of napkins. It's 2011, not the 80's.
  5. Do not under any circumstances help yourself to your customer's change unless they give you the thumbs up - otherwise it could be classed as stealing.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Swadesh Restaurant - 98 Portland Street, Manchester, M1 4GX

Article: Swadesh Restaurant review
Day and time of visit: Thursday, 6.30pm

I’ve been to this restaurant a few times now including when it opened in 2009. It is a restaurant that incorporates a mix of traditional Bengali-Indian flavours. Unfortunately, I’m not a regular here because my student budget stretches me only so far. However, my TasteCard (1) has come in handy for all my visits, allowing me to fine dine to my stomach's full and waist-belt’s give - as the restaurant promises – and at a decent price.
When you enter this plush venue, you are met by warm faces. The grey, silver and touches of brown and blue hues lift the venue, creating a romantic and sophisticated ambience. In major contrast to the poor student I am on most other days, I felt rich and luxurious… and ever so more eager to eat.

After a short wait, we were given the choice of where I would like to sit in the dinning area, albeit being busy. The seats were comfy. The table was neatly set with a wine glass and tumbler, simple cutlery (thankfully not from IKEA) sat on a napkin and a simple white appetizer plate.

We sat amidst an array of hungry customers chatting and eating their aesthetically pleasing meals. “Aesthetics” and “Indian food” do not usually share the same sentence (not for me anyway) because of the countless encounters I’ve had of greasy curries that have made their way to my table, clearly slapped into their serving bowls with remnants of vegetable oil splattered on the rim. Now you don’t want to get me started on foil containers for takeaway orders!

We were offered well-presented menus that gave a good short description of most dishes. I remember the first time I opened this menu. I was surprised by two things: 1) it was written in correct English and 2) it included unconventional appetisers, starters and main courses. I was instantly thrilled and try them!

Take for example the Chicken Soup (appetizer), my first untraditional Indian appetizer. In the menu it is described as “chicken simmered with Thai ginger, roasted flour, lime leaves and garlic”. Sounds delicious, right? It was! The texture was delicately smooth as I sipped it sparingly; the combination of ingredients teased my taste buds with pleasure. It was aromatic and perfectly spiced – not over powering for the palate or tongue – served in a generous sized bowl.

My husband picked the soup on our evening out, and when it arrived, I almost regretted ordering my Lamb Chops. I started contemplating swapping my starter for my husbands perfectly assembled Indian (yes Indian!) soup.

All regrets aside, I hand picked three (stingy, I know!) chops and devoured them quickly into my mouth within a few minutes, being small and all. However, my fingers tips were joyfully dusted with the dry spices used to marinate those chops. And of course, I licked my finger tips, enjoying the salivating experience of breaking dining table etiquettes; what the heck, it’s part of the pleasure!

Although my lamb chops were absolutely delicious - albeit a few hiccups - they were somewhat too hot for me – the Chef was a little too generous with the chilli powder. In addition, one piece was slightly over done (not burnt) and not to my liking – the meat had lost a lot of its succulence.

My husband managed to catch up with me, finishing off his soup that revealed some unspectacular chicken pieces. To be frank, this was the only part of the soup appetizer that I would change. The chicken pieces were knobbly and (nearly) ruined that beautifully created liquor. 

Next were the main courses – a Hydrabadi Biryani (lamb) for me and Nurjahani Biryani (chicken) for my husband, accompanied with a gravy with mixed onions and peppers for me and a smooth gravy for him. Also accompanied with warm plates… yes! Warm plates – these guys really get it! They were served in traditional handis (Indian serving bowls) that were generous in size, although I still quietly complained to my husband that it looked like he had more than me.

As my biryani hit my mouth, my eyes widened with excitement. Ahhhh, excellent, classical Indian food at.last. It wasn’t greasy or over cooked – it was fresh and fragrant, with every rice grain separated perfectly and every lamb piece juicy and delicious. My husband felt the same. We actually ate in silence for once - you know the kind of silence that emerges because you’re too busy enjoying your meal to talk? That kind of silence.

The description on the menu said that our biryanis would be “decorated with boiled egg”. When I read the word “decorated”, I automatically expected a finely presented biryani, with boiled egg (somehow) placed beautifully on the plate; instead the boiled egg sat awkwardly in the middle of the serving bowl; lonesome and uncared for. This was my only disappointment. I would like to say that the flavours made up for the lack of promised presentation (which is true), but I want you to be left with an honest critique – they really should have done something with that egg.

The service in this restaurant was next to perfect. They were courteous and were only a stone throw away if we needed anything, albeit being busy and knowing we had a discount card. Our waiter actually looked like he enjoyed working for this fabulous establishment.

It was also nice to have a slight peak into the kitchen. We could see moving patches of Chefs’ hats and uniform through the glass patterns, and faint shouts of orders ready to go every time the door opened.

The bill came with two complimentary plain chocolate sweets, nicely packaged in golden wrappers with the Swadesh name and logo on it. A nice finish to the night… and we only spent £20.40 for two (thanks to TasteCard)!


My palate’s choice for the evening:
Poppadums with Dips £1.00

Lamb Chop £4.80
Grilled rack of lamb.

Hydrabadi Biryani £10.50
Aromatic Basmati rice and tender lamb steam cooked together with fresh mint, sun dried plum , herbs and spices decorated with boiled egg.

Nurjahani Biryani £9.90
Aromatic Basmati rice and spring chicken steam cooked together with rose water, sun dried plum, herbs and spices decorated with boiled egg.

Cranberry juice £2.50

In the past I have ordered (not all at one visit!):
Lamb Sheek Kebab £3.50
Minced lamb combined with roasted spices and fresh herbs and skewered in the tandoor.

Chicken Soup £3.80
Chicken simmered with Thai ginger, roasted fl our, lime leaves and garlic.

Saffron Rice £2.90

Lamb Balti £9.50
Old school favourite

Duck Jalali (hot) £10.90
Chunks of simmered Duck cooked with garlic, ginger, coriander, sun dried Roma tomato and finally gentle touch of Bengal aromatic Naga Chilli.

Kheer (rice pudding)

Ambience = 10/10
Food = 8/10
Service = 9/10
Speed of food = 9/10
Restrooms = 5/10
Alcohol: unfortunately served
Price: with TasteCard = 9/10; without TasteCard = 5/10

Room For Improvement
  1. Each lamb chop piece should be as succulent as the other.
  2. Improve the number of lamb chops for a starter - they weren't the largest pieces and one must admit 3 is really taking the mick especially if a customer is spending £4.80 on them. Extend this to other starters.
  3. When the menu describes something to be decorated by something else (that boiled egg!)... do it.
  4. Preferably, stop serving alcohol.

***Review on Swadesh's Lunchtime Buffet coming soon.