Thursday, 8 January 2015

Happy New Year

Where: Canterbury
When: New Years Day

What to do on New Years Day?  Not feeling overly tired or hungover we felt like a good quality lunch out.  After scouring Canterbury town centre we had narrowed it down to a pub or Deeson's.  Our decision to choose Deeson's was not based on reviews but simply that it looked homely and warming, without feeling particularly crowded.  In short it felt like the perfect place for a relaxing start to 2015.  We were warmly welcomed inside and a table was found for us immediately.  Service felt friendly and casual but highly professional at all times with roving eyes all over the dining rooms making sure guests were not left unattended to.

We decided to go with the set lunch menu which initially started out as three courses but sadly ended up being two.  To start we all ordered something different, today the choice was between pate, whitebait and soup.  The starters were light and the portions were generous, the whitebait were of a good size and the beetroot went perfectly with my chicken live pate.  The only complaint was that due to the presentation of the soup in a small saucepan it took a long time to cool down.  It also would have been nice to have more bread on the plate with the soup and pate courses, that said the complementary white and brown bread were repeatedly replenished.

It was soon time for our mains, two of us ordered the chicken dish and one ordered the mushroom and lentils with the breaded cheese.  Again, the portions were generous and the food was good.  The gravy with our chicken was, thick and full of flavour, the vegetables were cooked simply and nicely.

We looked over and over again at the dessert menu but we were too full to continue and had to call it a day.  Deeson's is good simple British food done will with service to match and with a regularly changing menu we will definitely be returning in the future.

Deeson's British Restaurant, 25-27 Sun Street, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2HX, 01227 767854,

Monday, 8 December 2014

Food With A View

Happy Birthday To Me
When: November 2014
Where: Ting at Shangri-La at The Shard, London

A birthday is a time to celebrate and also a time to reflect on the year gone by and to look forward to the year ahead.  Originally I had planned to have this meal as a way to say farewell to living in London but it was not meant to be, instead it turned into an excellent birthday lunch.  We arrived in good time at London Bridge and got our bearings as to the entrance of the hotel.  As we still had some time to kill we did the only sensible thing and had a walk through Borough Market to whet our appetites.  Unlike the weekend zoo when all the stalls are open, a late weekday morning visit is an oasis of calm by comparison, time to take in the smells and sights, rather than shuffle through the stalls and long queues.

After a short walk we headed off to our destination.  On arrival at the hotel we were greeted by the door staff and passed the riff raff test and were allowed through.  We were warmly greeted at the front desk and the tone was set for an excellent lunch.  Our dining vouchers were exchanged and after a short bag check we were whooshing up 35 floors to the lobby area and Ting.  First impressions were strong.  As expected for a high end establishment the finishes and attention to detail were excellent.  Despite being a chain hotel in the middle of London there was a distinctly Asian feel to the design.

Like someone telling you the ending to a good book we knew the view was coming when the lift doors opened.  Yet despite knowing what to expect the view, like a good book still takes you by surprise.  It was a beautiful clear day and it was magnificent to see out across London.  We walked over to the restaurant entrance where our reservation was found, our coats taken and we were taken over to a nice secluded spot in the far corner, not far from the large open kitchen area.

We made ourselves comfortable, marvelled at the view and the lovely table setting.  We had a view of the railway lines and out towards the towers of Canary Wharf.  Menus came over and we decided to go with the set lunch and a bottle of red.

To start we had the Jerusalem Artichoke soup and the Black Cod.  The soup was creamy and flavourful with the surprise of the soft egg in the middle.  Lots of fresh sour dough bread and soft butter were available.

For our mains we had the Lincolnshire Pork Chop and the Plaice Fillet.  Both were cooked to perfection and my pork chop had a delicious cauliflower and garlic purée, with a lovely flavour of caramelised onion after-taste.

We finished up with the chocolate and citrus desserts which both rounded off our dinner very nicely.

A couple of strong and much needed coffees served up with some petit fours whilst we continued to enjoy the atmosphere and amazing views.

To conclude, we had a great meal at Ting, the food whilst not fine dining in the truest sense was excellent and well executed.  Service was friendly and genuine with a couple of very minor flaws, but considering the restaurant has not been open that long is understandable.  However, the view and atmosphere are quite unique and are well worth the cost of the meal alone.  Ting comes highly recommended for a special occasion.

Something Spicy
Where: Woodlands

After a busy day walking along the Southbank and onto Leicester Square we had to stop at our favourite Indian restaurant, Woodlands.  It was our first time back since our South India trip and after reading the menu it was almost an exact replica of much of the street food and breakfast buffets we'd enjoyed on that trip.  Still being slightly full from our indulgent lunch we went with some simple dosas, fresh, spicy and delicious, for a few minutes we were back at the Oberoi in Mumbai.

Sadly we left to a drizzly London night but a beautiful end to a perfect day.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Cats, Owls and Nonya for Dinner

Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat
Where: Whitechapel Gallery

When: June 2014

I'd like to say I was a big fan of the work of Chris Marker but that would not be the whole truth.  In all honesty a lot of it up until very recently was hard to come by with exhibitions and screenings in short supply.  Instead it would be fair to say I'm a fan of the work I'd seen,  in particularly the film Sans Soleil (1982) which in these days and times is like someone being sent video fragments of a friend's trip and narrating their blog posts alongside the images.  Of course this work is perhaps 1000 times more insightful than your typical travel blog.

This exhibition covers both Marker's work as a photographer as well as his films and installation work.  The exhibition starts with some simple portrait photographs from his Staring Back (2002) series which show the loneliness inherent in the crowd and also embrace the fact that people react differently to having their photo taken by a stranger and outsider.

We then enter the Zapping Zone (1990-94), an installation of TVs and computers displaying Marker's idea of multichannel TV, both serious and humorous.  At first the swell of information is overwhelming but I have fun playing with the computer and watching some of the more amusing screens.

After that we check out the big screen where Marker's famous grinning cat avatar navigates us through Second Life and shows us the invasion of the cat in popular culture as well as some film posters that wouldn't look out of place in a B3ta image challenge!  Heading further in there are all the travel guides that Marker provided photos for and a great quote about his alternate career!

We then watch the film Statues Also Die (1953), a moving documentary on the destruction of African art due to western colonisation and how it removed the practicality and purpose from the items that were created.  Instead the items became handicrafts, an industry in themselves for tourists instead of cups, spoons, combs, chairs that were intended to be used, not placed in a museum.

We head upstairs and passed La Jetee (1962) as we had both seen it numerous times and entered the final section of the exhibition dealing with Marker's more political works. We see a juxtaposition of Vietnam protests and left wing marches alongside the recent Iraq war demonstrations and the left wing rally against the far right in France.  It seems we never learn and nothing changes!

The exhibition finishes with the film after which it is named.  We stay for a bit but with at three hours in length we don't have the time to sit through all of it.  A Grin Without a Cat deals with the events before and after the famous events in Paris from May 1968 and what has happened since.  It is made up of interviews with the public with a brief commentary to link the sections.

I leave wanting more, precisely to be able to watch all the films, photographs and multimedia that Marker has produced throughout is long life.  I feel engaged and educated and feel like I should be doing more with my life.  Instead we go eat some Nonya food!  Such is the way of the world.

When: June 2014

Where: 102 Old Street London

Being perfectly out of synch with the natural order of things, we arrive for dinner, which in reality is lunch just before the restaurant opens.  We wait in a park across the street with a drunk and a man with a noisy dog.  The restaurant blends in well with the various curry houses, kebab restaurants and the erotica shop located nearby.  A small group enter shortly after the sign is switched from closed to open and we follow them in.  The menu appears to be a simple mix of Chinese favourites and Malaysian curries.

We start with a beer, some satay and clear spring rolls.  The food comes quickly and the portions are generous.  The satay is good but the amount of sauce is a little disappointing, but the beer washes it down well. For mains we have the duck curry which although a little greasy is very tasty and the Blachan Chicken.  We have a plain rice and a delicious coconut rice.  Again portions are on the generous side and the food comes quickly.

In conclusion it is hard to judge Sedap from a single visit.  The food we had felt similar to what you'd find in many Thai restaurants and it would have been nice to pick up on the more "authentic" Malaysian and Singaporean dishes on the menu which got lost in the mix of curries.  Whilst we would not go out of our way for a meal at Sedap we would definitely return if in the area for the generous portions and friendly service.

Sedap: 102 Old Street, London, EC1V 9AY 0207 490 0200

Whitechapel Gallery: 77-82 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX 020 7522 7888

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bread and Tea, Indian Style

Roti Chai
When: June 2014

Oh no, another work dinner is what I normally say to myself but recently I have been spoiled.  Chiquitos and Nandos swapped for quality Turkish and Indian fare.  Tonight we were going Indian and we headed over to Roti Chai, located behind Oxford Street and close to Marble Arch tube station.  We went downstairs to the bar for a few drinks.  Other than the usual beers and wines there was an extensive cocktail and gin menu.  I tried a couple of the Indian themed cocktails which were delicious, both refreshing and spicy at the same time.

It was then time to eat.  We had a set menu with a selection of sharing plates with a choice of three starters and three mains, rice, dhals and bread as well as a choice of one of two desserts.  The starters were minced lamb kebabs, which were probably my favourite, an excellent chaat and chicken 65, which was not as tangy as what I had on our recent India trip.

For the main meal I tried a little of everything.  First up was the butter chicken, which was very good but could have had more chicken and more butter!  There was also a fish curry which was possibly the best of the three with just the right amount of fish and a rich spicy sauce.  The third dish was a Goan pork belly dish which was possibly the weakest of the three, the flavours were good but the texture was not so nice.  The potatoes on the side were crisp and tasty.  As for the sides, the bread and rice were well done.  Soft rice, crisp and buttery naans, great for mopping up all that delicious sauce.  The dhal and chickpeas were both nice, almost nicer than the mains.  In all I was pretty full and the food was at worst good and at best thoroughly delicious. 

To finish I went with the mango kulfi served as an ice lolly.  Whilst refreshing this was not a patch on what we had in Mumbai, there was no evidence of fresh fruit in the ice cream.  I also had a decent double espresso to awaken myself after all that food.

Overall this was a decent meal and as far as work meals go an excellent choice from those concerned.  The food was nicely presented, tasty and the portions suitably generous.  Service was good but a little slow and it wasn't initially clear that we had sharing plates from a set menu rather than individual choices.  If the price was right it would definitely be worth another try.

Roti Chai
3 Portman Mews South, London, W1H 6HS 
020 7408 0101

Monday, 26 May 2014

Colonial Life in Ooty

Voyage to India Part 2: The South
When: Jan/Feb 2014
Where: London, Mumbai, Ooty, Kochi, Aleppey, Mamalapuram, Madurai

The next stop on our foodie tour was Ooty, an old British Hill Resort where one would go to escape the searing heat elsewhere in the country.  We stayed at Kingscliff, a converted set of Bungalows from the time of the empire, furnished in colonial style with a quaint themed restaurant.

Before that it was time to travel low cost on IndiGo who really go all out with the packaging on their in-flight catering.

In the evening we had dinner at Earl's Secret the hotel's restaurant.  The atmosphere was interesting with slightly off kilter service, a singer and a lovely log fire place for warmth and atmosphere as the temperature really drops at night.  We went with food from the Indian menu which was good, but perhaps a little over priced for what it was.

Kingscliff also offers breakfast in a beautiful glass house each morning.  Unfortunately the buffet didn't live up to the building.

We had a great lunch at the Garden Restaurant in town.  Great, simple, Indian food at its best.

In the afternoon we went to the Indian version of Starbucks, Cafe, Coffee, Day.  Great fun and very surreal.

For dinner we are in town at Kabab Corner, it was quite busy and came recommended in our Lonely Planet guide.  Food was not the best, it didn't look overly clean and one of our party got sick the next day.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Oberoi Mumbai

Voyage to India Part 2: The South

When: Jan/Feb 2014
Where: London, Mumbai, Ooty, Kochi, Aleppey, Mamalapuram, Madurai

Part 2: Welcome to Mumbai

Our first two days were spent in Mumbai, a city filled with food.  We had the privilege to stay at the fantastic Oberoi hotel and with a complementary breakfast each morning and a complementary dinner at the hotel's flagship restaurant Ziya, run by Michelin starred chef Vineet Bhatia it was going to be amazing.

We started our evening with some delicious cocktails at the Eau Bar, that our bar tender carefully smelt to make sure each and every one was perfectly crafted.  The bar however, contained all the worst elements from the bar scene in Lost in Translation.

It was then time for the main event, dinner at Ziya.  This was every bit as good as our meal at Quilon with perfectly cooked Indian influenced food all washed down with some Indian merlot.  Service was excellent.

 Buttermilk palate cleanser

Chaat three ways

Paneer and spinach

Fish Curry

Lamb Chops
 Butter Naan
 Choco Palate
Indian Flavoured Ice Cream

Breakfast was also a fantastic affair with made to order items, a buffet, fresh fruit juices and coffee.

 Fruit and Pastries from the Buffet
 Pooris and Potato curry
Scrambled Eggs, Indian Style (spicy)