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

I’m meeting Gustav & Ilia in London for a few seasonal drinks and dinner. I’ve known Gustav for many years but today I learn two things that I didn’t know we had in common. First, we both share a long held love for the music of Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. Second, I have been a diabetic since I was a teenager and now Gustav has the same challenge. After a few rounds of excellent Purity Ubu we start to think about food.

We need an injection of something exotic and head for Salaam Namaste, a modern Indian restaurant in Bloomsbury. We order papadoms & chutneys and study the menu. We start by sharing the Manglorean soft-shell crab and Bombay onion bhajis. The crab is excellent, the bhajis are pretty standard.

Our discussion covers a varied diet of health, family, holidays, music, modern society, politics and we do our best to put the world to rights…

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With almost no sign of self-control, we take the opportunity to test the king prawn patia, lamb rogan josh, chicken shaslik plus an array of dhals, naans & vegetable dishes. All fairly traditional but, on balance, good quality cooking and very enjoyable.

Despite our protests, Ilia picks up the bill – that is the generosity of the man!