Spiced perfection at the Tandoor Chop House…

The streets of Charing Cross are littered with more than just shredded copies of yesterdays Metro and empty McDonald’s bags puff-balling morosely towards Trafalgar Square. Pink heeled hens cackle up to the goldfish bowls of Covent Garden’s cocktail making classes, swarms of tanned & backpacked continental teens marvel inexplicably at the disturbingly dreadful floating Yodas upon whom stone Nelson gazes down in utter despair and tourist masses decant from ‘Dream Girls’ and ‘Kinky Boots’, clutching £10 programmes and warbling all the way back to the tube.

Every now and then though, something happens that’s surprising and rather special; someone opens a restaurant in the sort of area you normally power-walk through to get to somewhere better, only this time Tandoor Chop House is the something better. Actually, it’s something a lot better and if Indian food in the capital doesn’t equate to thickly clotted sauces, slice-able bricks of boiled white rice or poppadums that leave an oil slick trailing behind them to you, then it may just be what you’re after.

IMG_3221

Read More

Paying homage to the King of Kebabs…

I love Le Bab. Literally, love it. If I could, I’d draw big, glittery pink, teenage girl hearts all over these words.

I love the fact that it’s small and pretty and full of beautifully tiled floors & walls like the offspring of a torrid Middle-Eastern-meets-Lisbon love affair.

I love that it’s on the top floor of Kingly Court and has windows that just beg to be flung open on a sunny evening so that you can enjoy a gentle breeze as passers-by weep with (righteous) envy.

I love that the staff are totally on the ball, that they’re sincerely but not sycophantically friendly, that they talk about the food with honest appreciation and that some of them wear shirts that match the tiles. Now I’m think this is a coincidence but equally I’m not gonna judge when they bring me plates of food I want to wrap my arms around & guard secretively while devouring the contents with a ferocity that would impress the Southern state champions of any July 4th pie eating contest.

I love that the length of the menu doesn’t require me to book in thirty minutes before I actually want to eat to work my way through it and I love that the only thing better than the way the food looks is the way it tastes with every single thing made in house.

IMG_3089

I’ve been trying to eat here for a while but until now, I’ve never managed to bag a walk-in that suited or got my act together enough to book in advance. Well my friends, all that has now changed. I got my booking and I ate like a queen and you can bet a portion of fondue fries, that I’ll be securing a return visit, off chance walk-in as soon I can.

IMG_3097

Le bab bhajis are made with braised lamb shoulder, beef shin & onion and come served with a smoky chilly mayonnaise. There are two in a portion which makes them perfect for sharing; make sure you come with someone you really like because frankly, if you didn’t try and eat them both yourself, I’d judge you a little bit for your lack of competitive spirit. These things are gorgeous. Crispy, lightly spiced and full of juicy meat packed with flavour, they’re the kind of thing that makes you sad to eat because like the start of year feast at Hogwarts, you just want the plate to magically keep refilling itself but we all know you’re a muggle and that’s not your destiny.

IMG_3098

London is a city in love with hummus and this version, topped with crunchy, sticky nuts and accompanied by softly deflated flatbreads is a cracker. Earthier in flavour rather than sharp from the addition of lemon, it comes in the sort of miniature cast iron skillet that you rather fancy would make everything taste better because it’s just. Too. Cool.

IMG_3066

Spiced cauliflower pastillas come looking not too dissimilar to long, crispy cylinders of baklava but are full of lovely crumbly texture and snuggle up perfectly with charred pineapple yoghurt. This, kids, is the sort of thing you eat out, reckon would taste good on everything and then try to recreate at home with varying degrees of success depending on how much wine you’ve consumed at the same time. Save yourself the hassle of coring pineapples, setting off your smoke alarm, spattering yourself with melted butter and just come back here.

The kebabs themselves are seasonal but, given the ambience of the place, I anticipate they’re probably done with a little bit more class than ‘hey it’s December, let’s throw a stuffing ball and some neon cranberry sauce at this one!’

IMG_3069

Lamb comes deliciously charred and adorned with gorgeously vibrant dollops of emerald chermoullah mayo while paneer – best cheese ever? Let’s just say I’d like to put it in the ring with a wedge of gorgonzola and see who wins – is BBQ’d and sits fatly on top of beetroot puree with curry mayo, pickled celery and a Miss. World worthy crown of crispy onions. All hail here please.

IMG_3071

I’m equally admiring and suspicious of anyone who could come here, see fondue fries on the menu and order the heirloom tomato salad. Those ripe round beauties have their place and it’s on a gloriously crisp summer tart with lashings of olive oil and sea salt. It is not here, usurping the rightful place at my table of something oozy, thick, cheesy & delicious.* **

*Insert Tom Hiddleston joke here please

**Actually, I love me some Hiddleston so that was said with love Tom, said with love.

I feel sure that more things would be made better in the world – Trump’s America, the films of Adam Sandler, crocs on adults – with the addition of a small saucepan full of melted cheese to pour over the top. These double cooked chips are golden, crispy and strong enough to withstand the cheese overload that’s so very right at this any point in time.

I started this article by laying my cards unashamedly on the table and declaring my love for Le Bab. I’ll end it by saying I have a job that I love, love, love however this places makes me wanna click on the ‘Work For Us’ button just to see if a P/T role as chief taster and all round fatty exists because, like my love for French Bulldogs, Keanu Reeves and the music of 80’s soft rock gods Chicago, this is a crush that ain’t fading anytime soon.

A hidden gem filled with London’s best noodles…

Confession time – I never know where to go in London for good Chinese food. I can give you some awesome Italian suggestions and I can list half a dozen places where you can fill your face with tacos in a way that is unladylike yet thoroughly understandable but decent Chinese food has always eluded me.

Until now.

Until my gorgeous friend L took pity on my persistent pleas for help and spirited me away to a place where the noodles are hand pulled, the booze is BYO (hands up if you’re in already) and the vibe is decidedly understated. That’s right kids, it’s all about Holloway Road right now, specifically Xi’an Impression opposite the Emirates Stadium.

Bringing the flavours of Shan Xi Province, home to Xi’an City and incidentally-and-completely-unrelated-to-food-but-a-nice-piece-of-pub-quiz-trivia the Terracotta Warriors, to North London, this place is a total hole in the wall that, unless you have a friend like L in your life, you’d probably never stop at and I mean that as the highest compliment.

IMG_2756

Unassuming and low-key in the extreme, staff are friendly and totally chilled about sharing their tips from the menu and although the table turnover around us was pretty high on our recent visit, we were never once rushed or made to feel as though we needed to make way for a second wave of people looking to get their noodle fix.

Ease your way into dinner with a couple of picks from the street food segment of the menu; the Xi’an Cold Noodles and the Xi’an Beefburger should both be confident and definite orders. Light, fresh & soft, the noodles come soaked in a deeply savoury chilli-tomato oil and pair nicely with crisp cucumber matchsticks.

IMG_2744

Rocking up in what is undoubtedly the love child of a crispy, toasted bun and a soft, squidgy-middled bao, the steak inside the beefburger is hot, spicy and quite literally mouth watering. We had one to share; frankly, I could easily have polished off three on my own.

IMG_2747

Now you’ve gently stretched out your stomach, it’s time to get down with whole reason for being there. No, I don’t actually mean the BYO wine that you arrived clutching in your un-named corner shop carrier bag. Actually, to be fair, we didn’t even class it up that much. One bottle into one handbag. Done. But I digress…you should have been lubricating yourself with grape juice or happy hoppy liquor for a while by this point. The reason for you being there is the beautifully supple & silky noodles.

Portions are ample for sharing and the biangbiang arrive piled high in satiny stacks on a plate slick with chilli sauce. Be prepared for the fact you’ll end up wiping spatters of deeply fragrant, spicy oil off the face of the lovely people you’re dining with – probably not ideal for a first date kind of situation but taking someone here would totally guarantee you a second one.

If you’ve ever shared my concern that the search for spectacular noodles would require you to trawl through Chinatown like a selfie-stick-toting tourist lost in their A-Z, fear no more. Take an adventure on the Northern Line and lose yourself in an unexpected noodle wonderland.