Monday, 28 December 2009


Little Georgia
87 Goldsmiths Row
020 7739 8154

I went on a date with a girl. She had a thing for khachapuri so we arranged to meet at Little Georgia. I'd come straight from the 2012 Olympics site. She'd come straight from a wedding. I was dressed normally. She was dressed like a Guatemalan peasant. I was sober and needed a drink. She was drunk.

We talked and talked and I asked the waitress to give us a few minutes please and then I weighed up our options while khachapuri girl told me about her travels in Georgia and then I ordered the item at the bottom of the menu called 'Everything' because we were ravenous and it seemed like a sensible idea at the time. We also ordered portions of khachapuri and lobiani (bread stuffed with beans) in case everything turned out not to be enough.

Everything included pkhali (spinach and walnut dip), a garlic and carrot salad, a potato salad, something unpronounceable made with chick peas, and other things that fall under everything's broad remit. Both everything and the two bread dishes were delicious. So tasty, in fact, that when the drunk lady force-fed me at a point in the evening when I couldn't digest another crumb, I smiled and said yum, or made noises to that effect. Or it may have been because we were getting on rather well.

I'm going to Georgia in March. When I return, I'll add some freshly-gleaned food-related information to this simplistic entry.

Little Georgia on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Trinidad & Tobago

Roti Joupa
12 Clapham High StreetAdd Image
020 7627 8637

I'd long assumed the only reason I'd ever feel a compulsion to visit Clapham Common would be if I went all Ron Davies and had a moment of madness. But that was before I visited Roti Joupa.

Worldly as I may be, I'd never been to Clapham. I'd never met anybody from Clapham and I'd barely heard anybody talk about Clapham. My dining companion found this most unusual, although she seemed to find most of my utterances strange and wrote several of them down in a notepad to print as slogans on T-shirts in the future. (We never got round to discussing royalties.) "Loads of my friends live in Clapham," she insisted unconvincingly.

If I lived in Clapham, which won't happen as long as I'm in control of my own brain, I'd eat the pumpkin roti at Joupa every day. £3.50 isn't expensive, but I'd spend enough money here to put the Joupa kids through college. The roti is a flatbread that originates in India, although it's fluffier and lighter here than I've seen it at Indian restaurants. The pumpkin option was spicier and altogether livelier than the king fish roti. Both were stuffed to squirming point with curried potato.

We started our meal with doubles, Trini's most popular street food, a sandwich of chick pea curry in flatbreads. We adored the deep-fried green pea and flour balls known as poulourie (pictured) and our drinks were like nothing else we've tasted before. Mauby tastes like a cross between root beer and liqourice and sorrel is closer to hibiscus.

Clapham? Can't wait to go back.

Roti Joupa on Urbanspoon

India (Tamil Nadu)

Chennai Dosa
3 Ealing Road
020 8782 8822

I'll be straight with you. We were in Wembley for drugs. The drug we were looking for is perfectly legal. It's called qat, a leaf containing an amphetamine-like substance called cathinone. People chew it in failed states such as Somalia and Yemen.

We asked every Somali we could find where we could buy it, and were lucky not to get beaten up for racial profiling. A shopkeeper told us the address of a butcher that sold cat meat (meow!), the second sent us up a stairwell into a scary man's living room, and the third sent us to the far end of a back alley where we got sensibly nervous and ran away.

But I was more interested in the dosas than the drugs. I'd combed Wembley on Street View to find a dealer, and when I spotted Chennai Dosa on the corner of the street I went to its website, downloaded the PDF of its menu, printed it when everybody had left the office, and clogged the printer up with drool. As befits a place with a £4.99 dinner buffet, the decor is pretty much non-existent, although we did find seats under a poster celebrating the restaurant's family dosa - all six insane feet of it.

We started with vadai (£0.30 each!), the wonderfully spicy lentil and potato doughnuts eaten on Indian railways. Four puffy parcels of idly (rice and lentil cakes) came with sambar (lentil dal) and coconut chutney, while my friend's masala dosa, with its spicy symphony of potatoes and onion, was a stunner. My green chilli coriander dosa was so disappointing - no stuffing, just a sprinkling of coriander and a few chillies. I started craving drugs again.

We found our qat, by the way. A fiver a bunch. From a little shop in the Edgware Road underpass you'd never find unless you knew to look for it. The stuff tastes hideous. But give it three hours and it'll work. It'll work wonders.

Chennai Dosa Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 November 2009


42 Crawford Street
020 7262 6582

I've been to Sweden once, in 1998. I was at my most penniless, but having only eaten Tesco's least finest canned fish and Value crackers for the first three days of the trip, I had £30 in my pocket for an authentic Stockholm smörgåsbord (gotta love those accents). The problem was that I couldn't find one anywhere. I was 18, supposedly at my physical peak, and I couldn't even track down a smörgåsbord in Sweden. I spent the money on a ticket for the ABBA Museum, a falafel from an Iraqi bean-hawker and a proposterously expensive pint of beer. It's a winning combo.

As I walked through the door at Garbo's, the average age of the clientele fell by 30 years, and I'm not very young any more. My grandparents, who had started their meal without me, pointed towards the smörgåsbord. At last, an authentic Swedish smörgåsbord. My first ever. I loaded pickled herring, gravadlax (cured salmon) with mustard sauce, and potato salad on to my plate with such zeal I barely noticed the 30 or so photos of Greta Garbo and, rather incongrously, a giant stuffed moose's head on the wall. A giant stuffed moose's head, a dead Swedish actress and lots of elderly Scandinavians, all as quiet as each other; the only noise to be heard the waitress screaming to her chef: "You forgot the hollandaise sauce!"

The tardy sauce perked up a lifeless piece of grilled salmon, while my grandparents didn't seemed particularly thrilled by their mains. Their kåldolmar is like a northern European answer to the Meditterranean dolma, cabbage rolls stuffed with lamb. It wasn't brilliant, but £14.95 for a smörgy, a main and a dessert (went for a boring fruit salad) is good value. The less said about the signed Fabba (the 4th best Abba tribute band, if we're being generous) poster, the better.

Garbo's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 13 August 2009


6 Lisle Street
020 7734 8128

Keelung, a coastal city in northern Taiwan, boasts one of Asia's biggest food markets. It's a lively, bustling place, with stalls overflowing with fresh vegetables, meat and fresh seafood.

Its London namesake seems more interested in post-war popular entertainment - Cliff Richard shares wallspace with the likes of the Rat Pack, the Beatles and Dame Anna Neagle - an unanticipated theme that threatened to divert our attention from the food. But the Chilean sea bass, steamed, filleted and bristling with chilli, put us back on track.

From the "night tapas" menu we ordered deep-fried oysters, which were winningly crispy and brackish, and melt-in-the-mouth steamed crab dumplings. We were less impressed by the pork congee (a watery rice porridge) and the pork belly with bitter melon.

Prices here are reasonable, around £4 for starters and £6-8 for main courses. I hope to go back soon and try some of the other dishes on the menu.

I wrote a different version of this review for Hotline, the excellent magazine of Virgin Trains
The photo is taken from the website. I'll remove it if you ask me to.

On New Year's Eve, I went to Leong's Legends, another Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown owned by the same company. I think it's a slightly better bet than Keelung, with a more diverse menu and lower prices. The highlight was this, the Taiwanese mini-kebab with pork belly. The xiao long bao were wonderful, too.

Keelung on Urbanspoon


27 Stoke Newington Road
020 7254 6999

There are dozens of Turkish places in Dalston and Stoke Newington, and many of them are called Mangal. We naturally gravitated to the mangiest, mankiest Mangal of all - a low-rent, low-fidelity, low-priced joint with a dilapidated façade and n shortage of empty tables at peak feeding time.

But I liked the fact that this was no Mehmet of all trades; Mangal's menu only offers one thing - save for a couple of ill-advised stews - and that's pide.

Pide is not Turkish pizza - that's lahmacun. It's a more substantial offering, a canoe-shaped flatbread with curved edges, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Only a third of Mangal's offerings involve cheese. Instead, lamb, chicken, spinach and sausage dominate proceedings, while green peppers and mushrooms pop up on many a pide. Everything costs £5, or £4 to take away. My ispanakli yumartali (pictured) was the pick of our pair, with spinach, onions and eggs creating a tangly topping, while the kusbasili mantarli combined lamb, mushrooms and green peppers to juicy effect.

In terms of atmosphere, there's an oven, two pictures on the wall, four tables and two blokes making the stuff from scratch. It's bare bones, and that's just fine by me.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


Amber Grill Rodizio
47 Station Road
Willesden Junction
020 8963 1588

We felt guilty. Using my Taste London card, the all-you-can-eat deal at Amber Grill costs less than a tenner. It seems unlikely they made any money from us. We did, after all, eat a lot of meat.

Amber Grill is a churrascaria, a restaurant at which customers are served meat from the churrasco barbecue until they surrender; flip the coloured chip on your table and the man walking round with the knife and the skewer will stop pestering you. This style of service is called rodizio. It's a system that favours the hungry.

We helped ourselves to a buffet laden with fried plantain, black beans, potatoes, olives, pasta and salad. But we were careful not to overindulge; we needed room for the meat, which fell to our plates with such regularity we couldn't eat quickly enough. The steak was mostly excellent. Some of the thinner, rare-cooked slices were meltingly good; other slices couldn't be chewed enough. The pork was wonderfully juicy with a thick edge of crackling.

It's not the best location and the restaurant feels a little bare, but Amber Grill offers good food and great value for money.