Tag Archives: London

MEATliquor

12 Dec

I’m always on the lookout for a great burger. Not just any burger but the kind that you crave more and more with every bite. During a trip to NYC in September, my friend, A, and I had a conversation about the best burgers in NYC. The criteria being the texture of the bun, the quality of the beef patty and lastly the choice of toppings. We both had a long list of the best burgers we had tasted in the city based on those attributes but we recognized that we had not been very adventurous with burgers in London. So when MEATliquor opened its doors in London in early November, the brand new eatery was a must on my to-try-list. It’s only been a month and I’ve already clocked in 3 visits.

From the outside, the location is unassuming but the interior is gothic and edgy with black, red and white animal murals painted on the walls and ceilings with and red neon lights screaming ‘LIQUOR!’ The blaring rock music is quite loud so let’s just say this may not the most date-friendly location.

I haven’t tried the drinks so unfortunately can’t comment on the ‘liquor’ half of the establishment but there is plenty to be said about the food. I tried the deep fried tangy pickles, incredibly crunchy and moreish and wonderful when smothered in the accompanying garlicky blue cheese sauce. I liked the shoe string fries that were served on my first visit but by my second visit they just seemed like regular sized fries.

The menu is fairly straight-forward. No mention of the provenance of the meat or types of cheese etc. I, personally, don’t care much for detailed descriptions as long as what is placed in front of me blows my mind. As I took the first bite of my chilli cheeseburger I knew I was in meat utopia. The meat-to-bun-to-condiment ratio is just right and the burger itself is big enough to satiate you but not heavy enough to make you feel like you can’t move after eating it. The sourdough bun encases the patty, which is juicy, chargrilled on the outside, pink in the center; topped with melted cheese, onions, and ketchup and in this case abundant green chillies (very spicy even by my standards).

The burgers are priced between £6 to £8 and the sides are between £3 to £5 making this a very affordable meal.

MEATliquor is a ballad to the meat lover but probably a vegetarian or even a kosher abiding person’s worst nightmare. Be prepared for long queues at peak dinner time. In order to avoid that, I went on a Saturday just after noon and got a table instantly. MEATliquor is closed on Sundays and Mondays but brace yourself for some meat and cheese goodness the rest of the week.

Meat Liquor
74 Welbeck Street
London W1G 0BA

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Roti Chai – Indian Street Food Kitchen

23 Aug

Roti Chai is the new entrant on the casual Indian dining scene. Dubbed as a new concept in Indian Street Food, the menu features a selection of roadside cafe staples found in India. Having had a soft opening last week, I decided to check out what the initial buzz was all about.

The first thing I noticed upon entering were stacked bottles of Rooh Afza on display, which may not have been my favourite drink from childhood but it certainly does evoke fond memories of home. The decor is quite minimal with turmeric hued ceilings and fixtures and a brightly painted kitchen wall with posters of Indian product advertisements but given the amount of space they have, they could be doing more with it.

The menu is not expansive but it is varied and I believe menu additions are in the works. I ordered Chicken Lollipops (spiced chicken wings) and Bun Kebab (spiced lamb patty inside a bun). The lollipops were succulent with a delicious and flavourful marinade served with smooth mint chutney. I would DEFINITELY go back for more.

When I think of bun kebab, it invokes an image of velvety shami kebabs smothered in chutneys served inside a toasted, buttered bread. This variation of the bun kebab was not reminiscent of that but it has the potential to head in that direction if the spicing and seasoning is kicked up a notch.

The eponymous chai is not much to rave about. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the food and would come back to try more items. Moreover, the service was excellent. I do wish the ambiance and food presentation reflected more of the street food culture and earthiness.

Dishoom Beach Bar

14 May

Dishoom – one of my favourite restaurants in London that I blogged about here has decided to go on a trippy summer holiday. As part of the Festival of Britain 60th anniversary celebrations they have recreated a psychedelic beach bar along the Southbank serving Indian snacks and drinks all day long oh and did I mention fruity golas (that can be ordered naughty or virgin)?

This brand-new set up which opened doors yesterday is essentially, as the owners themselves put it, “Dishoom on an acid trip”

A  large part of going to any restaurant is not just the food but the entire experience and by that I don’t mean simply decor and service – it’s how welcome a place makes u feel and the vibe it exudes. The experience of visiting a restaurant can have the potential to transport you into another world and Dishoom does that for me.

Onto the food itself:

The menu has been scaled down to include a few signature favourites such as the Dishoom calamari and pau bhaji but new features are crunchy bhel with pomegranate and chutney, vada pau, which was reminscent of the aaloo bun kebab I used to eat in primary school in Karachi for Rs. 5. I enjoyed the Dishoom frankie (a naan roll with minced lamb doused in a spicy sauce). I, personally, would prefer if the portions of bhel and calamari were a bit larger.

There is a selection of cocktails and beers and not to be missed chilled Limca and Thums Up perfect for the summer weather.

Once again, attention to detail in the design is meticulous and you can also tell they really had fun doing it. They have used recycled colourful carrier bags for the walkway and created an entire wall of recycled English and Hindi newspapers rolled and stacked up.

….and an ingenious clock, which needs to be seen to be believed.

I’m also loving the bright neon t-shirts with amusing captions that the staff have been wearing.

It’s fun, it’s spunky and it’s the perfect place to hang out with friends this summer.

Details:
May 13th – October 4th
Monday – Thursday: Noon – Midnight
Friday: Noon – 1am
Saturday: 10am –1am
Sunday: 10am – Midnight


Queen Elizabeth Hall Terrace,
Southbank Centre,
Belvedere Road,
London SE1 8XX

From Bombay to London: Irani Cafes & “Dishoom”

12 Mar

On the several walks from my apartment to the hustle bustle of Soho and Leicester Square I had frequently walked past  the restaurant “Dishoom” – somewhat intrigued by the 1970s ‘Bollywoodish’ title. On the recommendation of my cousin, I finally paid a visit last month and wondered why it had taken me so long to make this first move. There are countless reviews on the blogosphere that have discovered “Dishoom” much before I did  so I am, clearly, tardy to that party and hence don’t intend on simply “reviewing” the restaurant.

What struck me as the most charming and defining feature of Dishoom” was the concept that it pays homage to, that of, Irani cafes in mid-20th century Bombay. Irani cafes appeared in Bombay and Karachi after their Zoroastrian-Iranian owners came to India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries following earlier settlers from Persia.

An Irani Cafe in Bombay - Photo Credit: Expressindia.com

In the last few years, such cafes have either been converted into pubs and restaurants or are simply closing down mainly due to fierce competition from other market players and the economic migration of younger generation of Parsis outside of India. Poignantly, the dwindling number of Irani cafes in Bombay and Karachi mirrors the shrinking of the Parsi community itself that has barely 70,000 members living in Bombay and only 2,000 in Karachi.

A fringe religious community in both India and Pakistan, Parsis  have made immense contributions in various spheres of life in both countries. The Irani cafes or restaurants were set up predominantly by Irani Zoroastrians who fled persecution from the Iranian provinces of Yazd and Kerman. Since they lacked the capital to establish themselves in shipping, banking and industry as had the earlier Zoroastrian settlers, the Irani Zoroastrians established modest cafes.

Irani cafes gradually became iconic institutions in themselves attracting clientele from students, struggling artists, tourists and Parsi families. They were also seen as very welcoming and were touted as being a microcosm that was “classless and casteless” where religious boundaries and societal divisions were blurred.

While there is ample material to be found on Irani cafes in Bombay, I was also curious to explore their roots in my birthplace, Karachi.

My father who was has spent 4 decades in the city recollects his experience of these cafes:

Irani cafes were dotted all over Karachi in yesteryears and were known for providing quality food on a budget. The cafes were owned by Bahai community people who were living in mostly coastal cities like Bombay and Karachi but somehow in local parlance they were called “Iran Kay Hotel”. The bun muska (crusty bun with butter) and ovaltine chai (milky tea with sprinkled ovaltine) was the meal for many office goers and students. These cafes also used to be political centres of Karachi where student and political activist used to rendezvous for hours. They used to bring a full glass of water before any serving while the fingers were dipped inside the glass. Some of them were centrally located  like one at Regal Cinema in Saddar and Khairabad on I .I.Chundrigar Road which was in those days the Fleet Street of Karachi where all newspapers offices were located. Outside these cafes were paan shops where people used to buy one cigarette of Wills or Capstan and lit their cigarette after a hearty meal by rope made of jute (jute used to come from East Pakistan). Irani cafes were institutions which have unfortunately faded out from the cultural scene of Karachi and more synthetic and fast food chains have replaced them. Anybody who has lived in Karachi in the 50s, 60s, 70s can recall all such cafes.

Now on to “Dishoom”

“Dishoom” opened its doors to Londoners last July. Adorned with sepia toned portraiture and popular imagery from the 50s and 60s against the backdrop of powder blue walls, it is obvious that much thought and effort has gone into the decor and cultural referencing. The attention to detail in the interior was for me a highlight since eating out is equally about the experience as it is about the food itself.

I admit to this bias but given the plethora of Pakistani restaurants in London that serve food exactly how I would enjoy it back home, I rarely venture to Indian restaurants. However, Dishoom has changed that for me. During multiple visits I have enjoyed the simple, clean flavours and moderately spiced food. The stellar item on the menu is, undoubtedly, the chai. Sacrilegious as this may sound, I’m not at all a chai drinker but this has me hooked. It’s traditional milky tea with a lingering aftertaste of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and a hint of ginger. The pau bhaji and dishoom calamari are excellent as starters as is the accompaniment of velvety roomali roti, which I had the last time at the iconic Karim’s in Delhi (that was a meal not to be forgotten).

Pau Bhaji

I always order the grilled items, which are amongst the best I have had in London. In particular, the spicy lamb chops and dishoom chicken tikka are perfectly seasoned and flavoured. The lamb biryani is also worth mentioning. They also serve a chicken berry biryani, which I have not tried as yet but it’s a signature Parsi dish. The rose and cardamom lassi is delicious and refreshing. The samosas and fish fingers were standard and not particular stand-outs. The chilli omelette and the breakfast bake are worth getting up early on a Saturday morning for.

While, I would not term this as a meal on a budget, the items are fairly priced. They have a no reservation policy so expect a long wait for tables during peak meal times on weekends.

Recently, Dishoom has started hosting events such as book readings and musical performances, which one can follow on their social media outlets (Twitter and Facebook).

Oh, and they also serve Thums Up 🙂

Dishoom

12 Upper St Martins Lane
WC2H 9FB, London
020 7420 9320

Sources:

Naomi Lobo (May 20 2007). “Irani cafés: Inheritance of loss”. India Express.

http://heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/irani/cafe.htm

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JK27Df01.html

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