Winning in life – and at dinner – in the Wigmore…

The thing about the Wigmore is that it’s good. It’s really good. The fact that it’s barely five minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus – something which would normally put me off being anywhere near it – works in its favour here. You won’t quite be able to believe just how close you are to the part of London that makes normal people want to curl up in a corner and cry because it’s so beautiful and welcoming and soothing and buzzing and stylish inside. Those are adjectives never usually applied to a sentence containing the words ‘oxford’ and ‘circus’.

Decked out in shades of pistachio and olive, lit by glowing copper stemmed bulbs and offering polished wood, leather stools & the comfiest of armchairs, it looks for all the world like a cross between a movie-set court-room and the personal library of your Pinterest dreams. As someone with a bit of thing for bar-side dining, my tip would be to get there for an early-bird dinner and bag two seats on the back of the 360-degree bar. You’re on the quieter side of the space but perfectly placed within chatting distance of the very friendly bartenders. You’re also ideally seated for people watching, my favourite kind of acceptable nosiness.

With a menu from the pen and the pan of Michel Roux Jnr, the fact that it’s simple, elegant and exciting will come as no surprise. Certain dishes have, naturally, already become staples on London’s late 2017 Instagram dining scene – hello baby crumpets and giant toastie – whilst others are less showy but stonkingly delicious.

You can’t have a decent bar menu without chips. Here they arrive chunky as a Christmas lovers’ thighs come January 2nd when all that remains of the Quality Street are tooth shatteringly unlikeable toffee pennies. These chips are hot, crispy, fluffy and covered in an intensely sharp & moreish Bloody Mary Salt.IMG_4787Those afore mentioned crumpets are perfect two-bite canape inspiration and come topped with sweet crab meat, brittle slivers of seaweed and a smattering of paprika. Rich and fresh, this is the second time in as many months that I’ve seen these baby crumpets out and about and, as pugs & party food are proof that the world loves anything miniature, I’m just gonna place my bets and call them out now as something we’ll be seeing everywhere by the end of 2018.IMG_4793 Read More

Cheap, cheerful & cheekily delicious Indian wraps at Kati Roll Co…

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Cheap food that tastes great in a central location. It’s not actually asking for the world though it sometimes feels like it. Thankfully, tucked away down Poland St is a bright little oasis where you can happily hide from the Big-Ben-snowglobe-toting tourists of Oxford St and feed your face in peace.

When Time Out published their annual list of 100 Cheap Eats in London earlier this year, it became one of my most read & scribbled on articles – hey, I love cyberspace as much as the next gal but at heart, I’m old school. I like to rip pages out of magazines and I like to circle things and I have folders that I can’t actually close because there are too many torn out recipes and articles and reviews in it…anyone else simultaneously share my joy and feel my pain?! Anyway, my point is there are some brilliant hidden treasures on that list and here, with the Kati Roll Company, I’m sharing one of the best.

Kati comes to London via New York, where they’re lucky enough to have three branches of the restaurant, and India where the history of street food is vivid & delicious. Selling soft, flaky, buttery paratha wraps (so good you’ll want to buy a dozen and stuff them with everything you eat for days after) or simple, whole-wheat flour rotis filled with spiced meat, vegetables and cheese, these babies are light, filling and super tasty plus you’ll get change from a tenner and you’ll find yourself plotting opportunities to come back again and again. How do I know? Come on, who actually goes to Oxford St voluntarily? No-one that’s who, unless there’s something rather awesome to snack on as a reward.

Even though the restaurant itself is small, the décor is cheery, authentic and friendly as is the service and there are 13 different rolls on the menu catering for all tastes. Chickpeas, egg, cheese & potatoes will keep vegetarians happy whilst chicken, prawn, lamb & beef mean the carnivores are all set too.

Spices, pickles and chutneys keep things flavourful and fresh while cold beers go down a treat and mango lassis are made freshly every day. I once had an intervention staged on me at an Asian wedding because I couldn’t stop downing the jugs of mango lassi on the table so now, I’m not ashamed to say I get my fix wherever and whenever I can.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Rolls range from just under £3 to just over £5 and with all available on a ‘two for…’ deal, none of which come in at over £10, this is such a nifty little spot for a quick dinner with a friend.

Unsurprisingly perhaps given the national love for it, Chicken Tikka is the most popular and it is absolutely delicious – warm spices & tender meat make it a winning combination – but for me, it was all about the spicey-pickley marinated paneer which was firm, creamy and tangy. I’m a fervent believer that there’s nothing that can’t be made better with the addition of cheese and Indian incarnations of it are always particularly awesome. Hands up if you agree? Yeah, there you are, I see you.

There’s something about the fragrance of Indian food that triggers a primal reaction – I only have to walk past somewhere serving it and an hour later I’ll realise I’m nowhere near where I was going, I’m not doing anything remotely like whatever I had planned and poppadom crumbs are sprinkled down my shirt but I’m full and I’m happy and sometimes, that’s all that matters…guaranteed, Kati will make you feel that way too.

 

Confused fast food for the vegetarian in your life at Ethos…

IMG_0664

Ethos is a funny little place.

Set a few minutes back from the overwhelming, cacophonous and painfully-slow-tourist-packed battleground that is Oxford Circus, it beckons you towards warmly glowing windows with a sense of invitation and escape; both of these will be a welcome relief given that on your journey there you’ve most likely been kneecapped by the oversized Primark shoppers that every gaggle of European teenagers seems to come equipped with or had to fight your way through cackling hen parties recognisable by the vast amounts of Claire’s Accessories pink paraphernalia.

image2 image3

Open seven days a week, Ethos bills itself as being ‘deliciously different’ and with that concise description, I can’t argue. They don’t say completely delicious or totally different which is where, I’m afraid, my earnest debate would have to begin and specializing in both vegan and vegetarian dishes, their trademarks include a ‘pay by weight system’ and a self service environment.

Now if the words ‘self service’ dredge up images of scarred-by-the-hands-of-too-many-Bank-Holiday-travellers plastic trays at any M1 service station or the neon signs of Shaftesbury Avenue’s all-you-can-eat, drippy windowed Chinese buffets, relax. This is actually a point in Ethos’ favour; you don’t have to carry a tray like you’re back at school and waiting for Tuesday’s smiley potato faces to be bestowed upon it. Just grab your plate and pile it high from the vast array of dishes on offer. Some of these you will undoubtedly recognise and dive for, all pointed elbows and focused vision – well helloooo plantains – and some may be as foreign to you as the concept of humility is to Kanye West.

image7 image12

My suggestion is to be brave and try something new – the flavourful and well textured cheddar & zucchini fritter was my reward for doing just that – but understand that you may not always find the manna from heaven you’re hoping for – yes butternut squash, who really should be as reliable in a vegetarian restaurant as Mel & Sue’s gentle ‘Bake Off’/’Carry On’ humour is each summer, I’m talking to you. A little bit under-cooked and a whole lot under seasoned, chewing it was not a pleasant experience however on the plus side, it was the perfect ying to the yang that apparently was sweet potato fries. Sweet potato crisps would be a more accurate description except then you’ll think I mean something light and crunchy and this review isn’t supposed to be a work of fiction.

image8 image9

Now to be fair, I can’t tell you everything was bad because it wasn’t. I could have eaten the afore mentioned sweet, sticky and softly delicious plantains out of a nosebag like a greedy, snorty little pony while halloumi bites were every bit as as deliciously salty & appealingly squeaky as you could hope for. Guacamole, hummus and a smoked butter bean dip made me want to stack a separate plate with enough flat-breads to scoop up every last smidgen and the avocado halves stuffed with green salsa were creamy, fresh and luscious.

image4 image5

Generous slices of banana bread looked fresh & inviting but I never met a brownie I didn’t like the look of so the opportunity to try a gluten free, refined sugar free, vegan version was intriguing. At £3 a pop, it was fairly priced being the size of an average house brick but I’m sad to say it wasn’t something I’d rush back to get my face into again.

image6

I’m all for making baked goods slightly healthier but I’d still like the taste to be of chocolate or something vaguely, faintly & deliciously wicked. Avocado brownies are a perfect example of how this can be achieved, having been dangerously seductive to me in the past but this, whilst possessing a nice, damp, crumbly texture, unfortunately didn’t taste of anything other than black beans; less of a naughty Tuesday night treat if you will and more of a slap round the face with the leftovers of last week’s Mexican blow-out.

image10 image11

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the problem with Ethos is not that it’s completely bad, nor totally without merit; it’s just that the inconsistencies have stayed with me more than anything else. While it’s certainly not the most expensive place to dine, I do think verging on £20 for a single plate of food & an elderflower presse kicks it straight out of the ‘cheap eats’ bracket it often seems to take residence in. Staff are generally friendly but a couple patrolled the floor with the pace of over-zealous mall cops which when coupled with a lot of the seats being super cosy with their neighbours, didn’t make for the most relaxing environment I’ve ever experienced.

I applaud them for coming up with something that offers the hungry folk of central London an alternative to the quintessentially sad Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse, one of several boxed poultry palaces *shudders to herself* or, may God have mercy on your teeth, M&M’s World and I commend them for vegan & vegetarian options, some of which inspired me to see what I could do at home myself. Regrettably though, when there are so many other places that offer sincerely good value for money with food that isn’t described as both ‘excellent’ and ‘tasteless’ in the same sitting, it’s hard to imagine a time when I’d go back because let’s be honest, woman cannot live on plantain alone.