Ananda Bhavan (London/East Ham)
I just got back from my first meal at newly opened Ananda Bhavan. Located more or less across the street from Thattukada in a storefront previously occupied by a Sri Lankan restaurant which screamed "going out of business" (for 2 years before doing so), it's basically along the same stretch that includes Thattukada, Hyderabadi Spice, a non-veg Tamil place, an Indian Chinese and so forth.
On weekends they do an all you can eat veg thali buffet which is 5.50 and has a very generous variety of dishes. We ordered one thali, the chilli paneer (dry), a rava onion dosa and mini idli.
The thali came with literally about 12 or more vegetable dishes some of which were OK, some of which were good and two or so of which were really great. The standouts were a beetroot and lentil dish which was unlike anything I've had before. Thattukada does a similar beetroot dish but the flavor at Anada was so much better and the dal offered a nice texture to each bite. Also excellent was the sambar which the idli also came immersed in.
Other dishes included gourde (bland), mogo (decent and Indian Chinese style), another two dals (one of a medium thickness and the other basically just liquid), a cabbage dish, a green bean dish, a potato dish which seemed a tad undercooked and another excellent one in the form of sarawathisingh (the tube like Indian vegetable that you break up and eat the inside of) which was wonderfully smokey and the best preparation of this vegetable I've ever had.
All of this was all you can eat for 5.50 and included even more dishes than I can remember here. It's all served with rice. Appam can be ordered separately.
The mini idli with sambar was actually very good. Vasanta Bhavan down the road has this magical tendency to never ever ever ever have idli in so it was a welcome relief to just be able to order them. Nice texture and good flavor. Again, good sambar.
The chilli paneer was decent, but it could've been better if the paneer was fried beforehand and if it was more the brown sort than the bright red sort (aka more vinegar and soy sauce.) Instead it was still a bit too gloopy for a dry chilli paneer and very red.
Finally the dosa was not exactly a stand out. It came late and quite oily. We think it may have been rushed as they forgot to place the order. The texture and crispiness were correct but the oiliness was a really unpleasant addition. I've never really had an oily dosa before. We'll have to give the dosas another shot though...
Rava onion dosa was 2.90 for a very large dosa, mini idly were 2.80, chilli paneer was 3.20 and the all you can eat was 5.50 as stated above. Madras coffee is 1 quid a cup.
This is the best full veg place I've been to, btw.
never heard of that either mate (grin). ok, i found a pic. was it this
aah wait, i think i got it. a bit of googling tells me gujjus call the drumstick tree saragvo, so that the drumsticks are most probably called saragvo nu singh. so that is indeed what you had, an indispensable part of sambhar anyway. but us maharastrians make it best (grin).
Howler, this is said with tongue firmly in cheek, but do Maharashtrians really make the best "sambhar" (or sambar - no aspirated consonants in Tamil)? :)
Or were you referring to other dishes made with drumsticks, that are Maharashtrian specialties?
If the latter, please share a link or a recipe?
I went with 3 friends to Ananda Bhavan earlier this week for a late dinner (this was after some bhel and other snacks from the stall down the block - see other post about this).
Overall, I was impressed - the quality of service and food for the price, in my opinion, is outstanding. We had an order of idli, a paper dosa, a ghee masala dosa, and a mixed uttapam.
The uttapam was the surprise hit for me, it was easily the best uttapam I've ever had outside of South India (which granted isn't THAT many), but it was up to the quality level that I ate in India. Very tasty, perfectly fried crisp on one side, still soft on the other, lots of onion (which I think is key).
The paper dosa is ridiculously large....I'd say about 600 cm long perhaps? It's kinda fun, but once it gets cold it's not that amazing IMO.
The ghee masala dosa was pretty good, I like the filling, which was not too spicy but had a bit of a kick. Despite it being a ghee dosa, it wasn't greasy.
Idli were pretty good, although a bit too soggy perhaps. But I prefer too soggy to too dry, so I was pleased.
Sambar is fine (nothing extraordinary, but pretty decent). Same with the chutneys (mint, tomato, coconut). Currently, fresh juices are on sale for 99 pence. One of my dining companions wanted an orange-carrot mixed juice, but our waiter had never heard of this, and refused to let us order it, arguing that it definitely wouldn't be good. I ended up ordering a carrot juice, and my friend got an orange juice, and we mixed them at the table.
Total bill for all of this - 4 food items, 3 juices and one tea - was a ridiculously low £13.00! Pretty sweet deal, and I'd definitely return.