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Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington

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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Mooli's



I was one of the lucky Qypers to be invited to a “Chess and Chutney” event recently at Mooli’s.

I admit to having little if any interest in chess, but what really got me through the door was my curiosity to find out what the fuss at Mooli's was all about.

Another reason why I like going to these events is to get a more personal perspective of a restaurant business. In this age of e-mails, text messaging and twitter, it is not difficult to forget that behind every restaurant or small business, people like you and me are investing their all to bring us something they feel passionate about.

So, I was pleased to meet the two faces behind Mooli’s – Sam and Matthew. Two former City workers, they quit their 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their dream of opening a restaurant where healthy, good and delicious Indian street food could be enjoyed in the heart of London. Talking to Mat, I found out he lived in Sao Paulo, my hometown, and speaks perfect Brazilian Portuguese!

But what is a mooli? In the words of the founding partners: “Mooli /’mu:li/ n. 1. Warm flavoursome fillings, zesty salsas, vibrant chutneys & crunchy salad, all rolled in a freshly homemade roti”. I would struggle to give a better description for these “wraps” – the roti is thin and fresh, holding a generous portion of meat and vegetables, and is accompanied by one of the homemade chutneys or salsas.

My first experiences of rotis were in Malaysia (roti canai), Southern Thailand (roti paratha) and Singapore (roti prata) where these are served with sliced bananas and condensed milk and sometimes with a fried egg for a savoury version. In India and Pakistan, rotis are part of nearly every meal and is usually eaten with curries and cooked vegetables.

On London’s Frith Street, you will find five different types of regular moolis + one special (goat and potatoes) which are prepared by the head chef and mooli master Raju.

We were shown around their kitchen and introduced to the process of mooli making, and the preparation of the accompanying chutneys by Raju.

Of the many chutneys and salsas, my favourite was the one made of mint, coriander, apple and ginger – it was delicious, fresh and perfect with my goat mooli. It only took Sam 39 attempts to crack the perfect recipe for this chutney!

I also tried the beef option with crunch coconut, salsa and raita which was equally delicious.

The decor is also pleasing – the room is uncluttered, trendy but with a casual and relaxed feel. I was very pleased to have been introduced to Mooli’s, Sam and Matthew, and would like to thank Eamon of Qype for organising another great event and for inviting me along.

Cost: the two moolis I tried were complimentary. All moolis are priced well under £5 each.

Likes: delicious moolis (the goat mooli is fantastic), very affordable food and drink menus, excellent central location and personal, friendly service.

Dislikes: a City branch is URGENTLY needed (preferably between St Paul’s and Bank, pls!).

Verdict: delicious, fresh and very affordable Indian street food (Rotis) in great central location. Well priced drinks menu, and a most delightful place for a bite to eat and a nice chilled beer. Another great addition to the London food scene. Highly recommended.

Mooli's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 25 April 2010

London Supper Club – Jim Haynes @ Fernandez and Leluu

Jim Haynes @ Fernandez and Leluu

I was thrilled when I first heard that Uyen and Simon would be hosting the Jim Haynes’ After Eight Party at one of my favourite supper clubs. I was delighted for them as it confirmed what I have been saying since I started The London Foodie – that Fernandez and Leluu is one of the best supper clubs in London.

I was even more thrilled when my invitation arrived from Joanna of Grayling PR to attend this event and meet Jim Haynes, a pioneer of what today is the well known concept of underground dining. Little did Jim know when he first started his legendary dinner parties at his Parisian flat 30 years ago that such a concept would evolve into a world-wide phenomenon.

Jim Haynes is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever met. It would be impossible for me to summarise or recount his life’s many twists and turns with any justice. His year by year chronology is a fascinating read, and I was pleased that I did not get round to reading it before I met him as I would have been completely intimidated!

What struck me about Jim was his gentleness, his ability to engage in conversation with ease and charm, and his genuine interest in people. We had a long chat about food, our South American connection (he spent a few years of his life in Venezuela), and his legendary Sunday dinners. I felt humbled and inspired by this man, and lucky to have met him. You can also meet Jim at his home in Paris for Sunday Dinner or watch him here as the face of the After Eight TV advert.

This was my 5th visit to Fernandez and Leluu and as always there was a great party atmosphere. It was lovely to see some familiar faces like Su-Lin (Tamarind and Thyme), Tom and Jen (TomEatsJenCooks), Aaron (Grubworm), Siany (Domestic Sluttery), Gail and Simon (One Million Goldstars), Ian (Le Cool), Melanie (Om Nom London) and many other food bloggers I admire and read.

I was also pleased to meet some bloggers I had never met before and whom I have followed for a long time like Douglas (Intoxicating Prose), Denise (The Wine Sleuth), Euwen (A Rather Unusual Chinaman), Kang (LondonEater), Claire (Green Onions Supper Club), Mark (FoodbyMark) and Laura (Feast of Scraps).

The food was also excellent, and I would not have expected any less from Fernandez and Leluu. We started with a plate containing various delectable morsels of food, my favourite being Uyen’s summer roll which was sensational.

The starters were followed by thin slivers of roast fillet of beef, potato mash and mushrooms, and these were all very delicious.

For dessert, we were served a delicious variant of bread and butter pudding made of croissants, white chocolate, whisky and summer fruits, which was also excellent.

Johan Svensson of DrinksFusion was on hand preparing us some stunning cocktails. A great write up of all the evening’s drinks can be found on Billy’s Booze Blog (see my blog list). My favourite cocktails were the Bellini, the Rose Club (gin, vermouth, rose liqueur, raspberries and lemon juice) and the Spring Tom Collins (gin and lemon juice with elderflower cordial and soda).

It was a memorable event, and one I will cherish for years to come. Many thanks to Siany of Qype for organising it, to Joanna of Grayling PR for inviting me along, and to Uyen, Simon and Jim for being the perfect hosts.

After countless Rose Clubs cocktails and glasses of Prosecco, I have vague recollections of Dr G forcibly removing me from the house at about 1:30am as I shamelessly strutted my stuff on the improvised dance-floor, but then, the gorgeous Niamh (Eatlikeagirl) has always had that effect on me!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Koba


Dr G and I were recently invited by Catty of TheCattyLife to her favourite Korean restaurant “Koba” on trendy Rathbone Street in W1. Accompanying us on the evening was Mr Noodles of Eat Noodles Love Noodles.

Having just come back from a three-week holiday in Vietnam and Korea, I was keen to find out how Koba would stand up to all the marvellous meals I had eaten in Seoul. We arrived at Koba to find a small but uncluttered restaurant, with elegant decor. The restaurant was busy with a young and sophisticated crowd.

Catty took charge of the ordering, which she did expertly by choosing some excellent, unusual dishes as well as some Korean staples.

We started with a portion of “Pajeon” – spring onion pancake with seafood @ £7.90. This is one of the most traditional dishes in Korea, and the perfect snack to accompany chilled beers. Koba’s version was fluffy, well seasoned and with a good quantity of seafood and spring onions. I normally order a spicy version with added Kimchi called Kimchi Jeon (also sold at Koba @ £7.90, no.16 on the menu).

The “Japchae” – stir fried glass noodles with beef and seasonal vegetables in soy sauce @ £7.20 - was also delicious. The white sweet-potato noodles had been perfectly cooked maintaining their chewy texture, and were not overwhelmed by other ancillary ingredients. It was a well balanced and flavoursome dish although I felt that @ £7.20 the portion was a tad ungenerous.

I adore tofu and so we ordered “Kimchi Tofu” – steamed tofu with fried Kimchi and pork @ £7.50. The tofu is steamed only and served un-seasoned. If you do not enjoy the plain, clear flavour of tofu, you will not appreciate this dish. Tofu goes really well with kimchi as they have contrasting flavours and textures.

This is a staple dish in Korean restaurants and I always order it as a way of judging the freshness of the restaurant’s tofu and the quality of the kimchi, two areas in which Koba did not disappoint.

The star of the evening was, in my opinion, the “Yook Hwei” – seasoned raw beef with sliced pears and egg yolk @ £8.60. This is a dish I had never tried before and is now one of my favourites, a type of Korean steak tartare.

The combination of shredded beef, pears, raw egg and garlic was sensational. The meat had been semi-frozen before being shredded and tasted very fresh with the accompanying pears.

A selection of barbecue meats was also ordered including:

“Kalbi” – marinated beef spare ribs with sweet soy sauce @ £8.90 were good but again I felt that the portion was not as generous as I would expect at the price.

“Bulgogi” – marinated sliced beef @ £7.90 – very delicious.

“Daeji Bulgogi” – sweet and spicy pork belly slices @ £8.60 were also amazing - the meat was tender and had been seasoned perfectly.

“Zzukumi Gooi” – sweet and spicy baby octopus @ £8.40 were an interesting addition to the other meats and worked well as a seafood choice.

I was surprised to find that we had to order separate portions of “Pamoochim and Sangchoo” – sliced spring onion with chilli and vinegar, fresh lettuce, and seasoned soy bean paste @ £3.50 to accompany our barbequed meats. This is unusual for Korean restaurants as these are normally served as part of a barbeque course.

The meal would not have been complete without “Bibimbap - Yook Hwei Dolsot” – steamed rice and raw beef with vegetables in a hot stone pot @ £9.50. This was stunning and nearly as good as the raw beef & pears dish.

I was slightly disappointed that we were not offered a selection of namool (normally bean sprouts, spinach and white radish) or a small plate of kimchi as it is customary in most Korean restaurants. I found both items on the menu for £5.50 each. Assa Cafe will offer the namool and free barley tea as part of their £5 lunch set menu, also containing one main dish.

To finish off the meal, we ordered “Koba Special Ice Cream” (black sesame, red adzuki beans, and green tea) @ £5.20 while Dr G opted for “Green tea ice cream” @ £3.50. While matcha ice cream is my favourite flavour, on this occasion, I felt that the black sesame ice was the most interesting of the three.

Koba serves both “Hite” and “OB”, the two most popular Korean beers, @ £3.50. We opted for beer, while Catty went for “Green tea” @ £1.80. I would have ordered a bottle of soju or makgeolli (a traditional type of raw rice wine which I took a real liking to since participating at a makgeolli tasting with the guys from SeoulEats in Korea) but found that Koba prices were prohibitively high, especially considering these were all half-bottles (@ £15 for the makgeolli, £13 for the soju, and £15 for the Bek se Ju).

Service was efficient and polite but despite being attentive, it was also slightly rushed at times. A big thank you to Catty of thecattylife for taking us there and introducing us to her favourite Korean restaurant in London.

Cost: £139.40 including service charge and drinks or £35 per person.

Likes: the most sensational “Yook Hwei” – seasoned raw beef with sliced pears and egg yolk (well worth a return visit just for this), pleasant and trendy decor, excellent barbeque, tofu & kimchi. Excellent location.

Dislikes: expensive drinks list, having to pay extras for items like namool or kimchi, or for a portion of lettuce leaves and spring onions to accompany the barbeque meats when these are normally offered free of charge in most Korean restaurants in London.

Verdict: excellent Korean restaurant serving well executed dishes, and in more sophisticated surroundings than the usual New Malden/Centre Point area cafes. Recommended.

Koba on Urbanspoon

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