Romy’s Kitchen

edited-art-workHaving moved to Bristol just over a couple of years ago now, I’ve struggled to find an Indian restaurant that really stands out for me… Until I ate at Romy’s Kitchen…

Romy’s Kitchen is the only place which, so far, allows me to enjoy Indian food that has the taste of home comfort food, but it’s made with a lot of thought and attention, plus it’s creative and versatile each time I’ve visited.

If you go at lunchtime, you can truly indulge in a great deal: from 2 courses for £10 or 3 courses for £15, to a lunch platter for 2 at the price of £25, which includes a glass of house wine. With an afternoon spare, Greg and I made our way down to enjoy what we knew would be a great meal…

starters

Spicy crab cake with apple slaw and chutneys

For starters I went for the crab cakes – which I planned on in advance – as they’re wholesome, lightly spiced, and delicious. I love crab and with there being no potatoes in these, it’s light but surprisingly filling. The slaw and chutney add an awesome balance of sweet and creaminess to go alongside it. I don’t really need many bites to finish one and usually, I wish I could have more…

mains-edited

Chicken Makhani, Chill Paneer, Fish Curry, Dal and Rice

The mains comes with a choice of one curry that is served with dal, rice or naan. But as Greg and I were hungry, we went for all 3 mains on the menu with rice AND naan…

full-dish

You can see from the top image that our choice to have all 3 mains meant that we tried a lot of curries. But the main point I want to make about the different curries here, is that they all taste so different from one another – that may sound strange and obvious, but sometimes I swear that the same sauce, or similar sauces are used for many of the curries in Indian places. And I’m not the first to say this!

The chicken is very cardamom-y which I LOVE. The fish curry – hake on this occasion – was fragrant with a sour note and a slight heat, then the paneer, oh the paneer, had a great sweetness and a nice hint of chilli. These all went really well with a dal that had a generous amount of ghee and spices in there, but more of a compliment to the rest. The rice was also tasty on it’s own, and I mention this because I love a well cooked rice and can easily eat it alone. But by far for me, it was all about the naan. The naan was slightly crispy on one side – possibly because they’re done in a tandoor in the kitchen – and the other side was so soft and pillow-y that I could snuggle up to them!

The final point I want to make about these dishes, is that the sauces were really delicious – so moreish and perfect for someone that loves to scoop and dip their rice and naan into!

dessert

Saffron and Cardamom ice cream, Rose ice cream, with warm Gajar Halva

The desserts, as you can tell from the description of the image above, are much loved and well known Indian flavours, and I was pleased that some of them were my ultimate favourite combinations..!

The gajar halva – which is a warm, sweet and rich carrot dish, with ghee, sugar and spices. This had the perfect balance against the ice creams which on their own, have my favourite combination of saffron and cardamom that was rich, creamy, and reminded me of so many sweet puddings I ate growing up. The rose ice cream was just like my favourite Indian milkshake called falooda – check this out if you ever go to India or if you eat somewhere that serve it on the menu! So as you can probably tell, it was a satisfying and comforting end to the meal.

If you’re near Thornbury then I highly recommend eating here. Or if you fancy a road trip to the South West for a great Indian meal, eat here! Keep an eye out on Romy’s continuous adventures in the food industry too, as she’s always doing a new event here and there, mostly in London but always with a new menu and something exciting to try.

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The Spice Tailor

I recently received a free kit from The Spice Tailor (they were giving them away through online food shops) – who supply a range of products from Indian sauces, chutnis (spelt the Indian way), naans to daals. These products are also made with recipes that are developed by British Indian food writer and TV chef, Anjum Anand.

As I have and love using Anjum’s ‘Indian Food Made Easy’ and ‘I Love Curry’ cookbooks – since they supply very easy to follow guides on making fresh, tasty and light Indian meals – I had a feeling this would be one of the only ‘ready to use’ Indian products that actually tastes like home cooking. So I knew I needed to have a go, and you know what? I like what I discovered…

I was sent the Punjabi tomato curry pack and my first impression of the product was the sweet packaging with a simple approach. Everything is laid out neatly (always a plus for me!) along with: a list of the contents in the package, a step by step process on using them, facts about the product, along with a little recipe book that gives ideas on different dishes you can use the sauce for.

inside content.jpg

This info said that the sauce is very versatile and can have the addition of meat, vegetables or paneer. I happened to have paneer in the fridge so that’s what I went for.

See below the process…

 

vagaar

Tempering stage by adding the whole spices into the oil

 

paneer

Adding in paneer till lightly browned. I added onions too but it didn’t need it, I just needed to use some up!

 

paneer-and-peas

Add the base sauce then main sauce and mix it through. I added some peas too.

And that’s pretty much it! There’s a handy section in the information, where it tells you how to customise the dish – based on what you’ll use in the sauce to how you can garnish it. So it’s very thorough but manages to add a bit of inspiration too.

The sauce was very tasty and the whole process was really straightforward. It’s almost boring compared to normal cooking really, mainly because I find cooking exciting and energising – but I mean this in a good way because it takes out a lot of work for you and that’s what these sauces are all about.

So in all honesty, I’d only use this product as a go to if I literally needed something quick and easy, based on the circumstance at the time. Although it is one of those ‘throw it all in and you have Indian food within minutes’, it’s very far away from the jarred sauces you get (I cringe at the thought of them!) but of course real home made food will always have it’s own distinct flavour. But I wouldn’t mind stocking up on a few of these and keeping them for those days when you do not feel like cooking, or if you happen to have some people coming over but no time to prepare anything long winded…

Have you used them yourself below? Get in touch and give me some recommendations as I’d love to try out more!

 

 

 

Wapping Wharf, Bristol

view-of-wapping-wharf

Bristol’s new and exciting development that is Wapping Wharf has been all over foodies social media recently, and there are plenty of reasons why…

A part of town in its own right and seen as a new entrance to the city centre, contains flats with spaces underneath and recently, newly added cargos – both that are taken over by bars, restaurants and cafes, even some places to shop. It’s no surprise how well it’s taken off in such a short amount of time, with rumors that it’s growing still.

With only an hour to spare whilst doing other bits in town, I decided to have lunch at both Woky Ko and Lovett Pies – quite random to eat at 2 places, but since they both offer the chance to try small dishes, I thought, why not?

decor-in-wokyko

Woky Ko, opened by Masterchef finalist in 2013, Larkin Cen, offers pretty delicious and satisfying Asian food; from bao (one of my absolute favourites) to sharing plates, noodles and rice dishes, plus Asian salads and desserts.

They’re in a quite small space that actually reminded me of my travels to Japan – as I ate in many small ramen or as they called it, ‘two bowls’ places in Tokyo and Kyoto; starting with a sliding door to go in, a stylish and welcoming interior with umbrellas on the ceiling and wooden tables and long benches to sit at.

I love how, what initially seems like a tight space, feels open and welcoming, along with the sounds of the hustle and bustle coming out of the kitchen, which – as you can see in the image – is open for all to see.

Greg and I had a duck bao each, which was delightful and what I would expect: a crispy (and not chewy) duck, a slightly tangy peking sauce that’s rich and gets cut through well with the spring onions and cucumber – all in a soft, pillow-y bao. I was happy with this and would happily have one again!

We also got the crispy beef from the small plates selection to give it a try, and we were both pleased with that too, though this was similar to many crispy beef dishes in many Chinese restaurants and possibly for a cheaper price and larger portion – saying that, if it were alongside many small plates, it’s a great dish to have amongst the selection for sharing.

I’d definitely return and go for the selection of the small plates – especially the sea bass, which has been the rage on social media and dammit I don’t know why I didn’t get one! Next time…

Lovett Pies, based a couple of doors down from Woky Ko, is a cute space serving delicious, humble pies, but with interesting flavour combinations using seasonal and local ingredients and thankfully, in proper hearty and filling pastry.

Having spoken to one of the ‘pie connoisseurs’, Phil, told us they’ve been doing this for about 5 years and have moved around to different farmers markets and festivals, and now this is their first shop. I couldn’t be more excited for them as it’s such a great place to be based in!

The pies were really great too and it’s worth going a few times to try the different flavours. Greg and I got a pie on its own, but you can get sides and hot drinks too – so it’s a great place to visit in the colder months coming up for a cheap and cheerful fix.

So this is just a tiny, tiny glimpse of the places that have opened up at Wapping Wharf. With such an amazing selection already, I look forward to more of what’s to come and can already tell I’ll be visiting regularly – in fact, the plans are to go back at least another couple of times before Christmas to make our way around the different offerings!

Discovering more of Leicester…

 

melton-road

The Golden Mile’s Diwali light switch on

 

I’m always back in Leicester to spend time with family and friends, but I never really venture out much. This is usually because I want to spend time at home and not rush about. But as I took a week off to enjoy more than a quick weekend, there was a great opportunity to try out somewhere different for food…

Before going into anything about food, I think it’s worth mentioning that people really need to visit Leicester during Diwali. I was lucky that the Diwali light switch on took place whilst I was there and if you take a look a the image above of the huge Diwali gathering, this is the time of year where the Golden Mile (previously Melton Road) is closed for all of the public to come and enjoy a huge street party; from street performers, smells and tastes of street food, fireworks, and a community like atmosphere.

There’s always a great pause when the lights go on, with everyone gathered together all wrapped up from the chill, then smiles and children being held up to see the magical moment and everyone cheering, just before the fireworks go off. It’s the best time to visit, I promise – and you should know that it’s the biggest Diwali celebration (with roughly 30,000 people) outside of India…

So, food. There were a couple of recommendations provided by my Sister and parents that I had to try out. Both being Indian places, both being completely random.

 

van-snacks

Varsha’s Bhelpuri & Panipuri

 

When my Sister said there’s a van selling amazing street food dishes, with no seating around so you have to stand outside or eat in the car, it was far too interesting to miss out on…

The van is Varsha’s Bhelpuri & Panipuri and is quite an experience. You pull into an industrial estate – we went around 7pm and it was dark and extremely quiet – and then you rock up to this bright, tall and wide van with huge posters on each side containing menus for loads of small dishes. Cars pull up and order a few bits to eat back in their car, or they’d have a little gathering outside to eat with their plastic forks, or hands, and throw away the disposable plate and cutlery into the bins provided outside, and go. I couldn’t believe it. But I absolutely loved it.

With dishes starting from £1 (!), there were 4 of us and we tried (clockwise on the image) the pani puri (explosion of flavours in a fried, hollow puri), bhel puri (vegetables, puffed rice, salad, topped with tamarind chutney and sev), papdi chaat (potatoes, chickpeas, topped with yogurt and chaat masala), and dabeli (boiled potatoes with spices and topped with tamarind chutneys, pomegranates and peanuts, then placed in a pau, which is the bread). They even do thali dishes on Sundays, and more…

They were all so good. I think my favourite was the dabeli, because I was after something I could hold like a burger whilst standing up! And the flavours coming from the pomegranate and peanuts were just unexpected and delicious.

So here’s a place to try when you want a little drive out to a little gem for a quick bite, but also try out as many little dishes as you like!

 

rahat-restaurant

Rahat Restaurant

 

My parents, being great cooks, are extremely fussy when it comes to eating out. So when they told me a while back that they keep returning to a small ‘corner shop like restaurant’ with simple and plain interior but great, home-made food, how could I not go?

Rahat Restaurant, based on St Saviours Road – an area I never really go to – is literally like a corner shop, but with faded windows so you can’t really see in, and a simple sign above with their name. You walk in and realise it ain’t no joke about the lack of interior. It’s simply a room with tables and chairs, a counter at the back containing drinks, and a sink. The menu is above the sink containing only a small number of dishes – but broken up into small curry dishes, then a couple of specials, then some bigger dishes like biriyani and kebabs. The menu changes frequently too, so this may not be the same as my description if you go, which is part of it’s charm to me as you don’t know what to expect when you turn up!

We went for the small curries to try a variety of dishes, plus a side order of garlic naan bread. We went for: Karahi chicken, palak chicken, dry meat and another gosht lamb, then the proper Indian salad of raw onions alongside a yogurt and coriander chutney. We also had brain, but I didn’t take a picture of it, though I wish I did. But it was weird. Dad said he has it every time and I wanted to try it without the whole ‘Oh my god it’s brain’ mentality, but it was so creamy and thick, sticking to your tongue, that the texture put me off. It tasted quite nice in the spices, but then an offal like taste comes in after – and I’m already not into any offal or game where there’s a certain after taste… But I’m glad I tried it!

The atmosphere is strange to begin with, as there’s no music and it was very quiet when we arrived. Thankfully a few younger groups that were chatty came in and made it a bit more buzzing, and they seemed like locals so were very comfortable. Everyone, including my Dad, called the main owner Mama (uncle) when they ordered or needed anything extra.

And when the group of young lads next to us wanted more cob like bread, that they also serve to eat like naan, ran out, a sweet old man on the other side of us just picked his up and passed it down. So it was more like someone’s home where a few strangers can pop in to have a bite and not be phased by others around them in this small, almost empty room. This meal in total was £29, so pretty damn cheap for 4 people…!

So there you are, I lived here my whole life before moving to Bristol and had never tried these places. This is a small glimpse of the Indian food you can get in Leicester, and I look forward to trying out more on my visits.

I also plan on returning to both of these places at some point, that’s for sure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Christmas Thali

 

thalisouthville-1024x709

Thali Café Southville – taken from the website with photo credit to Paul Box

 

Last month, The Thali Café – Bristol’s own Indian restaurant chain – held a launch night for their new Christmas menu, created by Meera Sodha.

Meera is the London based chef that I did a blog post on a while ago to represent her 2nd book, Fresh India.

Thali Café, which is the only Indian place in the city that I’ve eaten at more than once, have an array of street food dishes and traditional thali meals, but with a twist. Always colourful and vibrant like their interior, the new Christmas menu is nothing short of this description. Click here to see the full menu (including prices) with some descriptions on the history behind the dishes, plus giving an idea on the spices used to get your taste buds yearning and juices flowing…

See below a couple of images I took with a brief description of my experience trying out the menu – which by the way, I tried through a taster version – so the portions are smaller than you’d expect for a reason.

samosas

Both samosas: Venison with cranberry chutney. Plus the vegetarian alternative: Mushroom and walnut with coriander chutney

Slightly blurry image… but it’s no surprise to see venison, mushrooms and walnuts on a festive menu. But I’ve never had these flavours in a samosa or with spices – and I have to say, the samosa which took me by surprise was the venison version. Which is strange as I’m not usually a fan of game, but the venison was so nicely spiced, without being overpowering, and the gamey taste wasn’t really there, which is a huge plus for me.

Instead, it was rich, allowing the spices to dance around in your mouth without it being too spicy (heat wise) and leaving a nice aftertaste. The cranberry chutney was also sweet enough to balance the whole combination and it made me really pleased to have tried something completely different.

thali

A bit of everything from the thali section…

What a treat. A real comforting, warming, and perfect for any cold weather thali selection.

Instantly, I was taken away with the pig cheek vindaloo. I never go to curry houses, but I understand that a vindaloo is the spiciest one to get. But this didn’t seem like it was hot for hot sake – which is how some people have described vindaloo to me before. It was spicy yes, but it actually reminded me of my Dad’s cooking – where you know there are many ‘complex’ spices used, but my god does it all blend in together and taste so good! And the cheeks were ever so soft and the sauce was ever so delicious!

… Where an image of the desserts would’ve gone…

I did take a picture of the two desserts but for some reason it was playing up when trying to load it, so, I can say that I ate them in one bite each as they were so good!

But by far, the one I recommend is the chocolate kheer (rice pudding) with almond chikki. What can I say? It was comforting, very chocolate-y and the jaggery-caramelised almonds on top – as Janice from Friends would say – Oh. my. god…  I asked if I could buy a big normal portion size of it away from the tasters, but it was all gone. 😦

Just another reason to go back and try out the full menu. But I’ll order two bowls of the chocolate kheer…

So if I were you, I’d get ready to try out this menu, which is due to start from 15th October – 15th January. I’ll see you there.

Please note: I had this meal through a first come first serve basis for those that signed up for the taster menu – so I did not pay for my meal. However, this has not in any way effected my opinions or enthusiasm about the food.

 

Coconut Chilli – microwave curry meals

My previous blog post on the Coconut Chilli launch night I attended a few weeks back mentioned that I’ll do a follow up on Coconut Chilli’s microwave meal pots. And today, I’d like to share my experience now that I’ve tried one.

Now I was really sceptical about trying this. For one, it’s a microwave meal and two, it’s an Indian microwave meal! Having these in my own fridge or as part of my eating routine would be straight up incomprehensable.

But being a cook that always tries to take lunch in, and only nips to the odd shop/café when I didn’t have the time to pre-prepare, trying something from a supplier that advertise themselves as offering ‘fresh, chilled meal pots’, sounded like an interesting product to give a go.

Excuse the poor ‘non-professional’ images, this was at work and I weren’t about to get my camera out!

The curry pot was sent by courier and you’ll see on the website (showing you the prices too) that you need to order in advance by 5pm on a Tuesday, to receive them in the same week.

The packaging was nicely presented, though odd with the fur like material in plastic – but it kept the pot in it’s place and it was all very neat and clean. There was also some wrapped up ice underneath, enhancing the freshness of it, so I appreciated that. I like the little personalised message by someone called Mary, cute chilli drawing and all!

As you can see I went for the cardamom chicken, which is one of the cheaper pots (at £4.25) from the selection but also, I love cardamom so it was the first one that caught my eye anyway.

fridge

Off in the fridge it went whilst I went back to work. Glad it arrived around 11am so I had something to look forward to..! But something to keep in mind, it arrived on 16th September, but the back stated that the use by date was the 20th, so it was nice to know I didn’t have to eat it that day if I didn’t want to.

Lunchtime!

microwave-pot

Taking the pot out the cardboard package, it was good to see that there’s a decent amount of rice (which almost seemed like too much rice), some chicken, plus some different colours going on with the squash, tomato and coriander.

So going with the instructions of basically sticking it in the microwave for a few minutes, stirring halfway, then leaving it to rest when done, it was definitely quick and easy like any other microwave meal…

This could’ve been eaten from the pot, but I wanted to see how much this came out to on a plate – mainly to judge the rice and chicken ratio, as I wouldn’t have been impressed if it was mainly rice.

coconut-chilli-dish

But there you have it, a pretty good balance of rice and chicken. And if you can see the black dots, that was pretty much cardamom – so it was definitely cardamom-y, which I was very happy about. It almost seemed too wet with water in the pot, but you can see that actually it evaporated in the microwave – which is handy to have seen because when I cook curries, adding a bit of water prevents the curry from drying out.

This is also probably why the chicken was still quite tender, and as far as microwave meals go, this is really good quality. Especially when there’s always a stigma against microwavable meals because let’s face it, they’re always below average. But I don’t think I would put this amongst that ‘urgh, microwave meal’ category. It could almost set a standard in it’s own right as a microwavable meal with it’s different approach and entirely different outcome.

The only barrier I see with this is that you need to order quite a few at a time, but maybe the way around it is if you team up with people, perhaps if there’s a big meeting due or you know it’s a busy period and you know you’ll want something with a home made touch, but quick and easy, order a few and know it’s there waiting for you when needed.

All in all, if microwave meals were fresh tasting with proper ingredients being used, then we wouldn’t have such a stigma against them. Maybe this is the new take microwave meals need, where they can adapt to our need for fast food that’s still healthy, and to be tasty rather than a ‘that’ll do’ type of lunch. So thanks for giving me a refreshing view on microwave meals Coconut Chilli!

Please note: I was sent this product for free so did not pay for it. However, this did not impact my opinions or enthusiasm about the food, and neither did they see this review before it went up.

 

 

 

 

Coconut Chilli Launch

Last month, I had the pleasure of being invited to an exclusive pop-up event which was being held by Navina Bartlett (aka Founder and Boss Lady) of the startup food business, Coconut Chilli. They provide South Indian curry pots which are made with fresh ingredients and then chilled. They even do an office delivery service – so it’s well worth checking out for future lunchtime needs!

The night was held at the very idyllic location, Spoke and Stringer, which was a perfect venue for it’s easy going and friendly atmosphere, with a dash of Bristolian style and urban interior. It’s the kind of place you’d escape the city from, tucked away from the noise and holding great views of boats, sun and sky…

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Navina happily chatting with all the diners throughout the night

The food  was right in line with what I needed that night – an array of many dishes full of colour, texture and most importantly, flavour.

8

Aloo Tikki – potato and pea croquettes served with a tangy tamarind chutney

This was one tasty dish to have started with. Instantly comforting with a lightly spiced potato, with a sour note from tamarind and fresh burst of flavour from coriander chutney. I love yogurt and raw onions on these typical comforting Indian dishes as they are able to balance out any heat and bring an element of zing and crunch. I think I ate this within 10 seconds!

11

Boneless Chicken Shashlick – morsels of marinated chicken

This cute portion of tender, very well flavoured pieces of chicken over onions and peppers and topped with coriander went very well with my little Chase Distillery cocktail there. This second dish gave me the impression that there was a lot of emphasis on fresh, flavoursome ingredients, and I was very much looking forward to even more…

13

Marinated Paneer and Pepper Tandoori Skewers

Why yes, that is another drink next to the dish.

I think I could eat paneer in literally anything… I don’t know if it’s because Mum never made it (as she didn’t like it for some odd reason that I’ll never understand), so it was always a treat when I did eat it.

So I was very happy with this dish, clearly. The soft paneer that took flavours well with cooked vegetables – and then a random olive – all in all pretty much making you wish there was more. But remember, they were small dishes so you can’t complain! Ok, waiting patiently for the next one…

18

Duck Kofta – superbly spiced & tender minced duck

I love duck for always being a rich, strong flavoured meat, but I’ve never had it with Indian spices. These were very light and gently eased out flavours of what I believe was cardamom and star anise. So it was great to try something different as someone who eats Indian food most days.

20

Seasonal Vegetable Filo Parcels with Cashews and Raisins

These filo parcels were very interesting. Taking me back to some home cooking with sweetness in savoury dishes like lentil kachori for instance, and it working so well. The crunchy pastry with a soft filling but cashews and raisins making up for something to get your teeth into, this was another dish that was different, but also, it gave me some sense of roots as it reminded me of some home snacks.

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Tender Morsels of Fried Fish coated in Amritsari Spiced Batter

Here’s one of the great Indian battered fish snacks you can get in places like Bristol Sweet Mart, based in Easton. It’s anything you’d expect of a battered fish and I was pleased that the fish was nice and soft and the batter full of spices and from what I could get was black pepper and cumin.

23

Coorgi Biriyani with Cucumber, Mint & Pomegranate Raita

Just when you think it’s the end of the night as the small dishes were done, but yet, you know you still feel a bit hungry and want more – the biriyani comes out.

Oh what a biriyani it was. I’m a huge fan of this instantly well known rice dish that’s probably in most Indian restaurants. But this was not one that you’d find in a typical curry house or whatnot, this was like the homemade stuff I eat at home. Fragrantly spiced, coated in oils and spices I imagine seeped out of the chicken juices (which has to leave a clean glaze on your lips, otherwise you’re not eating it right) with more tender chicken and of course, the cashew nuts on top helping each mouthful feel taken care of and satisfied. Yeah, this was great.

24

Carrot and Almond Halva served with Local Chew Moos Bourbon Vanilla Ice-cream

Ok, just the description tells you this was good and I should mention that the halva was warm and with the ice-cream, you can’t really go wrong can you? Although halva isn’t always the first dessert I’d choose to make or eat out, but this was a very welcoming way to end this meal.

All in all, I was very happy with the versatile dishes that were presented, the vibrant flavours, a chance to try some new things and even having moments of being taken back to Mum’s home cooking…

I will definitely be ordering a curry pot and shall look forward to sharing my thoughts on the next blog post.

If you want to try out the curry pots yourself, go to Coconut Chilli’s website and check out the full range, which are now available to buy online.

Please note: I was invited to this launch and did not pay for my meal. However, this did not impact my opinions or enthusiasm about the food, and neither did they see this review before it went up.