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!

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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.

Dinner@Anokha, City of London

Tonight I’m without Rock but with a group of good friends having dinner at Anokha in the heart of the City of London. These friends will make it an interesting night: BigSam does a great gorilla impression and has an appetite to match; José expertly leads one of the greatest teams in the country; in the future posh Winston may well follow Boris into No 10; Ruby is here to bring elegance and moderation to the group; and Wills is simply a prince amongst men.

We all agree that the Mixed Platter is a good place to start.  This results in a deposit of Vegetable Samosas, Paneer Tikka, Pakora, Sheek Kebabs and Chicken Tikka pieces.  We all get stuck in, though I’m pretty convinced that BigSam not only eats his own quota but also accounts for some of the shares belonging to others.

The liquid assets ledger will show in the debit column that before, after and between courses we consume G&Ts, bottles of beer and bottles of ES Vino Malbec.

We select a portfolio of main courses that include: Tandoori Roasted Achari Lamb Chops; Chicken Tikka Dansak and Lamb Pasanda.  Plus a double-entry of rice, nans of all varieties and a surplus of side dishes that include Mushroom, Sag and Onion Bhajees.  The Onion Bhajees are particularly unusual – served as a pile of crispy battered bits – they work fabulously with the main dishes by adding a new texture.

A creditable evening ….on balance, I think every member of the group has really profited from this experience!

Dinner@Sanskrit,Hall Green

Birmingham is one of the greatest places in the UK, and possibly the universe, to go if you want a great curry eating experience. Tonight Rock and I are with my brother Neko at Sanskrit in Hall Green.  We are hoping they can deliver drama and poetry on a plate!

Sanskrit describes itself as delivering contemporary Indian cuisine and, although the menu includes a few familiar nouns and adjectives, there is also a full alphabet of dishes that you certainly don’t find at every restaurant.

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Rock and Neko decide to share Garlic Chilli Mogo – fried cassava chips with a hot garlic and chilli sauce.  I choose Fish Amritsari – bright red battered strips of white fish punctuated with ajwain seeds and spices. Very different and very good.

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For the main event: Neko picks a more traditional Lamb Biryani; Rock is a little more  adventurous with Amritsari Choley – a chickpea dish composed with masala sauce and an understated hint of dry mango powder; and I’m really going for it with Hara Bhara Gosht…a dark dish with lamb, spinach and a real accent on flavour. We ask for Naan, Chapati and wash it all down with Cobra – this is literally the way to go.

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