Friday 29 October 2010

Jaffna House, Tooting

There's nothing quite so precious to a jaded food blogger with a run of far too many mediocre meals under his belt than a recommendation from a clued-up local. Technically, I should also consider Tooting my neighbourhood - it's only really the other side of Wandsworth Common from Battersea and is barely 5 minutes in the car - but in that curious way that seems to affect any journey across London suburbs, while I can get from my house into Soho in about half an hour, travelling from Clapham Junction to Tooting Broadway last night took me the best part of an hour and a half, taking in such delights as Clapham South station and the service roads around St George's Hospital. I arrived cold and very, very hungry.

I am going to get the negative aspects of Jaffna House out of the way before I go any further, because it's probably important to put their excellent food in some perspective. First of all, the service is a bit ropey. Three times I had to ask for my first drink, and four for my second. Courses arrived at a completely random rate and completely disassociated from their accompanying pickles and sauces, and this on an evening where no more than 3 of the tables (in an admittedly small room) were occupied at one time - God knows how they'd cope if the place was full. Also, while some people may find the experience of eating in someone's front room quaint or authentic, I imagine it won't be for everyone, and having to get several people to shift out of their seats every time you got up for the loo was slightly embarrassing.

So now that's out of the way, let me tell you that the food I had last night at Jaffna House was as vibrant, unique and exciting as I've had in many long months. It was so unusual, in fact, that in most cases I'm going to struggle to remember the names of the dishes we ordered or guess what went into them, but I imagine readers of this blog are used to that by now. We started rather prosaically with some poppadums and an excellent (and very fiery) red mixed pickle.

"That is a dessert." The waiter said as we attempted to order two balls of deep-fried lentils called Soosiam.
"Then why is it on the starter menu?"
"Some people like to order them as a starter."
"Well, then, so will we."
Very nice they were, too, and there was actually something rather addictive about the mixture of sugar, coconut and lentil when eaten with the fiery house pickles.

This bowl of Devilled Squid was a revelation. The mixture of complex dry spicing and an aggressive chilli heat had us all reaching for our drinks, but the pain was worth it - the squid was incredibly moist, the vegetables fresh and crispy, and the overall mix of textures very satisfying. It disappeared in a matter of moments. Jaffna House have a whole section on their menu of Devilled Dishes, and I want to work my happy, sweaty way through all of them.

Something called an oothappam was a kind of savoury vegetable pancake, studded with peas and chilli and all sorts. A great fluffy dough made the difference between this being a stodgy filler and something worth ordering in its own right, and again, was livened up even more once covered in mixed pickle.

Finally, a dish I recognised - a masala dosa, as crispy and subtly vinegary as you could want, with a nice rich potato filling. Every bit as good as the offering from Kastoori just up the road, and cheaper too. At around this time, my drink, listed as "sherbet" on the menu, arrived. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but a glass of Pepto Bismol was definitely not on the shortlist. Still, it was pleasant and sweet enough and, let's be honest, even if it actually was Pepto Bismol it would still make sense after those Devilled Squids.

Mains were equally interesting. Tomato kulambu had a fantastic tomato taste and was expertly slow cooked with a mixture of spices that I won't even begin to guess. Seafood pittu and mutton kotthu allowed their respective main ingredients to sing whilst still containing a punchy, crunchy amount of green chilli. And best of all was an incredible slow-cooked aubergine dish, which unlike many Sichuan offerings actually tasted mainly of aubergine - deep, rich, concentrated aubergine in a thick, dark paste that was like oily vegetable heroin.

Given the quality of the oothappam and the dosa, I shouldn't have been surprised that the house breads - a hilariously inflated, glee-slicked naan and some splendid roti - were also excellent, but it is extraordinary just how well this one restaurant can pull off such different styles with such success. The naan, in particular, was perfectly seasoned, with a crispy base and pillowy dough and brought utter joy with every bite. How many multi Michelin starred French restaurants can cook bread of this quality, consistently, and to order for every customer?

The bill came to £50 for four people. They don't add on service by default, and given the issues in this department I wonder how many people ever add it on themselves, but really, having to ask a few extra times for my Pepto Bismol and having to re-arrange the table to cope with a flurry of arriving dishes was a small price to pay for food of such unique and stunning quality, and at such a low price. As a food blogger, you live for the moments like this - random delightful discoveries in difficult-to-reach corners of the city - and it's only out of a misplaced sense of duty that I'm sharing Jaffna House with you now. Because otherwise, much like the lucky residents of Tooting, I would be quite happy keeping the place all to myself.


Jaffna House on Urbanspoon

Thursday 28 October 2010

Degò, Fitzrovia

Annoyingly, given the events that were to follow, Degò took quite a bit of finding. Although the address was given as 4 Great Portland Street on the website and on Google, it was only after systematically counting all the buildings up from Oxford Circus that we eventually noticed it tucked down a side street on Market Place. From the outside it looked smart enough, busy and with attractive high ceilings, although you'd be doing well to find a wine bar a few steps away from Oxford Circus that wasn't rammed on a Thursday night. Popularity, as anyone who's ever eaten at Aberdeen Angus will tell you, is no reliable sign of quality, and the meal we endured at this restaurant last night is as fine an example of this rule as almost anywhere else in the capital.

The first and only sensible thing we did last night was order a bottle of prosecco. This was all anyone else seemed to be doing, and very happy they all looked as a result, despite the slightly cheap and uncomfortable red and black décor that was probably aiming for L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon but felt rather more like a provincial nightclub. Anyway, our prosecco (a 2006 Franciacorta Brut if anyone cares) was very nice, and although it's a bit naff the geek in me liked the hole in the table they'd hollowed out for an ice bucket. It's just a shame that before too long I was thinking of less sanitary ways of using it.

"Our bread is homemade and baked daily," the waitress announced unprompted as she placed the tray in front of us. If it is, they either have an unearthly attitude to what constitutes a "day", or they consider "baking at some indeterminate point in the past and then reheating" technically the same thing. It was all horribly stale - the buns were chewy and tasteless, the breadsticks as fragile as thousand year old bones, and worst of all was the Foccacia, which was so dry and crumbly it pretty much collapsed into dust in my hands as I tried to pick it up. They were all so bad in fact that, breaking with my usual tradition, at the end of the meal I mentioned it to the same waitress, who while looking genuinely surprised didn't offer much more than a muttered apology in way of compensation.

I'm not sure how "Italian Style" these Tramezzini are, although I should say in fairness that my companion last night, who spent many years in part of the world, tells me that even back in Italy they are generally just straightforward thin-white-slices with ham and mayonnaise inside, and to that end, they were probably not far off. That's not to say I particularly enjoyed them, though. A heavy hand with the mayo meant they all just tasted like something from the shelves at Pret, and bizarrely, every other slice of bread seemed to be stale. Why every other? Had they been made a while ago and stored one side up, uncovered? Perhaps I'd rather not know.

You could have constructed a better cheese course, and for less money, by "sourcing" from ASDA. A blue goats was bitter and unpleasant, something claiming to be Robiola was cold and bland, and a lump of something that I missed the name of tasted like supermarket cheddar. A jam-like substance on a spoon was just formless, sugary gloop, and a separate tray of sliced meats was better but still deeply unadventurous - mortadella, Parma ham, and something more fatty which would have been nicer had they trimmed the inedibly solid skin off it. One of them was also ever so slightly fizzy in the mouth which was a bit worrying - I'm still here this morning though so it was just unpleasant, not actually physically damaging. Phew, right?

If all that wasn't bad enough, two items from the restaurant menu downstairs appeared that, earlier in the meal, we had ordered with the kind of mindless optimism only possessed of those who have not yet eaten at Dego. The first called itself a burrata, but this was as far from the heavenly, creamy version at Polpetto as you could possibly imagine. A rubbery prophylactic of cheap mozzarella contained semi-skimmed ejaculate which squirted out belligerently as I prodded it with my fork. It sat on a bed of tasteless chunks of tomato and was garnished with some soggy, fatty deep-fried vegetables of unknown origin and some ludicrously elephantine ears of stale crispbread. And yet, unbelievably, worse was yet to come.

It's difficult to describe just how rancid this dish of braised octopus smelled, but try and imagine a tin of tuna in brine, opened, left for a week, then eaten and expelled by a cat with Crohn's disease. It was revolting, and I was convinced it was off, but startlingly my companion claimed it was "fine" and to stop being such a pansy. I couldn't help noticing, though, that while I refused to touch it at all, she barely took more than a couple of mouthfuls before queasily declaring herself "full". Talking of pansies, you will have noticed the restaurant's entry to next year's Chelsea Flower Show in the picture above. I don't mind the odd teeny edible flower but I draw the line at being asked to eat a herbaceous border.

So not a great success, then. I should have known, when in that busy room on a Thursday night I noticed that we were the only people ordering food, that perhaps Degò's strengths lay in a different field, but quite how low the standards dropped was a constant source of morbid fascination throughout the evening. By the time I held aloft that sad, grey sack of mozzarella on the end of my fork and watched it drip thin fluid into the bowl, I was merely nauseous. After the arrival of the Fishy Pansy, I was hysterical. "At least," I remember thinking, as our pleasant waitress took back the barely-touched food, "the service has been nice", but Degò couldn't even leave me that scrap of comfort. The bill arrived, £80 for two bad enough, but with 12.5% service added and a space to add an extra tip. And with that left any last scrap of goodwill I ever had towards the place.

2/10 (for the Prosecco)

Dego on Urbanspoon

Friday 22 October 2010

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Park Lane

This is not going to be an easy post to write. Don't think for a second I don't know how lucky I am to have been treated to a free meal at London's most expensive restaurant, with matching wines, a phalanx of attentive staff, tour of the kitchens, and goodie bag. Don't think I don't realise there are people dying of hunger in the world and that the news of an overfed, jumped-up food blogger whingeing that his free meal at the fanciest hotel in town wasn't quite up to scratch won't turn some stomachs. Don't also think I haven't been fretting about coming across as ungrateful and churlish, or conversely looking like I'm deliberately picking fault to deflect accusations of bias. I can only hope you're here because, regardless of whatever else is happening in the world or your stance on food bloggers accepting invites like this, you just want to know what a meal at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is like. So, all that said, let's see how I do.

The truth is, of course, and this may be at the root of many of my problems on Wednesday, that I was going into the Dorchester expecting one of the greatest meals of my life. But then, that's not really my fault - that's Michelin's fault for giving them three stars, their very highest accolade and therefore putting it on a par with the Fat Duck or Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road or (ahem) El Bulli. And then it's also the restaurant's fault for having (and allowing us to order) a 7-course Autumn Menu priced at £180 for the food alone, which in itself makes as bold a statement on the standard of food I might expect as any award from a fat Frenchman made of tyres. Let's have another look at that price - £180. Just for food. Not even including service. If I had saved up for this meal out of my own pocket, and sat down on Wednesday thinking "well, it's this or a holiday", I think I'd have every right to expect one of the greatest meals of my life. And this just wasn't.

Ducasse make all their own bread on site, and in the most part it shows. A sourdough bun was perfectly seasoned (surprisingly rare in my experience), with a nice solid crust and fluffy inside. What was described as a "Scottish bun" was also great, having a pleasant savoury flavour (it's made using lard) and ethereally light texture. But a bacon "fougasse" wasn't right at all - slightly dry and with a horrible lingering aftertaste of stale bacon fat. I liked the unpasteurised salted butter and the mousse-like clotted cream was alright, but none of the bread was even slightly warm - is that nitpicking? We were amongst the earliest diners in the restaurant that evening. How long had it all been sitting around?

First course was scallops "in a rich nage" with Kristal caviar. Now, I'm told a nage is some kind of method of poaching in stock, so you would expect the scallops to have a more complex flavour than had they just been sliced raw. In reality, the poaching seems to have had the opposite effect, as these had none of the sweetly aromatic flavours of raw scallops and tasted rather bland. Only the salty caviar on top provided any interest, and the thick cream under the seafood just made you wish you were eating the Ledbury's super ceviche with horseradish snow instead, an altogether more star-worthy dish.

The best thing about this foie gras dish was the potato gnocchi, which had a lovely gummy texture and decent potato taste. And the foie itself wasn't bad either - perhaps it could have done with a bit more of a crispy coating, perhaps the flesh was a bit mealy, but the overall flavour was good. It was just nothing spectacular, and I'm afraid, for better or for worse, that's what I was expecting.

Scottish lobster was another frustrating dish. First of all, the lobster tail was chewy and overcooked; it still had a good sweet flavour and the claws were fine, but surely the knowhow to cook lobster tail to a decent consistency shouldn't be beyond a 3 Michelin star restaurant? I wasn't at all sure of the sauce either, which was very oniony and beefy and rather overpowered the sweet seafood. I shovelled it all down, of course, after all none of it was disgusting, it just wasn't particularly memorable.

Of all the savoury courses, only this plate of turbot with prawns, walnuts and a sauce made from Arbois wine came close to reaching the heights of world-class gastronomy. Beautifully cooked and seasoned turbot, with a nicely crispy skin, was artfully surrounded by a selection of intricately crafted vegetables and drizzled with a heady alcoholic cream which was powerful enough to be interesting but not too much so as to smother the other flavours. Clever stuff, but four courses in we were well overdue a "wow" moment.

My main was breast of grouse with a few bits of veg and some grouse giblets made into some kind of coarse paté. The flesh of the breast was tender but it really needed a crisper skin, and although well presented the beetroot and squash were very ordinary. The paté was very good - rustic and densely offally, but even so, I preferred the grouse at Racine a few weeks previously, and that cost £27. The other main course served to some of my companions was fillet of beef, rather inconsistently cooked from comparing different plates, served with another big slab of mealy foie. I've never been completely on board with the way the French cook beef, but I've definitely had better fillet at Galvin - here it was quite dry and bland.

Truffled Brie de Meaux was actually very good. Rather than simply coating the rind in dried truffles or mixing it evenly throughout the flesh, it had a layer of gloriously truffly paste running in between the two layers of soft brie. Based on this example, I'd like to try more of the cheese at the Dorchester - they obviously have a very good supplier - but something tells me it's rather unlikely I ever will.

Before the desserts arrived a bowl of decent miniature macaroons - the lime flavour was particularly nice - and a tray of unremarkable chocolate truffles.

I won't go into too much detail on the desserts as between us we ordered one of each of the six options and a full breakdown would be tiresome, but highlights were a near-perfect lime soufflé with a very clever Sichuan pepper sorbet; the famous Ducasse Rhum Baba, which was good alright but not quite the life-changing experience I had been led to expect; and a rose and raspberry "pleasure", a delicious and very attractive "sod you" to seasonality. As for the savoury courses, the best bits were very nice, and the worst bits were never inedible, and all the time the staff were pleasant and knowledgeable and, like seasoned stage actors, pitch-perfect in timing and delivery.

It felt odd, though, sitting amongst the splendour and theatrics of this grand old hotel, with all the superficial trimmings of A World Class Meal, choosing from a menu designed to excite any discerning fan of haute cuisine (caviar, lobster, turbot) and yet still somehow being underwhelmed with the results. It was almost as if the brains behind Ducasse decided that as long as they tried hard enough on the idea of a three star meal, and they could convince enough people that this is what a three star meal was, the rest would inevitably flow. I don't begrudge at all restaurants that deliberately gun for Michelin stars - after all, such accolades can make the difference between making money and going out of business - but much of this meal seemed so nakedly tailored towards Red Guide inspectors that, just like a pathetically grateful food blogger given a free £180 tasting menu and matching wine then told to go off and write about it, Michelin could have possibly decided that to flatter the place with awards was just the least-worst option.

I'm not sorry I went along on Wednesday - as hobby-related perks go, you can definitely do worse than being a food blogger - but I can't pretend I won't be glad to put the whole episode behind me. If this is the last time I get any such invitations, then perhaps that's not a bad thing, and I'll live with the fact that it was fun while it lasted and AA Gill said far worse, infinitely more eloquently, to far more people, than I ever could. But more importantly, I know with absolute certainty that had I paid for all this from my own pocket, my emotion wouldn't be one of acute, ear-burning guilt, it would be impotent and furious rage. And perhaps that tells you all you need to know. So, genuine thanks to all who helped organise this meal - I'm sorry this probably wasn't what you wanted to read, and sometimes I think PR people have the hardest job in the world - and to anyone else who's wondering when all this bloody navel gazing will end and just get to the point already, then I can only say there are much better ways of spending this amount of money on food in London. Table for 20 at Mien Tay, anyone?


Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Mino Kitchen, Holborn

I have a lot of time for any restaurant that cooks the majority of its food over charcoal. There's something primal about the way marinated meat reacts to the fierce heat and smoke of solid fuel that I find irresistible, whether it's lamb chops cooked in a tandoor or some tender cubes of chicken from a proper ocakbasi. Of course, such cooking requires skill, and patience, and a great big expensive extractor fan, so it's probably not surprising that you're more likely to see gas-fired grills in your local kebab shop and Indian takeaway than proper coals. But when charcoal-grilled food is good, it can turn humdrum raw materials into something quite special, adding wonderful textures and flavours while keeping the inside flesh moist. At least, that's the idea.

The Japanese, in their wonderfully organised and obsessive way, not only have a name for restaurants that specialise in charcoal-grilled food (yakitori) but also for places that specialise even further in skewered meat cooked over charcoal - kushiyaki. Mino Kitchen is ostensibly a kushiyaki restaurant, but also sells sushi, perhaps to cover all bases in case they get some demanding business lunchers. I wasn't here for sushi though - I ordered the "Nana kushi set" of skewers and, because none of the non-alcoholic options on the drinks menu really appealed, a glass of tap water.

Here they are then, in all their skewered glory. An odd looking bunch, I'm sure you'll agree; some of them tasted pretty odd too. There was an eringi mushroom, sliced vertically into one long rather rude looking appendage and incredibly difficult to eat. I tried biting off chunks but it was too chewy, and ended up swallowing the damn thing whole, like a pelican swallowing a sardine. It tasted like a big, chewy mushroom. Shiitake were more manageable but no more interesting - they tasted mainly of the sweet marinade that everything is brushed with on the grill. King prawns were disastrously overcooked into a mushy paste and wouldn't shell properly - not very nice . Weirdest of all though was sunagimo, described as 'chicken gizzards' on the menu yet having the strangest texture - they were bizarrely crunchy all the way through, not just charred from the grill but literally crunchy like celery, even though I'm sure they were indeed parts of a chicken. Chicken meatballs and beef meatballs were fine, nicely crispy outside but rather mealy and offputting inside.

It may sound like I had a fairly awful lunch but really it was only the king prawns that were completely inedible. Most of the rest of it was decent enough and made a distracting if not particularly large meal, and it was interesting sat at the bar watching the chefs put it all together. The only other major issue I had was with the price - these miniscule skewers (a starter portion really) of hardly premium ingredients were £12.50 and it was only thanks to an additional £2.60 small bowl of steamed rice (shovelled in using the wonkiest chopsticks I've ever used) that I managed to avoid leaving with a still empty stomach. But then, this is Holborn, and given the competition (or rather, lack of it) in the area I imagine they will probably do quite well. It may not be the greatest kushiyaki joint in London, but at least it's not another branch of Pret. Small mercies, and all that.


Mino Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 19 October 2010

The Owl and Pussycat, Shoreditch

Not long ago, the Owl and Pussycat was a proper old fashioned pub, with bar billiards, peeling wallpaper and a grumpy bar man. This was way before I frequented the area - I only know this thanks to the historical record at, which in comments left over the last six years documents the sad march of progress as Shoreditch gentrified and the Nathan Barleys moved in. It was really only a matter of time before a group of investors spotted this unreconstructed boozer amongst the gastropubs and wine bars of the trendy East End and thought there was a buck or two to be made. And to that end, we now have The Owl and Pussycat 2.0, now just another smartish, tastefully-lit bar serving slightly overpriced beer and slightly incompetent food.

The menu is expertly crafted to appeal to disciples of "traditional" British food in 2010. Lambs tongue, marrowbone on toast, terrine, ham hock - a couple of years ago, these would be the ingredient choices of an operation inspired by the St John school of cooking, and a sign of an ambitious kitchen. Now, marrowbone and ham hock are the new grilled halloumi and butternut squash, and their appearance on a menu signals the very opposite of ambition. We ordered a few courses and tried not to get our hopes up.

First to arrive were rock oysters, annoyingly pre-dressed with shallot vinegar but nevertheless juicy and fresh, and at £1.20 each reasonably good value. Pork, duck and peppercorn terrine wasn't bad either - dense, sausagey meat and nicely seasoned. So the Owl and Pussycat know how to open an oyster and slice up a terrine.

It's when the hot food arrived that the real problems began. Fishcakes were horribly dry and overcooked inside, and required every bit of the dull tartare sauce to make them digestible. An equally heinous crime was committed on the pheasant, which is a tough bird at the best of times and wasn't helped here by being overcooked to grey all the way to the middle - not a hint of pink anywhere. The bacon bits were tasty enough, and the mashed potato was fine, but there wasn't nearly enough sauce and with meat this dry it really needed it. Both dishes - and, for that matter, the terrine - had a huge lump of bitter watercress dumped on top as token greenery. I don't like watercress.

So I expect the business brains behind the Owl and Pussycat are congratulating themselves on a successful refurb and will no doubt make their money back many times over. They've done enough - deliberately, carefully, just enough - to run a profitable pub in Shoreditch, and punters demanding nothing much more than a cold lager and something to wash it down with will, I'm sure, populate the leather banquettes and fashionably distressed armchairs in their droves. There's no point in me getting angry about the predictable menu and sloppy cooking because, quite frankly, I doubt anyone in charge will care enough to fix it. As long as the operating profit is healthy, and as long as there are undiscriminating media types on Bethnal Green Road with fabulous hair and more money than tastebuds, there will be places like the Owl and Pussycat. I might as well just get used to it.


The Owl and Pussycat on Urbanspoon

Monday 18 October 2010

The Brilliant, Southall

Ask anyone who lives in West London where their favourite Indian restaurant is, and they will very likely point you towards Southall. Try to convince anyone who lives anywhere outside West London to travel to Southall for dinner, however, and you may encounter some quite understandable resistance. My God, it's a journey. From Clapham Junction I boarded one of those rickety branch lines that seem to run once every second Thursday, which got as far as some godforsaken place called Brentford. From there, the 195 bus meandered on a leisurely arc through dark suburbs until finally, one and a half hours later, it pulled up outside the Brilliant. "It better bloody had be", I thought as I slunk inside.

It all started so well. Worryingly well, in fact. The selection of house pickles at the Brilliant contains some of the most astonishing flavours I've had the pleasure of eating, including a mixed pickle in a subtly nutty (sesame?) oil and a fantastically strong lemon concoction which cleansed the palate better than any amuse bouche. All home made (apart from the more workaday mango chutney) and remarkably fresh, these really were impressive, and along with a half pint of the house passion fruit juice (also freshly made) all signs pointed towards this being a very good dinner. The possibility began to dawn that I'd be having to make quite a few of those nightmare journeys if this really was as good as it gets in London. Cripes.

But then, with reassuring mediocrity, the mixed grill arrived. Actually perhaps that's unfair - some of it was pretty good, particularly the lamb chops which were nicely charred on the outside and almost sausagey in texture inside, and the prawns were also well timed, the flesh having moisture and bounce if not being particularly strongly spiced. But chicken tikka pieces were watery (literally - I don't know where all that liquid was coming from but it seemed rather unnatural) and bland despite the skilful grilling, and seekh kebabs were similarly dull. It was all just a bit tame, and although it was all perfectly nice in a kind of family-friendly way, there was nothing particularly exciting. At £15, too, it was certainly at the upper end of what I'd expect to pay for this kind of food.

The best bits of the main courses were very good. A vegetable biryani had a lovely vinegary gloss to it, nice crunchy vegetables, and a decent tomato/curry sauce on the side. And a dish of butter chicken in some kind of tomato sauce (sorry we had somehow managed to order this one "off menu" and I can't remember exactly what went into it) was genuinely delicious, with complex spicing and tender pieces of grilled meat. I should also mention the bhatura bread, which was as fluffy and rich as you could want and made soaking up the leftover curry sauce extremely enjoyable.

On the other hand, there was a pretty horrible bowl of paneer, which consisted of lumps of flavourless cheese in a sauce of unseasoned spinach, the whole lot tasting not unlike green wallpaper paste. And Papri Chaat was a cold, claggy lump of grainy chickpea patty soaked in low fat yoghurt that I could barely take more than a mouthful of before gagging.

So, a mixed bag then. Some good stuff, some not so good. And ordinarily this wouldn't be too much of a problem - after all, even average Indian cooking is streets ahead of most other types of cuisine - if it wasn't for the hellish journey required to get here (for most of us, at least) and - most importantly - the price. At £70 for two with no alcohol, this was not a cheap meal, and I can think of a good handful of other Asian restaurants that you could enjoy a decent mixed grill with bread and a couple of mains for literally half that amount. In fact, I can think of one restaurant in particular, in a comparably remote corner of the capital, where I did just that last week. And it's there, and not the Brilliant, that I will be returning next time I'm in need of some lamb chops and seekh kebabs. Come on now, you didn't honestly think I would get through a review of a curry house without mentioning Tayyabs, did you?


Brilliant on Urbanspoon