Blue Elephant

I’d like to start this review by saying that photos below do not do Blue Elephant justice. I was taken there for my birthday and it was an intensely romantic evening, during which I tried to take a few sneaky photos with my phone, but as you can see it was a bit of a failure…

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blue-elephant-restaurant-review-fork-and-talk-1For one night and one night only me and my partner immersed ourselves in all things Thailand. Having recently moved from it’s old spot in Fulham, Blue Elephant is now based at a prime location on Imperial Wharf. When you walk in its hard not to get overwhelmed by the grandly decorated ambience. Golden buddhas and lights peaking from plethora of greenery, dark wood creating a warm sitting and subtle scent of flora and spices excites your senses.

Thai hospitality is the best in the world and Blue Elephant is no different. We’ve felt very well looked after. Cosy table, away from the others with a view onto the river – it was a perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two.

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I really loved that the menu was split in three types of cuisine: The Past, The Present and The Future. It was a genius way to try the classic dishes and the experimental modern take, all in one sitting, especially if one of you is a more experienced diner of Thai cuisine.

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We have decided to meet in the middle and order a few dishes from each category. Mixed satay of chicken and buffalo with Thai fish cakes for starters. Cashew and tamarind chicken, Chicken Panaeng with jasmine rice and vegetarian Pad Thai.

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I loved every single dish, prepared with the freshest ingredients and cleverly seasoned, whether it was meat or veg it melted in your mouth. It was by far the best Thai food I’ve had in London.

For a price of £150 dinner for two with wine, I will certainly keep Blue Elephant in mind for special occasions.

Star Rating: *****

Blue Elephant
The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, Townmead Road, London SW6 2UB

http://www.blueelephant.com/london

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Gurkhas Diner

Located between Balham and Tooting, this little gem in easy to miss. I’m not sure how many people can say they have a favourite Nepalese restaurant but this Nepalese restaurant is number one on my list. In fact, I go there on my way from home once a month after a 16 hour working day when I need food that will give me a replacement for a hug and cuddle.

Nepalese cuisine is a fusion of the best of Asia. You have your curry, noodle and bread dishes. Gurkhas Diner is as traditional as they come with humble hospitality. As soon as you enter Gurkhas Diner you will be met by a familiar face (if you become a regular you will know what I mean) who will seat you by pulling your chair out for you, laying your napkin on your lap and lighting a candle for you. The kind face will then bring you some spicy homemade prawn crackers. WE LOVE COMPLIMENTARY FOOD.

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I have two favourite starters, Tareko Farsi which is deep fried courgettes in a masala batter and Saffron Chamri which is a stuffed and roasted paneer dish. Delicious.

I have eaten my way through the Gurkhas Diner menu and can say there is nothing I wouldn’t  recommend. However, I will mention my top four. Usually if there are two of us visiting we would order one starter, one fish dish, one meat or chicken dish and a veg dish with rice and bread. Even then we find that we are taking home a little take away box.

We never leave this place without eating Gurkhas Diners most popular dish, Munillo Maccha. This is a creamy salmon and coconut dish. The curry sauce is creamy yet spicy at the same time with a blend of cashew nuts and coconut with a hint of saffron, the salmon chunks are generous and melt in the mouth. This is a MUST TRY dish.

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The Farsi Lamb is a slow cooked dish with pumpkin. The combination of spicy and sweet really works for this dish. I would also recommend the Dhahi Banti which is an aubergine curry which is full packed full of flavour and the Rato Farshi which is a sweet pumpkin curry.

This is a family owned restaurant in which you know a lot of love goes into cooking the food as it’s always been cooked to perfection and the attention customers get from the owners who are there every night makes every visit special. Gurkhas Diner is a very homely and cosy dine. Since I tried the Gurkhas Diner it has put Nepalese food on my ‘Food I Love’ map.

Star Rating: ****

Gurkhas Diner
1 The Boulevard, Balham High Road, Balham, London SW17 7BW
http://www.gurkhasdiner.co.uk/

Bill’s

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Two visits in the space of seven days, it’s either because we have a gluttony for punishment or Bill’s is actually pretty awesome. Let’s go for the latter.

Bill’s has a very cosy barn house feel to it, with its rustic wooden seating, dried spices and herbs hanging from the ceiling, their own brand preserves cascading the walls and the ambient lighting.

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Diners at Bill’s have an added twist to their visit. You can actually sit and order your weeks shopping from Bill’s whilst you savour the delights of their menu.

This morning on the rare occasions that Elena and I are awake before 12noon on a weekend we decided to head down to Bill’s for a spot of breakfast. We were in a ‘no disappointment’ mood so new we could go to Bill’s and have a good meal with minimal fuss.

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I had the Eggs Royale and Elena had the scrambled egg with bacon. Both were served with the most delightful sour dough bread which is a break away from these dishes being served from a traditional English muffin but it works. The Eggs Royale on any breakfast menu is my fan favourite but this version/adaption has to be one of my fan favourites. The homemade hollandaise is so rich, creamy and tangy. I often get annoyed with restaurants about the quantity they serve of it but here I asked for a little more and they gave me a jug of it without any fuss. Look, I like my food hot and wet, so yes I asked for more.

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They have a range of drinks at Bill’s but my fan favourite will always be the Elderflower cordial served hot. Never had I tried it hot until I was encouraged to do so by a waiter here many years ago and I haven’t looked back.

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Bill’s may be a chain but boy is it a chain of happiness. The food can only be described as fusion food so you will find something for even the fussiest eater and to suit everyone’s budget. An average spend here for us would be £15 which is a rare thing these days.

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Star Rating: ****1/2

Bill’s
9 White Lion St, London N1 9PD
http://bills-website.co.uk/

Yayla

Every time we visit this delight we find it really hard to spend over £50 regardless of how many people you take with you. If Elena and I just go as a twosome we have never spent over £22 and we leave with a full stomach, hands full of a bag with left over and full smile on our faces as drift off into foodcoma. Yayla’s value for money has to be highlighted straight away.

As soon as you are seated you are over whelmed with the complimentary bread (delicious, soft and fresh), salad seasoned with that special Turkish dressing and sumac seasoning and various dips. Yayla know how to make their customers feel welcome. However, you must remember to control yourselves as you often fun yourself full before you have even ordered.

The meat here so tender and well seasoned so it’s our place to go when we are craving meat. You can order meat platters for £43 which can feed up to 10 people and trust me I have tried it with 10 people have still had to take left overs home.

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Our favourite dish at Yayla is the Yoghurt Adana. It comes in a casserole dish and each layer of this dish is a little taste of heaven. At the bottom you have a layer of bread cubes which have been soaked from the juice from the meat and the tomato sauce. The next layer is a later of lamb shish with a special tomato sauce and roasted chillies and the last layer is a healthy serving of fresh yoghurt. My mouth is watering as I write this. The flavours are insain. You have a mixture of tangy, meaty, spicy and creamy depending which layer you have attacked.

The pides are beautiful and Yayla are so accommodating that they will adapt the dish to however you want to create your own Turkish pizza at no extra cost.

yayla-fork-and-talk-review-green-lanes-2The hospitality does not stop their. Once you finish they will serve you an amazing aromatic Turkish tea which helps digest the mountain you have just eaten. This is served with a Turkish sweet which changes from day to day and again this is all complimentary.

I have been going since I was a teenager and have taken Elena there for the duration of our friendship. It is a place we know we can trust and a place we know we will be cared for. Yayla is the gem of Green Lane without being too fancy in comparison to the other Turkish rivals on the street. Here’s to more joyous memories at Yayla for years to come.

Star Rating: *****

Yayla
429 Green Lanes, London N4 1HA
Phone:020 8348 9515

The Art of Dining: Pop-Up Dining Experience

Elena had decided to surprise me with this place for my birthday and I mean surprise. So as I followed her around the side streets of Baker St starving as we arrived at this door which looked nothing like a restaurant all I could think is ‘I am starving and it’s my birthday and this bxxxh has brought me to look at art’. We were greeted by a gentlemen who ticked us off the list, I look around and there are candles heading to a basement (brain wakes up, she is making me join the illuminati). We walk down the stairs and she continues with the sheepish smile I have received for the past 30 mins which has now turned to nervousness, geez she clearly didn’t know what was happening. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-9 We got to the bottom of the stairs and then as I furiously scanned the place I realised that this was a pop up restaurant. My heart settled as I realised there was to be no mass slaughter on my birthday. We were greeted with a cocktail, very ketch and in a jar with a store, the ‘in thing’ to do these days. We were seated on a long trestle table with a whole bunch of strangers who were equally as clueless as we were but it was the perfect seating arrangement for this setting as we all got to know our neighbor which was fun. Any other time, no way. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-2Slowly the clues were coming together, we were settling down for a five course meal linked to a colour. The food it’s self was lovely. Our first course was green. The room was filled with green lighting and three potted plants which were nothing in a room of about 80-100 diners. The paper table covering was also green and there was ‘green’ music in the back. This was the extent of execution for the theme which was rather disappointing as for each course the lighting would change and three plant would be replaced with other object but it didn’t really matter as it’s not like you would see then in the sea of people anyway. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-8The most enjoyable part of the process bar the food was the changing of the table cover process between courses. Diners were expected to rip off the table cover to reveal the new colour and the best part……you could throw it on the floor. I got so into it that when I got home that night I continued to throw my clothes around my room and when I got to work the next day I was throwing exercise books at children. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-4The food was lovely I must say. A truly section of fine ingredients. My particular favourites were course green which was quail wrapped in vine leaves with a freekheh salad. It was small yet exquisite, a lot of zesty and fresh flavours, not something I would have thought when thinking of quail. My next favourite course is the black course which particularly fun when eating in the dark. It was roasted aubergines with wild mushroom and onions. The aubergine had the most amazingly soft texture and the skin was cooked to perfection of it just melted in the mouth, the mushroom and onions as a sweet yet salty flavour, I’m salivating just writing about it. We adored the final orange course which was a lovely piece of orange polenta cake which was soft and juicy and even though in theory it looked tiny on the plate it was just enough as your tummy is already full with four courses. the-art-of-dining-review-fork&talk-10Now I must mention Elena’s rant about the white course and I do agree. The almond ???? Soup was not which at all and pretty much looked like puss in a bowl. The favours were so subtle that they could be missed. All in all the food was lovely and I did appreciate sharing the experience with strangers but the execution of what they were trying to communicate was poor. Do we think it was worth the £50 per head, hmmmmm I suppose it is based on the different experience and the fun and laughter along the way.

 

Star Rating: ***

The Art of Dining
http://www.theartofdining.co.uk

United Ramen

From the outside you would be mistaken to think that this is just a new version of wagamama with a few funkie colours and a lack of the uncomfortable seated which wagamama is known for. On closer inspection of the menu you will find a jaw dropping range of fusion dishes inspired by the globe like; British Bulldog Roast Beef Ramen and Yankee Doodle Ramen Noodle. They even have Bombay Spiced Edamame! We ordered the handmade tofu gyoza which was the best gyoza we have had. The gyoza was not steamed or deep fried but steam-fried which gave it crispy coating. The filling was so flavoursome. Tofu can often lack flavour but this was seasoned to perfection.

Elena (better known as the devourer of anything piggie) ordered Chashu Pork Shoyu Ramen which came with crispy bacon on top and I ordered the Spicy Salmon and Kimchi Ramen which had the most succulent slices of grilled salmon on top. We both agree that the broth used in the ramen was nice and thick and popping with the individual flavours. The noodles used were almost al dente (in a good way) and very taste, with ramens the noodle part can often be soggy and tasteless so this was a very good surprise. Another positive which can be seen as a small thing but to people who love bottled water like ourselves, after paying a flat rate of £1 you can get an unlimited supply of still or sparking water. Well it’s the small things that make us happy. We look forward to returning and trying out more delights. Next on the list is the Sweet Potato and Crispy Skin Maki, apparently it was so good that they sold out but it will be in our bellies soon.

Star Rating: ***
United Ramen
105-106 Upper St, London, N1 1QN, United Kingdom
http://www.unitedramen.com

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