sulinMember since 06 Dec 2007
Anyway, one bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, I met the girls in Notting Hill and we wove our way through the streets, avoiding the market, to Taqueria on the western end of Westbourne Grove. The place was almost full already and we grabbed one of the last remaining tables.
The menu was longish and made for fun reading but difficult decision making. A lunch menu full of platters of this and that added to the confusion. To drink I had yet another flor de jamaica (£1.50) - this version was much darker and punchier than those I’d had in Wahaca and all the better for it. Along with our drinks came a little ramekin of spicy pepitas, pumpkin seeds, for munching.
We all started by splitting a Botana, “refried beans with fresh cheese, guacamole, salsa, pickled jalapenos and totopos” (£8.50). The totopos (tortilla chips) were made of blue corn which made for a striking chip but unfortunately were a mix of hard/stale and perfect/crisp. The refried beans were gorgeous though and the real highlight of the platter.
Then it was time for tacos! I chose the tacos al pastor, described on the menu as “char grilled marinated pork, pineapple, diced onion, coriander on 3 small tortillas, red and green salsa on the side” (£5.50). The pork was tender and flavourful, the pineapple fresh and the salsas a tasty addition (the green was milder than the red).
Rachel had the tacos Camaron, “beer battered prawns, avocado mash, chipotle mayonnaise, Mexican salsa, shredded cabbage, on 2 large tortillas” (£6.50). Meanwhile, Mirna chose the Pescado, beer battered sustainable fish, avocado mash, chipotle mayonnaise, Mexican salsa, shredded cabbage, on 2 large tortillas (£6.50). Yes, they both had essentially the same tacos but one was with prawns and the other fish. Both were given the thumbs up.
After the disappointment that was Wahaca, I am very happy to have tried Taqueria. Shame about the totopos; if they were all crisp, the meal would’ve been even more enjoyable but overall, the food here isn’t so greasy and it’s delicious and not all one-dimensional in flavour. I like it!
Photos here: http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/taqueria/
I’d never seen the restaurant before, it being off the main roads and in a more residential part on North Road. The place is small, with a counter at the right hand end, only a handful of tables, the menu on the wall, and a long queue to boot! The menu lists both savouries (samosas, chaats, main dishes, breads) and sweets (sold by weight). We were there for lunch so savouries it was.
While Mirna held a table for us, Rachel and I braved the queue. I think we ordered quite a lot which necessitated a notepad for our list of dishes! To start we ordered one each of the salty (Mirna’s), sweet (Rachel’s), and mango (mine) lassis. All were thick and huge and just what we looked for in a lassi. Along with these came a small cupful of some very tasty and spicy carrot pickles and a tamarind dip for the samosas to come.
Of course we couldn’t go all the way there and not try their famous vegetable samosas! Only 35p each (and there are discounts if you order in great numbers). These were superb, some seriously excellent examples of fine samosas. The filling was mostly potato but it was well spiced and very moreish while the wrapper was crisp and flaky and well, just thinking about it again starts the cravings!
When we polished those off, the main dishes started appearing. First up, saag - recommended by the man who took our order - it was spicy and had large leaf bits in there and one of the nicer saags I’ve had, then some mutter paneer - peas with fresh cheese in sauce that was quite tangy in a good way, and the best of the lot, malai kofta. I don’t think any of us were expecting the little fritters to be made of purely (or almost purely) fresh cheese! They were light and delicious and swimming in a creamy sauce that was wiped clean out of the serving dish. This is a definite order-again dish!
To go with these, an assortment of breads: two makki di roti, one chapati, and one bhatura. My favourite was the deep-fried fluffy bhatura but the makki di roti (made of cornmeal) and chapati were not to be sniffed at either.
We were pretty stuffed after all this Mirna still ordered her favourite rasmalai, a dessert that I’d never tried, not normally being a huge fan of cheese. Boy, am I glad she did get it that day! Rasmalai is so delicious! It’s cheesy but more like a fresh cheese and it’s sweet and cold and refreshing in a way I expected no cheese to be.
And the cost for this vegetarian feast? Only £22 for all this and 8 more samosas (6 vegetable, 2 paneer, couldn’t help ourselves!) for takeaway. Such is the popularity of this tiny restaurant that there’s an Appreciation Society for it on Facebook! So if you don’t believe me and my review, believe the comments there!
Photos at the blog: http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/the-original-shahanshah-vegetarian-restaurant/
When I saw ham croquetas on the menu, I knew I had to have them! We ordered those while still perusing the menu. They were extremely creamy inside and crisp on the outside and exactly how I like my croquetas!
From the daily specials, we ordered the grilled razor clams with olive oil, garlic and parsley. These were probably cooked a la plancha and were not at all rubbery but tender and so flavourful. My friend recommended the grilled lamb cutlets from the regular menu and so they went into our order. Very soft and we got stuck in with our fingers here. Also from the specials was the cavolo nero, braised with olive oil and garlic. Beautiful! The cavolo nero still had a bite but was tender and had toasted patches that were wonderful. I just bought some cavolo nero at my farmers’ market to try replicating it this week. Another special - this time it was grilled squid, stuffed with tomato and chorizo. Again, this dish was faultless.
We were starting to get full at this point and so focused our attention on desserts! I chose the chocolate tart while my friend ordered the fig salad with creme chantilly and toasted sliced almonds. Both were truly delicious. There was a bit of cream alongside my chocolate tart, which was rich and dense and a little of eating like eating dark chocolate ganache in a thin pastry shell. As for my friend’s fig salad, it was fresh ripe figs with a huge mound of creme chantilly (I originally mistook it for ice cream). I could have eaten a huge bowlful of this - the almonds and caramel sauce over top made it perfect.
It seems strange that we didn’t order any of their sliced jamon but though they had a leg prominently displayed on the counter, no one was having any. It was hot food all the way for everyone. Their tortillas looked fantastic too - little individual ones with soft innards - I’ll definitely try one next time.
However, it wasn’t a cheap lunch. For all the food, one glass of wine and all the tap water we could drink, it was £50 for the two of us. However, even with the limited seating, we never once felt rushed and our waitress was happy for us to order one or two tapas at a time. There’s a small counter along the wall where you can wait with a drink and a small bite for a seat - but as I noticed above, it’s probably easiest if you show up when they just open. I can’t wait to return (after I’ve saved up a bit)!
Photos at the blog: http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/a-tapas-lunch-at-barrafina/
After ordering, the bread basket made its way to our table and we were presented with a choice of three breads; there was a walnut bread flecked with bits of raisin, a heavily speckled black olive bread, and a white bread heavy with olive oil. Needless to say, throughout the course of our meal, we managed to try all three. All three were extremely delicious and perhaps we ate more than we should have. Upon inquiring, we were told that they baked all the bread daily on the premises.
I started with the Confit sea trout, crab and cucumber salad, crab croquettes, vichyssoise and pea shoots. There were two generous slices of soft, melting fish sat in a bit of vichyssoise, acting more as a sauce than a soup. Inside the lettuce parcel was the crab and cucumber salad - just lots of crab meat with a bit of diced cucumber in a mayonnaise dressing. While the salad contained white crab meat, the crunchy crab croquettes were made of brown meat. I loved this dish.
Blai had the Soft polenta, English asparagus, cured ham, poached egg, black truffle and olive dressing. While everything on the plate was very well cooked and delicious, Blai did not feel that all the ingredients worked altogether as a single dish. This was the only minor thing we could quibble about. Of the bits I did try, I very much liked the truffle and olive dressing and thought it worked well with the egg and polenta. I can understand though - I feel that some hams can be too assertive when combined with other ingredients.
For my main, I chose the Breast of duck, pastilla of confit leg, hot foie gras, cherry compote and caramelized endive. The breast was cooked as I requested (pink inside) and sat on a bed of spinach. It was incredibly meaty and the cherry compote was beautiful with it. I never would have thought of caramelizing endive as they had here but its bitterness combined with just about everything on the plate, especially the foie gras and compote. A gorgeous dish.
After much deliberation, Blai settled with the Braised legs of poulet noir, with potato gnocchi, leek hearts, vin jaune and tarragon. I tried a bit of everything off his plate and I can vouch that that chicken was as soft as it looks. It just fell off the bone and the sauce that went with it….mmmmm. We ended up having a discussion about what “yellow wine” was and we thought it was perhaps a typo and should be vin jeune, a young, not aged wine. However, it turns out that there is a vin jaune that is similar to sherry. Whatever it was, it made that sauce so wonderful! The gnocchi was chewy and potatoey and reminiscent of a German potato dumpling.
All the desserts sounded good but I chose the one that really stood out for me. This was the Fresh citrus fruits, banana sorbet, passion fruit jelly, Earl Grey tea, financiers. Rarely does a dessert make me sit up and say, “Wow!”, and this one did. The photo doesn’t do this dessert justice - it doesn’t show that underneath that Earl Grey tea granité was a layer of citrus fruit segments, and under that was a scoop of banana sorbet, and under that was the passion fruit jelly. While all the ingredients sound disparate, together they blend together: the creaminess of the banana, the citrus note of the
It’s pretty obvious why the first criterion existed; if you haven’t guessed already, we’re far from rich, folks. As for the second criterion, nothing ruins a lovely night out (a rare occasion for us!) faster than a terrible trip on the tube home; a quick and easy bus ride is surely preferable. As for the last, well, that’s tied to the first - when every penny counts, you don’t want to waste it on rubbish food! While there’s always the desire to try new restaurants, especially in London where new ones pop out one every second it seems, there’s a high risk of having just not-that-great a dinner. Best to do my research instead and guarantee a fantastic meal.
Enough about my penny-pinching! I had booked a table for 7pm on a Sunday night and unsurprisingly, we were the first people there. The place was full by the time we left at about 10pm though.
I started with the warm salad of hand dived scallops, black pudding and Ayrshire bacon. This was a bed of dressed lettuce leaves topped with four tender scallops (four! wow!), two long streaky strips of bacon and a lump, for that is what it was, of squidgy and flavoursome black pudding. Blai had the cocotte of egg with smoked haddock in a mustard sauce. The egg came in a tiny little cocotte while the saucy haddock (ha!) came in a tumbler beside it with a long spoon. Both delicious and the haddock was actually available as a main course too.
I persuaded Blai to share the Chateaubriand for 2, with roast bone marrow, frites and green beans when he mentionned that he wanted another beef dish on the menu. He was kind enough to let me order it! We had asked for it to be cooked to medium but it came very rare (how French!) but it was very good so I can’t really complain. It came ready carved on a wooden board along with the green beans and the waitress portionned it all out between us. The green beans were so perfectly cooked with a bit of a bite and were soaked in butter and meat juices. We each also got a single mushroom and a beef bone from which to dig out the marrow. Mine had only a little in there…boo hoo. Skinny frites came in individual bowls with even littler bowls of bearnaise sauce alongside. Oh…it’s been a while since I had a good steak and this really hit the spot!
Blai had the pear and almond tart, vanilla ice cream while I chose the apple beignet, vanilla ice cream, 25mL Calvados. Blai had the better dessert - his tart was more of a pear and almond pastry tart but it was good! Mine was a relatively small slice of apple in batter and deep fried, topped with ice cream. My Calvados came a little bit after my dessert and provided a bit of a digestif for the both of us!
The damage came to a reasonable £35 per head but that doesn’t include wine because we aren’t big drinkers… and we had work the following day. Not exactly a budget restaurant but worth every penny. We’ll definitely be returning to Le Vacherin when we need another date night!
Originally posted here: http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/2007/10/14/le-vacherin-in-chiswick/
I recommend sticking with the Vietnamese dishes on the menu. We did eat a pad Thai here once which was truly awful, all overcooked noodles and tomatoey sauce. On a recent visit, we started with an order of cha gio, those little and lovely fried meaty spring rolls, along with their accompanying fresh herbs and chili dipping sauce, grilled lemongrass pork on cold rice noodles for me, and a combination rice, with shredded pork and pork skin and a crab meat ‘cake’ for Blai.
Blai’s dish was quite plain though not too bad but the winner was my grilled pork. There was so much flavour in the pork, probably marinated for a long time, and I love eating the cold noodles alongside. A small bowlful of nuon cham (a light dipping sauce of fish sauce, lime juice, chili, garlic and sugar) is served on the side to pour overtop, dressing the mixture that can be dry without it. The whole bowlful is light and fresh and perfect for summertime (or anytime) eating.
One of my favourite things to eat there is their bun cha gio or hot fried cha gio served with cold rice noodles and lots of fresh raw herbs and vegetables. You can see that I really do love Vietnamese bun! I’ve also had their pho and bun bo hue, both noodle soups, the former being thin flat rice noodles in a beefy (or chickeny if it’s pho ga) stock while the latter is thicker round rice noodles in a spicier broth. Both are served with plenty of the fresh herbs and raw beansprouts, to be put into your soup at your will.
I do suspect that there’s a hefty amount of MSG in the soup but hey, when most of the one dish meals hover at around the £5-6 mark, it’s hard to complain. And they do fill you up! Mmm…I’m craving some noodle soup now!
Final note: I do agree with what Walid says about service - it's not the best in the city and depending on who's working that day, it can be quite terrible. A star off for that.
On my first visit (years ago now) they recommended their hazelnut, rich and creamy and full of nutty flavour. After tasting my way through many of their gelatos, I highly recommend their pistachio, of which I have tasted no equal in London. Prefer something less creamy? Their sorbets burst with the flavour of fruit - mango and strawberry are my favourites.
A small cone/cup now costs £2.
The space is tiny with only a long communal table but what a cozy space!
Photos here: http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/2007/05/27/postcard-teas/