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Oct 11, 2000 03:13 PM

cafe lazeez

  • h

i realised i wrote of my lousy experience at cafe spice namaste, when i really wanted to grumble about cafe lazeez. its just steps away from bosphorous kabab house, and so the other day i went in just for something different.

and it is something different. something fusion-y something. i could appreciate and even understand some of the dishes i ate at zaika, but cafe lazeez left me puzzled. everything looked good, looked indian, was well presented but didn't do anything for me. could have been an off night for me, but i'm fairly confident i'm never going to be a huge fan of lamb chops marinated in honey and soy sauce.

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  1. s
    Simon Majumdar

    I could also have told you about Lazeez. It is the sort of place I would crawl over broken glass to be on the other side of the road from.

    I think Fusion food in general and Indian fusion food in particular is dishonest and should not be condoned. I loathe Tabla in NYC with a passion that manifests itself in hives everytime the place is mentioned and Lazeez is an even cruddier version of this.

    In all cooking, honesty is the key. The problem with "english food" and one of the reasons it has such a bad reputation is that we have never been honest to the things we do well. Superb roasts meats, pies , puddings, stews and casseroles. Not glamourous but wonderful when well done.

    A few weeks ago a chef friend of mine prepared a medieval dish called "henwek" or hen of the week. This was from the 12 century and was a large chicken stuffed with a mixture of dried fruit, breadcrumbs and nuts. The whole lot was poached in a water/cider mixture with a few other herbs. I can honestly say it was one of the most sensational tastes I can ever remember.

    The trouble is the post war years of rationing destroyed a) the source of this stuff and b) the confidence to enjoy it. Instead we had years of substandard "frenchstyle" cookery, followed by years of "pacific rim " fusion nonsense.

    Now, at last there is a real move back to chefs preparing food from local sources ( did you know that there are more varieties of cheese in the UK than France?) and serving it with a confidence which can only come from having superb ingredients. The fact that many of these chefs are foreign ( as in NYC ) brings with it an excellence of execution that has been missing.

    Here endeth the lesson for today

    11 Replies
    1. re: Simon Majumdar

      'I could also have told you about Lazeez. It is the sort of place I would crawl over broken glass to be on the other side of the road from.'

      hey, why didn't you? someone here was very enthusiastic about it.

      'I think Fusion food in general and Indian fusion food in particular is dishonest and should not be condoned.'

      now, now. if you stop and think about it, most cuisines in the world have in their evolutionary thread plenty of borrowed material from others - which is why a well invaded country like india has sooo many different styles/ideas and so isolated a country like britain so few.

      but i'll agree with you that most fusion-y things seek to provoke more than satisfy; the whole concept seems to reside at the opposite end of the spectrum on which comfort food sits.

      "Superb roasts meats, pies, puddings, stews and casseroles."

      yup. and i've eaten simple things at the savoy grill which were superb. thats another experience impossible to replicate in nyc: excellent food, wood panelling, hushed tones, comfortable seating; cigars, coffee and port.

      "did you know that there are more varieties of cheese in the UK than France?"

      well, whats a good place to try some? and which ones do you recommend? (i tend not to be a fan of cows milk cheese; the ones i've had here have been a little too sweet for me).

      1. re: howler
        Simon Majumdar

        For breathtaking cheeses, go to Neals yard Dairy. They have one in Covent Garden ( In Neals Yard , not unexpectedly ) and an even better one down by Borough Market ( nearest Tube - London Bridge )
        They are the most enthusiastic sellers of cheese on earth and the selection is entirely British sourced with some wonderful discoveries. They will happily let you sample until cheesed out. Try Ticklemore Cheddar or some of the stupendous Goats and Sheeps cheese. There is even a Brit equivalent of Manchego which is great with piccallili and slices of good somerset smoked ham.

        Borough market , if you haven't tried it , is open on Friday and Saturday and is one of the hidden treasures ( not so hidden now ) with wonderous purveyors of all sorts of organic and specialist food. It is a chowhounds dream

        As for the Savoy. Great but not my first choice. For a real English treat try Claridges Sunday Lunch. Roast meats to die for ( this is the best place on earth for roast pork, sourced from Suffolk, organically reared and served cooked to perfection with slabs of the crispest juiciest crackling ) with perfect vegetables and the best roast potatoes I have ever, ever tried. A steal at a set price of £27 per head. You have to try it. It is best on a winters Sunday. Lunch, then have coffee and stickies in their sumptuous lounge in front of a huge fire, then go for a walk in the park. Pure Heaven.

        1. re: Simon Majumdar

          aaargh, i can't wait for claridges ... i have eaten there many, many years ago; game, and i loved it. i'll try and go this weekend for lunch. as for neals yard dairy, i think i'm going, lemme see, its not raining, ok i'm going NOW.

          1. re: howler

            I believe the above is the name of a scottish sheep blue we enjoyed very much while in Scotland. You might want to look out for it. I saw it once in Neals Yard or perhaps Fortnums but it was very much more pricy.

            The fruiterer in the small Grampian town my mo-in-law lived in made a long drive down to Glasgow weekly to pick up this and other cheeses. Unfortunately he stopped offering this and other cheeses a few years ago, when an EU inspector came through and told him he couldn't offer cheese without refrigeration units in his van and in his store. This despite the cool Scottish climate and the nature of cheese. The last time we were in this area, the only cheeses available were in supermarkets. Better than US, but still, alas...

            1. re: jen kalb
              Simon Majumdar

              Hi Jen

              A few of us still run an underground resistance to our european overlords. The faceless hordes who tell us that it is not right to call things Yorkshire Puddings as they are not all made in Yorkshire!! And stop local producers of cheese, milk etc stop selling direct. The even wanted the good old british banger not to be called a sausage as it wasn't the recquired length!!! I now know what it must be like to have a federal government

              You can still get wonderous food in rural areas. I know one farm that each morning puts bottles of freshly drawn milk, thick with cream, in a refridgerator by the gate. You drive up, take what you want and put the money in a "honour box" on top. They also sell, cream, home churned butter, fresh eggs and occasionally some cheese ( brie like in consistency ) Other places like this sell sausages, black puddings, bacon. All home cured and enough to make the health and safety people collapse, but God the tastes.

              1. re: Simon Majumdar
                Alexandra Eisler

                Hi Simon,

                You've drawn attention to a growing problem, not just in the U.K., but worldwide. Foods that we've eaten for generations are now being legislated out of existence. I may work for HMG, but I firmly believe we should support the little man down the lane selling his farmstead cheese, not dictate how his business is run.

                I've attached a link below to Slow Food, an organization dedicated to preserving food heritage, whether it's raw milk cheese from Wales or lavendar honey from Provence. Scary to think how quickly artisnal producers can be forced to shut down.

                And Simon, thank you for all the excellent London dining advice. Can't wait for my next trip!



                1. re: Alexandra Eisler
                  Simon Majumdar

                  Many thanks for the link.

                  I couldn't agree more. There is a massive difference between protecting people from the unscrupulous charlatan ( i.e the olive oil scandals in Spain some years back that resulted in the deaths of hundreds ) and pathetic politiking aimed at homogenising life.

                  The UK is particularly bad right now in all aspects of life under new Labour and the reaction to food is just one area. However, I do think that such is the groundswell of demand for good flavourful food from artisan sources, that the faceless pencil pushers will never win.

                  Vive La Resistance!!

                  ( I must now eat this message with a little unpasteurised sheeps milk cheese and a small Bath Oliver biscuit )

          2. re: Simon Majumdar

            neals yard dairy was outragouesly good. spectacular. i bought a baguette and happily scarfed all the way from a meltingly delicious blue to a sharp cheddar.

            tonight i'll try and get over to the nepali.

            1. re: howler
              Simon Majumdar

              Glad you enjoyed.

              Try the one in Borough on a saturday. I prefer it in a way as it has all the range and some unusual things as well plus you have those wonderful other stall selling everything from potted shrimp to organic veggies.

              Hope you enjoy the Great Nepalese. Make sure you have the black dhal.

              I was at the India Club last night with a chum from NY . Fabulous Bhajais with their home made Lime and Mango pickles and Bhuna Prawn. Then for a pint down by the river.

              What could be better?

              1. re: howler

                My first visit to Neals Yard was an unforgettable experience. Just stupendous to sample through all the cheeses and talk about the producers.

                I was very happy to discover that the shop adjoining Sally Clarke's sells the cheeses too, as this is usually more convenient for me to visit.

              2. re: Simon Majumdar

                You have certainly tempted me to try the Claridges roast and will do so in the next month. One thing to note though many of Neals yards finest cheeses are actually sourced in the Rep. of Ireland