Pakistani Food in London

I’ve heard many times that British food is nothing to write home about, but the Indian and Pakistani food in the UK is spectacular. Based on my one Indian meal in London (take-out, no less!), I have to agree with that sentiment.

The night after we were mugged the police were still out and people were still feeling shaky about the mood of the city. Since it was so eerily quiet around our hotel, we decided it would probably be best to get take-out and eat it at the hotel room. I know, I know, what are the chances of getting mugged in a restaurant twice? But hey, better no chance than a slim chance of that!

We went to a Pakistani restaurant 1/3 of a mile from our hotel. I got a kofta (lamb meatball) in curry while Will got some sort of vegetable curry. With my kofta, I also ordered coconut fried rice. The kofta was magnificent. A juicy, gamey taste, tender, spiced to perfection, and coated with a delightfully heated curry. The coconut fried rice, which was probably the Indian version of the Chinese-American shrimp fried rice, was also delicious. I was very satisfied with my meal.

Indian food in London

Manna Vegetarian (London)

Perhaps going to a vegetarian restaurant in London run by a couple who spends half their time in the San Fernando Valley is not the best way to try the local cuisine, but hey, no one ever said native British food was good, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

Manna is a bit out of the way to get to if you don’t have a car.  Will and I had to get off at a tube station a mile away and wander about a fair amount before finally locating the restaurant (after a helpful phone call).  The restaurant is small, with an enclosed patio for extra seating. I would suggest making reservations for dinner since they seem to get full. Since we were late getting there, they had run out of the Sunday special, which was some sort of vegan roast or loaf.

Manna Vegetarian

I ordered their mezze platter, which let me choose three dishes off their appetizer section.  Will got the vegan bangers and mash.  For my platter, I chose fried ravioli, croquettes, and jerk tofu.  Although the price of the platter was high (even for Euros), I was still impressed with how much food was given me.  My favorite part were the croquettes, which were perfectly crispy on the outside, and hot and soft on the inside. I believe it was some sort of tofu filling.  The fried ravioli was not bad either, with its walnut and mushroom pate filling.  The jerk chicken, I found not to be spicy at all (why call it jerk if it’s not spicy?) and on the sweet side.

Manna Vegetarian

Will’s bangers and mash was a success because he cleared the full platter.  The sweet potato and regular potato mash was flavorful and more exciting than a regular mash with only regular potatoes.  The sausages were rich and had a real sausage flavor thanks to the generous use of fennel seeds. I liked the added touch of fried onion rings on top instead of the usual caramelized onions.

Is Manna a destination spot? If I hadn’t been on the trip with a vegetarian, I would say not.  But after a few days of eating traditional British food, I was definitely craving some fresh vegetables.  If the restaurant were in LA, I would compare it to the likes of Real Food Daily, only with slightly better food and way better drink options.  I think the fact that I had a nice, dry, pear cider during my meal also made me think favorably about it.

4 Erskine Road, Primrose Hill, London NW3 3AJ
020 7722 8028 (ph/fax)

The Ledbury (aka What a Tory Eats)

For those without a sense of humor or an apple stuck up their butt, the title of this post is facetious. Someone posted in a previous blog about me being a Tory, which is pretty far from the truth considering 1) I’m not British and 2.) I come from a working-class family.

To celebrate our vacation from work, our recent wedding, and our delayed honeymoon, Will made reservations at The Ledbury, a two-star Michelin restaurant in London.  We were actually in the country for the wedding of our friends Andres and Gyda (in Cambridge). Since I had never gone to Europe before, we made it a European vacation and stopped by London for a few days before making our way to Italy.

I know next to nothing about London geography and neighborhoods, but based on the houses we passed while getting to The Ledbury, I could tell it was a (as the locals call it) a posh neighborhood.  Because we had reservations, we were seated promptly.  The first thing I noticed there was the unusual rock on the table. It was black, with varying gradients in the light.  I could think of no other purpose it served other than being a conservation piece because we got into a brief chat about it with the table next door.

Will chose the vegan tasting menu while I chose the regular one.  We were unsure of which wine to get and I didn’t want to go with the tasting course wine pairing since I think wine pairings for each dish makes me feel rushed. I’d much rather sip on the same wine throughout the meal than have to constantly switch wines.  The sommelier was helpful in suggesting  a wine that would be robust enough to go with my tasting menu, but light enough not to overshadow the flavors in Will’s vegan tasting menu.

Since we had several dishes and an event that overshadowed the actual meal, I’ll only  mention some highlights such as the bread service.  That was the best bread in a restaurant I had ever had.  The bread that came in a basket was crackling on the outside, moist and soft on the inside, and came with delicious butter and a nice, grassy olive oil for Will.  To top that off, there was also some sort of bread made with crystalized malt that had a fantastic savory, smokey flavor. I’m not sure if it’s vegan or not, but Will had a taste and he declared it too delicious to not be vegan.  In addition to that, there was also a bun that looked like a cinnamon roll, but was actually a brioche rolled with caramelized onion. I could eat that all day.

Will’s food all looked artful and tasted good as well. One dish came out in a shell of a log that reminded us of the World’s Best Restaurant in Copenhagen. I had a taste of one dish that seemed to be just two measly pieces of broccoli, but boy, was it good broccoli.

For myself, I really enjoyed the scallop carpaccio and quail egg on toast. What I liked most about the dishes I had at The Ledbury was that some dishes had elements of molecular gastronomy, but it wasn’t the focus of the dish. For example, the scallop carpaccio had some sort of iced wasabi or mustard cream sauce as well as  small spheres of something, but they were accompaniments to the excellent and fresh scallop.

A little more than halfway through our meal, we were interrupted, so I can’t say much about the rest of the tasting menu.  Based on the dishes we were served previous to that, I predict that they would have been pretty damn good.  I know the cheese cart smelled good, at least.

the ledbury

Some picturess of our meal below:

the ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledburythe ledbury