Monday, 8 November 2010

Khans, Clapham Junction, SW11

J&J were visiting from San Diego and have a well known penchant for all food Indian but we didn’t want anything too fancy for a casual Friday night supper nor did we want to venture West End so Khans in Clapham Junction was right on the money.
Upon arrival in the pouring rain the door swung open and a waiter blocking the doorway greeted us with “yyyeeeessss??” After managing to convince him that we did indeed have a booking we were allowed inside to wait whilst the previous occupants of our table finished up and left. Definitely a popular place to indulge in a curry fest on a Friday night! 
Poppadums and chutneys were delivered promptly, nothing unusual in terms of chutneys, the usual mango, chillied pickles, onion cucumber offerings but all were tasty.
J&J tend to go vegetarian so opted for a vegetable korma and a pumpkin masala.   Being resolutely carnivorous (and also allergic to pumpkin) I can only go by their description but I’m told that the masala was quite spicy but bursting with flavour and texture.  It did also look quite pretty rather than the unidentifiable blobs in sloppy sauce that can be presented in some Indian restaurants. The vegetable korma was really delicious and even I might not have noticed the absence of meat as the sauce was so good. As kormas go it was a very sweet version with lots of coconut but this is a plus in my book. Steamed rice was nice and fluffy and lightly flavoured with cardamom. Garlic naan was not the most garlicky tasting bread I’d ever had but a subtle flavour is definitely preferable to the whole chunks of garlic you often get in Indian restaurants.

I chose a chicken pasanda badani which was chicken in a cream and saffron based sauce with pistachios. It had a very mild flavour but was enjoyable. I love that the curries are all kept warm on hostess trays, this is something that I thought had been dying out but very much still happens at the Khan.
The thing I like most about Khans is that they don’t use any ghee or colourings in their food. Anything containing cream or coconut cream is labelled on the menu so you are making a conscious choice to go for the less healthy option.
Ordinarily anything heralded as low fat or additive free sends me running for the hills as the resulting dish is usually a poor cousin to the one that you really wish you were eating but in this case I genuinely felt it was for the better. Sometimes clear evidence of fat in a dish makes you know it’s going to taste good, for example shiny pork crackling or an oozing creamy carbonara sauce however I’ve eaten many an Indian meal where the slick of orangey fat on the surface of a curry doesn’t make you think ooh “I’m in for a treat here”, more a case of “can I pour some off without anyone noticing?”.
My only gripe is that some of the waiters appear to have attended the Indian restaurant school of customer service where there must be training module 101 in upselling dishes as the practice is so ubiquitous. “Poppadums? You’ll have 3 each?” “no thanks just 2 each” “You’re sure?”  and then later on; “no starters only mains? And sharing rice and naan, not each?” Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess as even after our bill had been requested and arrived “Can we get you anything more, drink? food?”
We ate on a offer of 40% off which meant that the total bill came to £30 for 3 including beers. Bargain.
I haven’t tried it (but definitely will do!) but you appear to be able to order for delivery online also.
159 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5QH   
Khan's on Urbanspoon

UPDATE: I have now had Khan's delivered to home on more than one occasion and was really impressed, decent discounts are offered for home delivery and the food was just as good quality, can highly recommend!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials

I was in Covent Garden to see Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre (Simon Russell Beale, Jonathon Groff, well worth seeing.....) and had booked a post-theatre table at Hawksmoor as soon as I heard it was opening this week. Having spent some time looking at the menu online and salivating over the prospect of big juicy steaks I found that whilst the play was good my subconscious focus was definitely on dinner.
 Hawksmoor is located in a  converted disused brewery tucked away inconspicuously on the far corner of Langley street past the fluorescent glare of Cafe Pacifico and Pineapple Dance Studios, the restaurant and bar both have real character. Considering its central Covent Garden location you also know that people dining there are in there because they really want to be rather than because they wandered past it accidentally.I really loved the interior of Hawksmoor which whilst contemporary was all dark woods, blackbloards and low lighting (hence the lightly dodgy photo quality!). It made me wonder what it would have been like to dine in one of the Victorian steak clubs that Hawksmoor models itself on.
Fancy gin cocktail
The cocktail list moves away from the classics and the predictable and focuses more on old fashioned cocktails. A “fancy gin cocktail” consisted of gin, cane sugar and lime and was tasty, not overly sweet and really packed a powerful punch, it was quite reminiscent of New York style martinis.
Not a great photo but nice lobster nonetheless!
I ordered the half Devon Blue lobster with Hazelnut butter to start. I have to admit that the hazelnut was being very subtle indeed and had masqueraded itself very effectively as garlic butter. Since I love garlic butter this was not ultimately a problem but I remain intrigued as to what hazelnut tastes like with lobster. The lobster itself was really succulent, sweet and felt like a good size portion for its price (£15). I would definitely both recommend it and have it again.
H chose the bone marrow and slow cooked onions to start at £5.50. The onions had been cooked in beef dripping and were sensationally good. It came with slices of toasted sourdough bread to heap the onions and marrow onto before shovelling quickly into your mouth.

From a panopoly of steak options I went for a rib eye steak for my main topped with stilton hollandaise.   The whole “subtle flavours” thing arose again at this point. Essentially if I had been doing the Masterchef taste chef on the sauce, stilton would not have featured on my list of perceived ingredients. It was still tasted an accomplished and tasty rendition of a hollandaise sauce but didn’t have the blue cheese flavour I’d been hoping for. The steak itself was cooked to perfection and had a nice flavour and more than met my appetite for a large slab of cow. The chargrill flavour that permeated both the lobster and my steak was full of flavour without being overpowering.
D Rump + egg
H ordered a 55 day hung D Rump on the basis that neither of us had ever eaten anything that had hung for that long before. At less than £20 for 400g it was an excellent choice and was a lovely cut. To be honest I kind of wished that I had ordered it too (despite my rib eye being lovely) as the grain of the meat was good and the depth of colour of the meat exceptional. I’m assured that the addition of two fried eggs for £3 was also well worth it.
We conducted a scientifically accurate* chip test between the beef dripping chips and the triple cooked chips (*not scientific really). The dripping chips were more like wedges and were, frankly, delicious. Crispy and rich on the outside but fluffy soft on the inside. Whilst the triple cooked chips were nice (and would have been more than acceptable had I never tried the beef chips) they didn’t rock my world so I know what I would have on a return visit to Hawksmoor. I still have a burnt mouth today from eating them too quickly!
Beef & Liberty: excellent!
Side orders of roasted field mushrooms and creamed spinach arrived. The field mushrooms were truly excellent and I could have merrily eaten a dish of them as a starter on another occasion. The spinach was, well, spinach. It was indeed creamed and perfectly presentable but as H said there was a “curious edge” to it that neither of us could pinpoint.
All in all portion sizes are huge and you will leave stuffed even if you only have a main course. I will definitely be visiting Hawksmoor again. The atmosphere was buzzy and a real mixed crowd from girls having gossipy dinners a deux to tables of macho guys phhwoaring over their steaks. The menu and style of Hawksmoor is not so dissimilar to that of Hix Oyster & Chop House but if I were to choose between  them then Hawksmoor wins for me both in terms of food and atmosphere. I would love to visit with a group and order a giant cut from one of the blackboards regularly updated by waiters as steaks are purchased. 1.4kg of chateaubriand anyone?!

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon
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