Saturday, 26 December 2015

INAMO, SOHO

It has been a long time since I first visited Inamo when they were opened at St James, and this time I had the pleasure of dining with the lovely Marie at the Soho branch on Wardour Street.
Their cuisine is described as a fusion of ideas and flavours around Asia, with influences from Japanese, Thai and Chinese cooking. 
The core of Inamo is their interactive ordering system where diners can place their orders from an illustrated food and drinks menu projected onto their table surface. There is also a selection of 'tablecloths' that you can change to set the mood, games to keep you entertained, and even an option which enables you to order a taxi. And of course the staff are always available to assist if needed.

We started off with some cocktails - I had the Sol Levante, made with lychee, lemongrass and pomegranate shaken and strained into a flute and topped with prosecco. Marie had the Kodama which was a refreshing combination of gin, rosemary and cucumber, finished with a dash of lychee juice.



The Tuna Tartare was served with a truffle miso sauce. The texture was maybe a bit too mushy for my preference but the flavour wasn't too bad. I do love crab and ordered the Soft Shell Crab Maki Rolls which had a nice crunchy texture alongside the velvety layers of avocado.



From the selection of Inamo Classics, I chose the Sweet & Sour Sea Bass, which is Inamo's take on the Chinese classic dish. The sea bass was pan-fried and infused in a tangy sweet and sour sauce, served on a bed of stir-fried mixed vegetables. 
Marie had chosen the Claypot Green Chicken Curry which was creamy and fragrant with a very slight hint of spiciness to it.
Both dishes were delicious and went well with the steamed rice.



And of course we finished with some sweet desserts: Crème Brûlée Trio which was a small pot of crème brûlée served with a mango and chocolate mini dessert, and the Mini Dessert Plate which had coconut ice cream with passion fruit and chocolate mini dessert.We were quite full at that point so it was good that the portions were quite small. I liked the chocolate mini dessert, but I think that the crème brûlée was slightly too dense and could have done with more caramelized sugar on top.



Overall, we had a pleasant meal, with the mains being the highlights of the meal for me. Service is fast and efficient, and the interactive concept is an interesting touch that helps to make it stand out from the rest.
I look forward to the new opening of the Covent Garden branch which from what I've heard sounds pretty exciting!

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.
  Square Mealinamo Soho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 14 December 2015

LOTUS - INDIAN FINE DINING

Adding on to the list of Indian restaurants that I visited last month, this time I had dinner at Lotus, a contemporary, fine-dining Indian restaurant in the heart of the West End.
I am always quite cautious when it comes to restaurants around Leicester Square, wary that I might end up walking into another one of those 'tourist traps'
The restaurant exterior didn't quite scream out fine-dining for me, but the interior decor was modern with leather upholstered chairs, which was slightly more reassuring.

We were each served some mulligatawny soup in small glass teacups, which translated from the Tamil words meaning "pepper-water", made using lentils, coconut milk and water. This was our first time trying it, and I found it quite warm and pleasant. There was also an assortment of poppadums with chutneys: rice, potato, finger millet poppadums with mango, red chilly and green tomato chutney.
I liked the corn chaat golgappa which had a slight hint of spiciness to it, and was accompanied with jaljeera and tamarind chutney. We were advised to pour the jaljeera, an Indian beverage flavoured with spices, just before eating each one whole. 






Following the recommendations suggested by our lovely waitress, we went for the masala prawn, duck eggs and lentil wraps, and the pigeon masala dosa with coconut chutney.
The prawns were juicy and springy and well mixed together with the scrambled duck egg and lentil filling.
The pigeon masala was tasty and concealed underneath the cone-shaped dosa which I enjoyed, although I didn't find the need for nor was I too fond of the coconut chutney on the side.



The word 'kebab' does not usually appeal to me, but we were recommended to try at least one of them, from which we tried the duck seekh with pickled onion, orange dates and chilli dip. The meat was very well marinated and deliciously tender, and I'm glad that we ordered it.



We ordered a couple of mains to share between us. The 23 karat gold lamb shanks khorma seemed to be a popular favourite amongst many, so we decided to try it out for ourselves. The use of gold in food doesn't normally sway my decisions when it comes to ordering food as it is just for decorative purposes, but I do love a good hearty lamb shank, and the meat on this was fall-off-the-bone tender and the khorma was nice and creamy.
This was served with a roast potato mash, papaya pickle, spices, green cardamom and cashew.
The Soft Shell Crabs Cafreal were succulent and coated in a light and crispy batter, served with a side of super thin hand cut potato chips and pickled turmeric. 





I was unsure about the dessert menu, but I decided to try the Fried Kulfi and Orange Rasgulla, with falooda and basil seed. Unfortunately the flavours and texture did not quite do it for me, and although I am quite partial towards kulfi, the fried kulfi which was wrapped in a filo pastry was quite dry and powdery. Oh well, at least I did give it a go.


Our meal there was still overall pleasant and enjoyable, and our waitress (didn't quite catch her name, but she had cropped strawberry blonde hair!) was really lovely and attentive throughout the evening.
I would definitely consider returning, as some of the other dishes do sound quite appealing, like the Tandoori Partridge, Rabbit Kheema, and Roe Deer Biryani. 
They also do wine pairings with the different dishes, as well as a tasting menu - check out their website for more details. 

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.
Lotus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 10 December 2015

NUTCRACKER TEA AT THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE

Oh December, that time of the year when all things festive get me excited. 
I have always loved visiting the Royal Opera House, and what better time to visit for afternoon tea when it is themed after The Nutcracker ballet, one of my favourite ballets.
 Ditching my ballet shoes and leotard after class, I scurried round the building and up the stairs to the grand Paul Hamlyn Hall, which has hosted some of the capitals most glittering parties and dinners. The beautiful architecture and elegant glass vaults are truly breathtaking, allowing in natural light which adds to the ambience.

A long and stunning champagne bar stretches across the middle of the hall, whilst a pianist played enchanting ballet scores from The Nutcracker at the far end. 




We were presented with vibrantly coloured menus upon being seated, and had a browse of the list of teas. I ordered the Opera Afternoon tea, which is exclusive to Tea at the Royal Opera House, a French-inspired blend combining black teas from China and Sri Lanka with the rounded sweetness of Bourbon vanilla. Ge had the Second Flush Darjeeling, which is also one of my favourite tea options.



The first tray of savouries included a selection of mini sandwiches:

Cured salmon blini with dill creme fraiche
Roast squash and parmesan sandwich
Duck egg and cress sandwich
Norfolk turkey and cranberry sandwich

I really liked the mini loaf slices were were cute and dainty, and my favourite amongst them was the Severn & Wye smoked salmon blini.



A three-tiered stand was later brought over on which the scones and sweets were displayed.
We started off with the scones at the bottom - traditional and fruit scones which were light and fluffy and served with Dorset clotted cream and jam.




The 'Kingdom of Sweets' consisted of four different cakes and pastries.

Dark chocolate walnut
Plum and rosemary amandine
Opera Gateau, white chocolate and Perigord truffle
Rum and vanilla drum cake

I savoured each mouthful of these finely made miniature desserts, and particularly liked the rum and vanilla drum cake which was a canelé with a tender custard centre and caramelized crust, topped with edible toy-soldier's drumstick. The sumptuous Opera Gateau sure packed a punch - the taste of the truffle was slightly overpowering at first but my tastebuds became more accustomed to it after a few (mini) bites.




Two hours passed by in a flash, and overall we had a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon in this magnificent setting. I'm not sure if they offer replenishment of the dishes as we weren't offered any on that day, but it would be worth inquiring if you have a larger appetite (!)

I'm glad that I finally ticked this off my list, as Tea at the Royal Opera House will unfortunately be closed from mid-December 2015 until early 2018 due to Open Up
Check out their website for more details. 

In the meantime, I'll be trying to decide on where my next afternoon tea shall be...

The Cheekster, signing out x



Saturday, 5 December 2015

BELLE EPOQUE PATISSERIE CHRISTMAS LOGS

I've been following Belle Epoque Patisserie for a while now on social media, and it was a delight when I finally had a taste of one of their delicious creations at The Chocolate Show this year. Knowing how much of a sweet tooth I am, I was undoubtedly excited to then be invited to Belle Epoque's first Christmas log tasting event at the boutique on Upper Street in Islington.

But first, a bit of background about Belle Epoque...

Belle Epoque Patisserie began when Eric met Hulya in 2000, its history intimately connected to their extensive travel experiences around the world. When they found an 18th Century building in the heart of Stoke Newington, they embraced the opportunity and transformed it into a pastry shop, which opened its doors in November 2002. Decorated with bargains and treasures collected over a decade in markets over the Channel and England, the boutique was quick to become a popular destination for Francophiles as well as locals.

For about a decade, Belle Epoque was the only bakery squashed into a small basement, the wonderful aromas of freshly baked croissants and brioche famously reminded its neighbours of Paris in the small hours.
It was not until 2012 when a new kitchen unit and centralized production site was acquired, and with exclusive customers like Selfridges, Belle Epoque is definitely fluorishing in the independent bakery industry.

The newer shop which opened in Upper Street in July 2014 has a much more chic and contemporary design, with an extensive selection of high quality sweets and savouries.  

 
The first Christmas log was called Childhood, which combined the simple and nostalgic flavours of chocolate and vanilla that we used to love as children. It was made of moist chocolate sponge soaked with Tahitian Vanilla syrup, a layer of Caribbean chocolate cream and piped light Ivoire whipped ganache. All these beautiful flavours rolled into a log and finished with a velvet dark chocolate mist.
It was incredibly light and smooth, and was my favourite one of the collection.



The second was Stars, a pistachio madeleine sponge with cranberries and crunchy pistachios, vanilla creme brulee, and raspberry cream, all encased in a lightened white Opalys and Pistachio mousse. This festive Christmas log was covered in a glossy red fruit glaze and decorated with chocolate stars. 
I particularly liked the crunchy biscuit base which gave it a bit of texture.



The third Christmas log was named Enchanted Forest, a cherry heart surrounded with a creamy Bahibe centre, crunchy streusel and encased with a light Opalys mousse. 
It was a nice twist on the traditional Black Forest cake, and I liked the fact that the flavour of the cherries was not too sharp or overpowering and blended well with the chocolate.







Made with finest Valrhona chocolates and seasonal fruits, all three of the Christmas logs would surely be a great addition to anyone's Christmas table.
And to ensure that you don't miss out on these limited edition creations, don't forget to plan ahead to avoid the havoc of last minute Christmas shopping. 
If you place and order and make full payment in advance, you can also avoid the manic queues and swiftly collect your readily packaged Christmas log(s) from the counter.

I have always had a love for independent bakeries, and I would recommend a visit to Belle Epoque Patisserie for some treats (and mince pies!) to tantalize your tastebuds.
Check out belleepoque.co.uk for more information. 

Thank you to Eric and Hulya, and all the wonderful staff at Belle Epoque for a lovely evening. I look forward to returning soon.

The Cheekster, signing out x