Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Trishna – London, UK

After doing some research on restaurants to check out in London (there’s only a few thousand, obviously), I kept seeing Trishna on the list. It’s an upscale-affordable, but not snooty, Indian restaurant in the Marylebone area. I had walked past it on my evening stroll a few times previous, and knew I needed to check it out.

The inside is about fifteen feet wide, with six tables on the main floor, and then an unknown number of tables upstairs (I didn’t check it out). The staff here make sure you're very well taken care of. They take – and return - your coat and call cabs for you. They make sure your wine is chilled and all of your glasses don’t run out.

The menu has a tasting menu, which I think I was outside the window of availability (only served the tasting until maybe 7 or 8pm), but all of the individual items on the menu, from starters, to mains and sides, were all well described and sounded delicious.

I decided on the Dal Chawal Achar to start with – yellow lentil and rice dumplings, yogurt, papad, and pickle. For the main course, after much deliberation, I decided on the Andhra Lamb Masala with curry leaves and coastal seasonings. I also ordered a bottle of Pinot Bianco Quercus from Gori┼íka Brda vineyards. Not a fancy bottle by any means, but I was sure it was going to be good. (I was right, for the record...)

Even before my food came out, they brought a basket full of puffed rice crisps to the table with a mango chutney and a spicy tomato chutney. Both were really good to snack on while waiting for my order to arrive. I hadn’t intended to eat the entire basket, but I looked down and it was empty. Whoops!

The appetizer was fantastic. Even better than I expected it to be. The balls were light and fluffy and went really well with the yogurt it was perched upon. The green seasoning, like a pesto, on top of each of the balls had great flavor, as well. The pickled carrots had an unusual cross between mustard and wasabi spices to them, but they were fantastic.

The lamb masala was also mind-blowing. It fell apart when you touched it with the fork – which I know is not easy to do with lamb. These folks at Trishna are experts, however. The dish is served in a small crock, so it looks like there’s not a lot there, but it’s an illusion. There is PLENTY of meat in that crock. The seasonings and curry leaves added some top-notch flavor to the already tender meat. I loved this thing. You can order it with rice or with naan bread, and I’m glad I ordered the naan. It was two different kinds of naan in the basket. One ad black sesame seeds in it and the other was a bit garlicky – perfect. I know British people call the wrong things “biscuits”, so they don’t understand the meaning of “sopping it up with a biscuit”, but that’s absolutely what I did with the naan. The crock and my plate looked like they had just come out of the dish washer.

I wasn’t going to, but I totally caved at the end of the meal and got some kheer for dessert. It’s my favorite. If you haven’t had it before, it’s sort of a cross between rice pudding and tapioca, made with rice and condensed milk and cardamom. There’s was served in a beautiful brass pan with all kinds of seasonings on the top of it – which I’m not used to seeing. Now every kheer I get from here out will be compare to the kheer at Trishna.

At one point, I had to use the restroom (or the “loo”) and when I got back, the server had taken my not-yet-empty wine glass. The manager noticed and came over very apologetically and brought me a new (and FULL) glass of something similar. He felt bad that it had been removed and he was going to make it up to me. Which they did, when they brought out these small bite-sized brownie pieces and another full glass of dessert wine. The small desserts were pretty good, but whenever this happens, I wish D.Rough were here, since she appreciate brownies and chocolate-y dessert so much more than I do. You would have loved these, D.Rough!! I also made sure neither the server nor the bus person got into trouble for removing my glass. It wasn’t a big deal at all and I didn’t want anyone to take any heat for the simple mix-up.

I love the variety of people in this restaurant. I heard conversations in French, Italian, Russian/Ukranian, Indian, and English. It’s so good, people from every place in the world love it. I can’t say enough about the staff - they took care of everything. There was a group of French guys flirting with the 23 year old server (I overheard them asking her how old she was) and she took it like a champ. Just smiled and push them aside to wait on other tables. Well done. The manager made sure I was taken care of, well beyond the point most places would have stopped. Truly. A very good job. For an affordable restaurant, it was an upscale experience.

Indian food in the US can be really cheap (buffet-style) or a little bit fancy. I’ve never been to a really nice Indian restaurant like this before. It changed my mind on what it could be in the US. I’m a big fan of Trishna. I’ll likely round up some other people to come here on subsequent trips back to London.

Top 5 things about Trishna
1) Andhra Lamb Masala
2) Dal Chawal Achar
3) Super service
4) Menu has some really delicious sounding items, including some unusual game hens
5) Kheer

Bottom 5 things
1) Wish I had made it in time for the various tasting menus
2) I was sooooooo full after dinner, thankfully, I walked back to the hotel instead of using the tube
3) No pakora, which I was hoping for (everything else made up for it, though, I promise)
4) It’s a little pricey, but I think the cost is justified by the experience in this case
5) I’m ruined for Indian food at every other place now that I’ve had the best here at Trishna

15-17 Blandford Street
Marylebone Village
London W1U 3DG

Friday, November 7, 2014

Queen’s Arms – London, UK

Many people don’t know that D.Rough spent a semester in London while she was in college and we’ve talked about coming back together and sharing some of our favorite places with each other. Since she couldn’t come with on this trip, she advised me on few places I needed to check out in her old neighborhood. The Queen’s Arms in Kensington was one of those places.

The inside of this pub is lively – some might say loud, but I say lively. Lots of small and medium sized groups sitting at tables or standing near the bar. Everyone’s food looks great, so I’m looking forward to this. I took these photos when I first got to the place and shortly after, it was standing room only and a fire marshall's nightmare.

They’ve got an extensive beer and cider menu, as well as some good food, so I knew I’d be taken care of for a few hours, anyway. As in many places in the UK, you order at the bar – food and drinks, both. I checked out the menu and made my decisions – not the easiest thing to do with so many good things available. I started with an Addlestones Cloudy Cider. Good and full-bodied, exactly what I wanted. I ordered a Meat Board – which is like a sampler, and I also felt like I needed some mac & cheese.

The Meat Board is just awesome. Slices of hand crafted cured deli meats. A pepperoni, maybe a mortadella, and something else that was made from pigs. Delicious. There were scotched quail eggs. If you don’t know what a scotch egg is, you’re missing out – it’s a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage and then deep-fried. Killer. These were particularly fennel-y and I loved them. A whole batch of olives and garlic, and some tasty bread and olive oil. The olives weren’t the jarred kind from the US, either. They were the good ones. Sure it was meant to be shared, but I was really hungry and ate the whole thing. Duh.

The mac & cheese was really good, as well. It was baked in a little crock and they don’t use the kinds of cheese that we do in the US. This made it even better. It also wasn’t swimming in cheese like they do in the US – I thought I’d complain about that, but the flavor of the cheese was good enough that I didn’t even notice until I looked at the photo. I really liked this stuff.

I had to get another cider, so I went with the Aspall Suffolk cider. It was a lighter color and a little sweeter but still full flavored. Liked this one a lot. The most, in fact.

I eventually finished the Aspall and went back and asked for a recommendation for a really full-bodied cider. They gave me an Orchard Pig Truffler, a dry sparkling cider. It was heavy. Very heavy, and lots of flavor. Almost overpowering. That will teach me to ask for a really full bodied cider where they invented cider. Good, and I’m glad I tried it, but it was massive.

While finishing off my last cider, I looked around at other people’s plates. The fish and chips looked fantastic. I’m not upset at all with what I ordered, but I know what I would get the next time. The Queen’s Arms is a very active pub and the bartender reminded me of my friend Justin, from back home in Illinois (he’d be offended that I said that, since he’s technically from Texas). The server and all the bartenders were extremely nice and laid back. Also, watching weave-y people drunkenly rub their faces really hard makes me laugh. This place would absolutely be my local hang out if I lived near here. Thanks for recommending it, DRough.

[Note: In the UK, it is very unusual to go to a pub alone. In the US, you can sit sadly on a barstool not talking to anyone for hours, but I don’t think that happens here. It IS amusing however, that it’s perfectly alright if you’re alone to come in to a pub and POUND A PINT OF BEER and then immediately walk out. I love fun cultural differences!]

Top 5 things about The Queen’s Arms pub
1. Meat Board, especially the Scotched Quail Eggs
2. Aspall Suffolk
3. Mac and Cheese
4. Addlestone’s Cloudy Cider
5. The staff general seemed happy to be there and wanted to help make everyone comfortable

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s very tucked away and you have to MEAN to find it, if you’re not from there
2. It gets very very packed inside
3. You sort of have to stake your claim on a bench or table if you want to sit, otherwise, you stand at the bar
4. I REALLY wanted to order the fish and chips after eating the meat board, but I’m glad I didn’t
5. I had to sit next to two people who were trying to get each other to leave their respective spouses and sleep with each other. Very weird

The Queen’s Arms
30 Queens Gate Mews
London, SW7 5QL