Friday, 27 November 2009


the other day i was taken to eat sri lankan food at sekara: a small restaurant near vicoria that smelt heavily of sambol and spice. we had rather substantial starters – a egg hopper each. essentially a batter of rice flour, coconut milk and palm toddy that is cooked in a shape of a shallow bowl with crisped edges. the centre of the hopper is a poached egg and on the side is sambol. the texture of a hopper is a kin to that of a buttermilk pancake but with a slightly sour, yeasty edge. i tore the edges of the hopper to soak up warm liquid yolk and ate it with some sambol.
my entree was a tradition sri lankan dish called kuthu roti (literally chopped flat bread). strips of chopped flat bread are stir-fried with meat, eggs and vegetables. it’s textures are similar to chow-mein, a very substantial version that is. and instead of the salty soy there is just the comfort food edge of bread, vegetables and meats. you could it you wanted to jazz it up with a sambol but there is something quite satisfying about eating it just the way it is. the round the meal of was a strong cup of tea, sweetened with a bit of sugar and mellowed with a little milk.
an imperative for those who have to head back to work...
the only downside of the whole experience: the exceedingly lax service courtesy of a terribly understaffed restaurant.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

needoo grill

a very rainy thursday night found o and i and s and d at white chapel station where the air is redolent with the smell of fried onions and slightly stale curry power. we arrive at needoo grill half drenched to find our table has been given to someone else. in all fairness we are 15 minutes late but you would think that they would have called to check. instead, we wait in a queue periodically blasted by cold air from the door that opens and closes behind us. needoo’s waiters navigate and serve food through a rather complicated series of movements as there is little space for them to move because of the queue.

we are seated after a short wait in a rather noisy and clamorous dining room painted red. a flat screen telly is tuned into ‘b4u’ – a bollywood music channel. we are handed menu’s which are remarkably similar to tayyab’s which isn’t surprising because needoo is the child of an ex-tayyab manager.

there is poppadum to start with – not as crisp as it should be and the mango chutney that it comes with is disappointing. the mint yoghurt sauce on the other hand is really good. the boys always order mango lassi, something i can’t quite fathom as its richness makes it a meal in a glass. in pakistan lassi is a more watered down affair. it’s british asian version is more of a milkshake. i try some and it’s saving grace is in the fact that it isn’t incredibly sweet and has a slight tart edge of curds.

for mains, we order a bhindi (okra) chicken, special lahori channa (chickpeas lahore style), chicken biryani and a chicken grill. our chicken grill puts us on a slightly inauspicious start as the hot plate of our grill has us choking. perhaps it is a the combination of spice and onion overpowered by the heat but luckily the chicken itself is tasty and juicy. the grill is followed by the rest of our entrée’s. the bhindi chicken is delicious. tender pieces of boneless chicken in a masala heavy with softened browned onions and spice. the lahori style channa’s are just that – reminiscent of lazy sunday breakfasts of channa and roghni naan in pakistan. o says they are best channa’s he has ever had [ i think that the best channa’s i have had in london were at lahore kebab house]. the biryani could be faulted only in its presentation. rather than distinct layers of rice and masala it came mixed together but it tasted excellent. the rice was perfectly cooked and the spices were earthy along with the heat of a chili.
dessert was very disappointing - a watered down version of kheer (rice pudding), it was akin to a dietary rendition of the otherwise rich sub-continental dessert. the final score for needoo grill is a bit tricky. the ups were really up and the downs really down. the entrée’s were really good and the dessert really bad. the service was lacking too. o’s verdict – give them some time as they are a relative new comer. looks like we’ll be back again.