Breakfast@Wagamama

It’s the morning of our flight and our normal breakfast stop at Heathrow, Plane Food, is closed for refurbishment. So, we decide to try breakfast with a touch of Japanese influence at Wagamama.

The menu reads like a pleasing confusion of British, Japanese and other international influences and we are fascinated as we watch a variety of plates and bowls being served to other tables. It is also good to see an open kitchen with dishes being freshly cooked to order.

We ask Katarzyna, who is looking after us, a few questions about the menu and then start with juice but… its not going to be a simple OJ. Rock selects Fruit a mix of apple, orange and passionfruit juice. But, after last night’s curry I need a Super Green – a combination of apple, mint, celery and lime. I am quite excited – it is very different to anything I’ve had at breakfast before and it’s very good.

I fall back to tradition next and Wagamama’s version of the English Breakfast – back bacon, sausages, grilled tomato, wilted spinach, sautéed sweet potato, shiitake mushrooms and poached eggs. My sausages are not cooked enough for my taste but they whisk them back to the kitchen and then back to me without any fuss. The dish has many great notes of familiarity but also some magical notes of international flavour.

Meanwhile, Rock is being a little more adventurous and having the bacon roti wrap. A thai flatbread filled with spinach, bacon, a nori omelette and sriracha (hot chilli) ketchup. It is wildy different from a bacon roll and she loves it.

Overall, the service from Katarzyna and others has been excellent and so has the food. This won’t be the last time we land at Wagamama!

Dinner@Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen

Ahead of tomorrow’s flight to Romania, we are at Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen in the Heathrow Hilton. Cyrus Todiwala, the chef patron, is known for being one of ‘The Incredible Spice Men’ on TV and for his central London restaurant Cafe Spice Namaste. We need another taste of fine UK cuisine before we leave for eastern Europe.

We begin with beer. Both Rock and I have a bottle of Curious Brew IPA. A fine Indian Pale Ale brewed by Chapel Down in Tenterden. They use pale ale malt and a balanced blend of three different hops to produce a distinctively flavoured IPA. We both love it.

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We spend a long time looking at the menu – there are just too many fabulous sounding things to choose from. We are also mindful of the fact that we almost always over order and we hate food waste with a passion! However….I have a cunning plan.

We share the vegetarian thali and the tikka platter – in effect, a small amount of several different dishes. But before that arrives we receive an amuse-bouche of saambaar, a spiced vegetable & lentil soup. It is very spicy and awakens parts of my digestive tract that have been hibernating for some time.

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Just as I am about to order a big pot of calming yoghurt – the vegetarian thali and the tikka platter arrive. Each element of the dishes is carefully explained to us in detail and I quickly regret having no shorthand skills. So, this is what I think we had: the thali includes tadka dhal, baingan bharta (a smoked aubergine dish), cholay paneer ( paneer & chickpeas in a gravy with pomegranate seeds), bhindi aur mushroom ki jalfraezi (a spicy dish of okra, mushrooms & tomato), a raita, rice and a roti.

The tikka platter consists of Barbary duck, Denham Estates venison, Scotch beef, chicken, paneer and salmon all cooked, tikka fashion, in a clay oven. Wow! To calm myself I order another Curious Brew IPA.

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Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen is a calm and stylish place. The service is excellent, the quality of the ingredients and the cooking skill of the open kitchen is very high. Even the beer is first rate. It really feels like our holiday has already started and we haven’t even taken off yet!

Dinner@Salaam Namaste, Bloomsbury (2)

I’m back in London meeting Ilia and Gustav. After a few beers (and a few hours of setting the world to rights) we are heading to a regular haunt of ours – Salaam Namaste.

Gustav orders his usual starter – Bombay onion bhaji while Ilia and I both show a soft spot for the Manglorean soft shell crab served with date and tamarind chutney. Before the starters arrive we have a little more beer and a complimentary dish – a batch of small savoury patties served with a sweet chutney. I can’t remember what was in them… but they were very nice. Gustav expectedly enjoys his bhaji and Ilia and I both love the soft shell crab.

For the main event Gustav has the Dumpukht biryani (lamb and basmati rice cooked in a sealed pot) which is served with a boondi raitha. Ilia has the chicken tikka bhuna and I have the Dhaba Gosht – a North Indian goat and potato curry. Plus, vegetable side dishes, naan bread and a pomegranate & mint raitha.

Almost everything is good but I am disappointed with the goat – I like to be adventurous but sometimes it just doesn’t pay off. I know that goat can be better than this!

We’ve had a fabulous evening – too much beer, plenty of food and great camaraderie. Though I think it may be time to try somewhere new for dinner.

Lunch@Indigo, Covent Garden

Ever since we spent an evening drinking some serious cocktails in the Lobby Bar of One Aldwych, Rock has been intrigued by the restaurant there. Called Indigo, it has a menu which is entirely dairy free and gluten free. I’m less intrigued but very prepared to give it a go.

Everything starts well. They have decent beer – a Meantime lager will complement the food here well. Rock begins with a salad of smoked salmon, avocado, beetroot and cucumber. I choose the smoked salmon mousse with Oscietra caviar and young herbs. We are both impressed with the quality of the smoked salmon and astonished at the quality of the mousse – how has the kitchen produced something so rich and creamy without using dairy? Extraordinary.

Next Rock is having the chick pea panisse with confit tomato and sweet & sour sultanas. A panisse is similar to polenta but made from chickpea flour. It is crisp but strangely lacking in flavour and the other items on the plate do little to lift the dish. I have the duo of Scottish beef with pumpkin, crispy potato and thyme. I am almost as disappointed as Rock. The beef is ok, although the ratio of shin to the thick layer of potato cake is too mean. Nor is the potato crispy. The balance of the dish is just not right. Now our appetites seem to have disappeared.

Not for the first time, we have been hugely impressed by starters and then equally disappointed by the main dishes. I applaud Indigo for catering for those who need dishes that are dairy free and gluten free but sadly, going forward, the restaurant is also going to be WadeandRock free.

Dinner@Caravan, Exmouth Market

London calling…..the annual pre-Christmas get together with Gustav and Ilia has evolved and tonight we also have Fidel and Thorkall with us…. and they can rock just about any casbah. After a few drinks at a favourite pub we are heading to Caravan in Exmouth Market.

The menu here has dishes from all round the world, local ingredients often mixed with flavours from the Mediterranean, middle east and far east. We decide to try a magnificent seven dishes, some familiar and some that may lead to armagideon time.

Air dried beef cecina with a white riot of manchego cheese and olive oil is interesting. Aubergine bhaji with tomato kasundi and yoghurt is fabulous. Baby squid, with new potatoes, meyer lemon, capers and parsley wasn’t for me but others seemed to really like it. Smoked mackerel with baby peppers, yuzu saffon butter and mint was excellent and I loved the chorizo and sweet potato croquettes. I’m glad I don’t have to shop for these ingredients as I would just get lost in the supermarket!

Beer and wine continue to flow and I no longer have complete control. More dishes arrive including Burmese chicken salad with turmeric, lime, chilli and peanuts which is great and Ilia’s favourite – Elwys valley lamb cutlets with chermoula.

Importantly, we have been well looked after all evening by Martina. The should I stay or should I go question is easily dealt with – as we all have trains or tubes to catch.

Ilia and Thorkall walk with me to the tube. As I head home I turn on my ipod – This is Radio Clash!

Lunch@The Barbary, Covent Garden

Rock and I are standing in a queue, waiting for The Barbary to open its doors. We’ve had to come early not only to ensure we get in, you can’t book, but also because we are going to the theatre later. The Barbary takes its inspiration from the food of the North African Barbary Coast. It is the sister restaurant to The Palomar in Soho that we visited about a year ago and loved.

The doors open and we are led into the restaurant which has a u-shaped kitchen bar at the centre. Diners sit on bar stools and watch as their food is being prepared.  The area inside the bar is a hive of activity as chefs, grills and ovens all work together to create fabulous smells and flavours. I think this is going to be extraordinary….

Also behind the bar is Esther, who cheerfully takes us through the menu, explains how everything works and delivers my Fevertree ginger beer. Once we know what we are having – it is great fun to follow each dish as it goes under the grill or into the oven.  Food is served as soon as it is ready.

Arayes – grilled pitta pockets filled with lamb & beef, onion and various herbs arrive with a tahini dip. Ashkenazi chicken liver is like a coarse paté served with spring onion and a strip of pickled gherkin. Pata Negra neck is a fillet of chargrilled pork that comes with ras el hanout, baked confit garlic and date honey. Terry’s Tirshy is a fabulous dish of sweet pumpkin dressed with toasted almonds. Cauliflower jaffa style is a combination of deep-fried florets, tomato and lots more herbs and spices. We feast our way through all of this with a naan e Barbari – possibly one of the best naan breads I have ever eaten and cooked in the clay oven only three feet from where we are sitting.

If all of that was not enough, we still have time for dessert. We decide to share a combination of Medjool date ice cream and baklava. The baklava are beautiful and the ice cream is an ideal accompaniment. Fresh mint tea helps us to digest all this fantastic fare.

I thought this was going to be extraordinary….actually, it was better than that.

Lunch@Sosharu, Clerkenwell

Today I’m in London, without Rock, meeting the fabulous Karla at Sosharu in Clerkenwell. Sosharu is the latest venture by Jason & Irha Atherton and it has just been named London Restaurant of the Year at the 2016 AA Awards. It serves small plates of Japanese food designed by executive head chef, Alex Craciun.

The restaurant is quite busy yet retains a degree of calmness. The décor is fairly mimimalist, reflecting the style of a Japanese Minka house. The toilets are extraordinary! Neither Karla or myself are experts in Japanese food and, after seeing a number of beautiful looking dishes delivered to other tables, we both decide to go for the seafood bento box.

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Our bento boxes are divided into four parts – all delivered at the same time. We have: salmon teriyaki served with pickled ginger; kyoto style chirashi with tuna, salmon, egg threads and sushi rice; a seasonal vegetable salad with purple mizuna and a yuzukosho dressing; and home-made pickled vegetables with kimchi. It is an amazing array of colours, flavours and textures.

As if I am not already spoiling myself with the food… I have a Junmai 36 samurai cold sake to add to my enjoyment. We have no difficulty in eating (and loving) everything we have been given. We both select the excellent chocolate ice cream from the desserts included in the bento box deal.

Karla is celebrating becoming a new home-owner. I am celebrating this opportunity to catch up with her over lunch. We are both celebrating the fantastic food we have just enjoyed. Sosharu already has an AA Award and it is now in the running for a WadeandRockandFood Award!