Lahore Kebab House, Whitechapel

Lahore business card

After a recent visit to Tayyabs, a few people had suggested I also try Lahore to get my Indian/Pakistani lamb chop fix. It’s an interesting spot with two dining rooms; one which smelled of farts and the other, with a giant flat screen playing football – I don’t know which is worse! Everything felt like it needed a good Dettol.

Outside

I wouldn’t exactly give the food any points for presentation, and flavour wise; it all tasted the same. An overwhelming spice featured in every dish – I thought my gentleman companion was going to pass out at one minute.

Inside

The onion bahjia (£3.30) was probably the best thing we ate; crispy, crunchy, chewy and rather nice. The paneer tikka (£3.30) looked like it had been dropped from quite a height and although I really didn’t like the accompanying onions and peppers, the cheese was nice.

Onion Bahjia

Paneer tikka

The lamb chops (£8.25) were nowhere nearly as good as Tayyabs. The meat was so thin and there was barely any fat so they had an extremely dry texture.

Lamb chops

The tandoori prawns (£10.50) were most odd; they collapsed when touched with the fork, turning it into a very spicy prawny soup. Not for me that one.

Tandoori prawns

The butter chicken (£7.75) was the spiciest butter chicken I’ve come across and the chicken had a boiled texture; like you’d expect to see in a soup not a curry. Everything was also served piping hot like it had come fresh from the microwave; I needed an asbestos tongue to tackle half of it. The garlic naan (£1.75) had a frozen pizza-like base which wasn’t hugely appetising.

Butter chicken

Garlic naan

We left Lahore, avoiding the rude boys loitering on the corner, pretty positive that we wouldn’t return. Yes it was cheap and it’s BYOB but the food really wasn’t good enough. Needoo is next on my list, I just hope that’s a bit better.

2/5

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Tayyabs, Whitechapel

Tayyabs business card

Tayyabs is one of those Indian restaurants (@HollowLegs rightly pointed out that it’s actually Pakistani!) that everyone raves about, mainly for the lamb chops, so I thought it was time I popped down a side street off the Whitechapel Road (a rarity for me) to try it out.

Outside

The place is staggeringly massive; there are dining rooms galore, all packed full with tables and punters. By 7:30pm the queue was huge. We were plonked next to two boisterous ladies and even though it’s BYOB, and they hadn’t, the words ‘pissed as farts’ sprang to mind.

Inside

The food was all of a pretty decent standard; not the best you’ll find in London but for the price, it would be hard to find fault really. The paneer tikka (£3.30) was buttery and bouncy, the peshwari nan (£2.75) sweet from its coconut filling. Chicken tikka (£3.30) saw huge chunks of juicy chicken and the sheekh kebab (£4) was moist with bags of flavour. Karahi king prawn curry (£13) had a lip tingling heat coming through which made it really moreish.

Paneer tikka

Naan

Chicken tikka and shish

Karahi curry

The lamb chops (£6.50), which arrived at the table sizzling and steaming (see my Vine here for proof), were particularly noteworthy. Cooked more well-done than medium-rare (all Indian lamb chops seem that way which is a shame), the flavour was spot on and the fat was super crispy. Be warned: they stain your fingers orange!

Lamb chops

I was less keen on the dry meat (£7.75). I assumed the ‘dry’ bit was referring to the lack of a sauce, not how dry the chunks of lamb would be. Not one for me really.

Dry meat

So yes, Tayyabs is one of those places you really should try. It’s all a bit rowdy and sticky but if it’s a cheap Indian you’re after, then it really is rather good. My advice is get there early and avoid the queue. And prepare to chat to a load of pissheads.

4/5

Tayyabs on Urbanspoon

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Koya Bar, Soho

IMG_2458

It’s always sad when a restaurant closes down (perhaps not the case for Bo London), but it’s even more of a shame when it’s as much loved as Koya on Frith Street. Next door, however, is its sister, Koya Bar, which ain’t going anywhere and I finally got round to popping in for lunch.

Outside

We arrived at 11:50, which was the cross over between the breakfast and lunch menu. We perched on low stools at the long bar overlooking the kitchen; it was all rather pleasant. The atmosphere was serene – it almost made me want to have a nap.

Inside

A bowl of miso soup (£3.10) and a pot of tea were a really lovely start to proceedings. Braised pork belly with cider (£6.90) was 95% fat but my golly was it absolutely heavenly. The flavour was insane.

Miso

Pork belly

Fish and chips (£9.10) saw beautiful chunks of fish (can’t for the life of me remember what fish exactly) coated in a light and fresh batter. My favourite part, however, was the thin shards of crispy, deep-fried fish bones. They were sensational.

Fish and chips

Gyu katsu (£8.90) was breaded beef onglet with shredded cabbage. I’ve never had beef like it before and it was a really lovely blend of textures. The beef was cooked perfectly too, with a lush shade of pink.

Gyu katsu

There really is nothing not to like about Koya Bar; I left feeling a sudden love for the place. It certainly is sad to see Koya go, but Koya Bar is going to see a whole lot more of me. I look forward to returning to try the whole specials board – they sound crackin’.

5/5

Koya Bar on Urbanspoon

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Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac

Outlaw's Fish Kitchen business card

I’ve not had much luck with Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants: even though I really want to love them, apart from an incredible meal at his two star eponymous restaurant in Cornwall, they never quite deliver. Outlaw’s at the Capital played it far too safe and Mariners at Rock was just a bit weird.

Outside

Michelin-starred Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen is based in picturesque Port Isaac, which you might recognise as the home of ITV’s Doc Martin. It’s a charmingly quaint restaurant (with the world’s smallest toilet) but the six of us felt awfully squished on our tiny table. My gentleman companion and I were seated in/on the window sill which was an odd and terribly drafty place to sit – we had to wear our coats.

Inside

The menu was pretty concise and consisted of “small, delicious seafood plates”. We started with two Porthilly oysters (£2.80 each) with shallot vinegar. They were plump, they were juicy, but they had a little inedible circle of gristle attached to each which wasn’t very pleasant.

Oysters

Smoked cod’s roe dip with flatbread (£6.50) was fine; nice flavour, pleasant bread. The chilli squid with aubergine, mange tout and peanut salad (£10) had barely any noticeable squid. It was more of a peanut salad with a hint of seafood. There wasn’t enough of the paprika marinated monkfish (£7) to really get me going; it left me wanting to order another 7 plates of the stuff.

Cod's roe

Squid salad

Monkfish

Mussels in a clotted cream sauce (£8) were fine (there goes that word again) and so were the crispy Porthilly oysters (£7.50). Shoestring potatoes (£3.50) were a bit random but totally delicious; crispy, soggy, salty – everything you’d hope for. The fennel, Davidstow cracker and dill gratin (£4) was again, perfectly nice.

Mussels

Crispy oysters

Shoestring potatoes

Gratin

Something that finally hit my “oooh” spot was the crab scotch egg with curry sauce from the specials boards. Its delicate, well-balanced flavour was superb. And that sauce was summink’ else!

Scotch egg

For pud, the chocolate and ale cake (£5), with poached pear and honeycomb, was dry and lacked a warm sauce to bring it all together. The vanilla rice pudding (£5) was better, with the little dollops of soft meringue on top being the highlight.

Chocolate and ale cake

Rice pudding

For me, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen wasn’t disastrously wrong but it wasn’t quite the complete package. The small plates idea didn’t really work and it certainly wasn’t suitable for 6 hungry Rowntrees on the world’s smallest table. The staff seemed to lack knowledge and understanding of how a restaurant works; it all had a garden centre café feel to it. I guess this is another one that isn’t for me.

3/5

Outlaw's Fish Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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José Pizarro, Broadgate Circle

José Pizarro business card

Described by some as a glorified food court, Broadgate Circle, which is right by Liverpool Street Station, has had rather a lot of money thrown at it. The result is actually rather charming and there’s shed a load of restaurants there; Franco Manca, Shoryu, Yauatcha and this, José Pizarro’s third restaurant.

Outside

He’s managed to avoid a corporate or chainy feel; even though the place was inevitably filled with chaps in suits. I sat at the counter overlooking the bar and kitchen which was the best place to sit.

I started with the croquetas ‘caseras’ (£6.50) which were filled with crab. Rich, creamy and utterly divine. Prawn fritters (£8.50) are a must order; a nice subtle tickle of chilli went perfectly with the soft prawn flesh and greasy coating. Pan con tomate (£3.50), which is tomato topped bread, was just wonderful.

Starters

Pan fried chicken livers (£7) was an offal lovers dream dish; they melted in my mouth yet weren’t at all mushy. The generous sprinkling of garlic added plenty of flavour.

Livers

My favourite dish was the Ibérico pork meatballs (£8) which came drenched in a beautiful tomato and orange sauce. It was the slice of fried bread however (which reminded me of the sort you get with a proper hotel fry up) which really took it up a gear. Worth a visit for that fried bread alone.

Meatballs

For pud, chocolate with olive oil and salt on toast (£6) was such a brilliantly balanced plate of food. The salt and punchy olive oil were perfect companions for the thick, rich chocolate mousse. It was proper indulgent stuff.

Chocolate

I loved José’s new restaurant and considering it was their first official day of service, everything seemed to be running like clockwork. I love his places on Bermondsey Street (José and Pizarro), but if I ever fancy a touch of Spain in Liverpool Street, this is where I’ll come.

5/5

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Ceviche, Soho 

Ceviche business card

After a recent and rather brilliant meal at the new Ceviche in Old Street, I thought I’d pop in for lunch at the original one in Soho as I haven’t been back for years.

We were given the option of sitting at the bar at the front or in the dining room out the back which is what we opted for. It was a colourful and lively space; it felt a bit like we were on holiday.

Outside

Inside

We started with the Don Ceviche (£8), which featured chunks of seabass in a citrusy tiger’s milk. It made for a really vibrant and refreshing mouthful. A salad of avocado, pearl barley and cherry tomatoes in a pisco dressing (£4.50) also continued the fresh theme.

Don Ceviche

Salad

Pork chifa tequeños (£4.50), which were crispy wontons filled with pork, were so moreish that we instantly ordered another plate after just one bite. The accompanying chilli dip was great too.

Pork chifa tequeños

For main, we ordered the beef heart skewers (£8) which were so juicy and tender I didn’t know whether to kiss ’em or eat ’em. Plump pieces of skewered chicken thighs (£8) were brilliantly moist and had shed loads of flavour from the panca chilli and orange zest.

Beef heart skewers

Chicken

The braised pork belly (£9) came with a shard of pork crackling which is always a good thing. The thick chunks of pig had a charred exterior with a soft and fatty centre. The confit figs were a bit sickly sweet for me though.

Pork belly

Our lunch at Ceviche was a brilliant one. Vibrant, colourful food with bold and punchy flavours made for a touch of Peru in the middle of Soho – which is a lovely thing. I can see why they opened a second one.

4/5

Ceviche on Urbanspoon

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Fera at Claridge’s

Fera at Claridge's business card I first visited Simon Rogan’s restaurant Fera in Claridge’s (he also owns SR at The French and L’Enclume) back when it first opened and I loved everything about it. I was excited to return for lunch to see if it was just as wonderful and it really was. Claridge's They’ve now introduced a set lunch menu priced at £35 for three courses but we opted for the whole kaboodle; a 10 course tasting menu priced at £95 per person. The dining room is a real stunner; big and bold without being garish. Stained glass panels in the ceiling and a withered looking tree in the centre of the room make it a unique space.Inside The food was nothing short of outstanding. Snacks got us going; stewed rabbit with lovage; mackerel, horseradish and seaweed; Tunworth, duck and potato – not one was a dud. Stewed rabbit Mackerel Tunworth Swede dumplings, served in a beautiful wooden bowl, featured shed loads of Isle of Mull cheese and grated truffle; I could have eaten ten bowls of the stuff. Swede dumplings Bread, which came with a light and fluffy butter served in a dish NOT on a pebble (take that @WeWantPlates!), had a chocolatey/Guinness flavour going on which was so moreish I had to actually stop myself from constantly asking for more. Bread Organic carrot with insanely thin sheets of cured saddleback was a delicately balanced plate of food. The same could be said for the scallops from Gairloch, anise and red pak choi, squid and elderberry vinegar. The flavours blended so harmoniously – every component had a place and a purpose. Carrot and pig Veal sweetbread Next up, a small chunk of monkfish, which was drenched in a frothy brown butter sauce, tasted so fresh I could have been eating it on the fishing boat that caught it. Roe deer with caramelised shallots and chicory was a thing of beauty. The contrast between the smoked beetroot and sweet cauliflower was most intriguing yet totally successful. Monkfish Roe deer After a meal like that, desserts of fennel, honey and beer and aerated sheep’s yoghurt with forced rhubarb (which was a bit too sharp and chewy for me) are just what you need. Nice and light with a brilliant and clever balance between sweet and savoury. Fennel honey and beer Aerated sheep's yoghurt Fera is easily one of my favourite restaurants in London. The service, the food, the room; the whole experience is just special. You feel like you’re in safe hands from the minute you walk in the door and it’s enough to make you never want to leave.

5/5

I dined as a guest of the restaurant

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