This is officially my first post on Chowhound! Such a pity i've only discovered it now in my last couple of months in London! But then I only came across 'Eat My Globe' today. Incidentally, I was sitting in the Foyles Cafe in Tot Court Road and perusing the first few pages of Simon Majumdar's book (and looking forward to the rest of it), when I came across Chowhound! Also it inspired me to go to Neal's Yard in Covent Garden and pick up some creamy goat's cheese and oatcakes, which I am eating as I write. Goat's cheese and oatcakes with some honey! Divine! Simon if you are around...thank you!
Also I wanted to find out if anyone has been to the restaurant 'Quilon', a 'South Indian' restaurant which recently won a Michelin star! I'm from the South Indian town of Bangalore and found it quite interesting that Quilon has managed to break the mould of the ubiquitous 'Chicken Tikka Masala', in the U.K!
I'll be visiting from the U.S. in a few days, and have Quilon on my list for lunch next week. I started a thread looking for regional Indian cuisine, so look for that maybe a few pages down--there's discussion of several Keralan plus Hyderabadi & Goan. I visited Bangalore my first time in India, about 18 years ago, and about 10 years ago traveled all over Karnataka by car, starting in Mysore and ending in Hyderabad. In between, ca. 1995, I did Kerala & Tamil Nadu. I fell madly in love with Keralan food.
re: Peter Cherches
Your blog looks really interesting. I came across the post about bagels in New York. When you're in London, if you haven't tried it already, head to the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery. It's a fantastic old place with the chewiest beigels you will find.
Keralan cuisine is one of my favourites as well!
I don't think most New Yorkers find the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery top of the list. They can't compare to the best of bagels in NYC, but many of us can't be too choosy in London. Quite of few of us prefer Carmelli's in Golders Green. I can't speak for Peter but I don't think a New Yorker needs to try London bagels when there are so many more interesting things to eat. :-)
A regular here (howler) has long sung the praises of Quilon. It's been on my list for a long time, and I will get there. I remember him mentioning it quite awhile ago.
To borrow a Britishism, my lunch today at Quilon was brilliant. Thanks to Howler for originally suggesting it. It's definitely Taj Group in its style and execution, and reminded me of the great food at the Taj Malabar in Cochin. I had the non-veg thali (catamaran lunch). It was supposed to have a 2.75 supplement, but they didn't charge it--maybe because I chatted a lot with the staff about Keralan food, maybe because I was taking photos, maybe because they forgot. It may have been Howler who complained about small portions, but I'm still stuffed 5 hours later.
First they brought perfectly light Kerala style pappadams (different from the flat northern ones, with no pepper or cumin seed) with fabulous fresh, vibrant coconut and tomato chutneys. They served a fabulous tomato rasam in a wine glass, warm but not hot, like an Indian warm Virgin Mary. there was a wonderfully flaky paratha (more like a Malaysian roti than a Northern paratha) as well as an amazing light appam, an angel-food of appams. The thali had two non-veg items, fish on banana leaf and chicken curry (with a tomato/curry leaf sauce), plus avial, a poriyal of the day (the waiter kept saying it was baby spinach, but it seemed to be some kind of slivered green squash--nothing leafy), fabulous, thick sambar and a slightly sweet fruit raita. Besides all of that, there was lemon rice. On the table were excellent lemon and garlic pickles, and a stunning tamarind-ginger chutney. I was happy I took the waiter's suggestion and had the Goan dessert, described by the View London reviewer here:
For something totally unique, try the Goan speciality of Bibaica and Dodhol dessert. The Bibaica is similar to a flourless cake that has a honeyed flavour and is very eggy in texture. Dodhol is similar in texture but has dark chocolate and nut flavourings that make it much richer, and both contrast the vanilla in the ice cream wonderfully."
The ice cream is made in-house and is fantastic too, as is the strong South Indian coffee, made together with milk, but unlike in India served with sugar on the side (which made me happy, since I had forgotten to ask).
This was one of the best meals I've had in a long time, and a steal at 21.97 with service added.
Got inspired by the thread and lunched at Quilon too. Had the veg thali.
Pappadams with coconut and tomato chutneys, both flavoured lightly, but very rfreshing. Also came with fresh lotus root, deliciously crunchy.
A crisp paratha, fairly flaky, the surface more continuous than the ones at Thattukada (which had a pleasant tendency to break into concentric rings), somewhat similar to the ones at Sadya.
Outstanding appam, paper thin and crisp on the edges, gradually thickening in the centre, where it is remarkably light and fluffy.
Solid renditions of avial and a poriya consisting of what I thought were shredded green beans, both well tuned in flavoured. A fairly thick sambar, with good subtle tangy flavour.
Their aloo gobi/potato and cauliflower was amazing. Both vegetables cut to similar bite sizes and the same number of pieces of each (did they count the number of pieces when cooking/serving?), allowing them to complement each other in the same mouthful. Great spicing and remarkable textural interplay - the cauliflower holding on to the last nuanced bit of vegetable crunchiness, the potatoes wonderfully light and tender on the inside, with a thin shell of crispness delicately blunted by the sauce. Great flavour from the browning of the potato as well.
A moderately thick yogurt with piercing pomegrate.
A pleasant masala chai. Fairly gentle in spicing, but the ginger, clove and cardamom flavours were obvious. Would have liked the tea itself to be stronger (perhaps 2 teabags instead of 1?), but that's a quibble. Comes with a nice piece of chocolate.
Just to round things off, also tried the set lunch at Moti Mahal in Covent Garden, starting at £15, but ended up being roughly the same after adding a masala chai.
The food wasn't as finely made as Quilon, but was still very good.
The cauliflower and pea patties were well made, nicely crisped on the outside, contrasting with slightly soft vegetables on the inside, all well integrated with earthy spices. It's tiny touch of heat and oily sheen, were lovely against the acidity and sweetness ofthe tomato and roasted garlic chutney, as well as the bitter sharp frisee.
Potatoes with cumin and coriander were fine but nothing particularly compelling.
Murgh Makani was very well made, a buttery tomatoey sauce balancing both of those components, the chicken very tender.
Good fresh warm naan.
The kulfi (a long tapered cone on a chopstick) was smoothly textured, and was satisfying, even if the mango flavour was a bit modest.
Masala chai was showy and pricey, but I enjoyed it very much. Served in beautiful red-brown terracotta cups that seemed to hold the heat well. Good strong tea (a couple of teabags worth), robust ginger flavour, a nice hint of spice. It's not much, but I admit to being impressed by the selection of sugars: white flat cakes of pressed sugar, wonderful raw sugar (jaggery) that still hints of sugar cane and other flavours, clear sugar crystals, and honey. The jaggery was my favourite with the tea, lending its considerable complexity to the tea.