28th November 2010

Annalakshmi

133 New Bridge Rd (#B1-02, Chinatown Point, Podium A), Singapore

This Indian vegetarian restaurant has moved to Chinatown, and to get there you pass a row of decidedly non-veggie fast food outlets, but when you take the escalator down you know you’ve come to the right place. It is famous for its buffet lunch: you pick up a metal tray and load it with your choice of sambal (thin, salty, spicy and in in a word excellent!), rice, dahl made from brown lentils, several vegetable curries, water melon and dairy-based sweets. To drink there is lassi, either sweet or salty; the wonderful juices they used to offer seem to be a thing of the past, along with the elegant decor and sari- clad waitresses. When the time comes to go you pay whatever you think the meal was worth, all proceeds going to the charitable organization that runs the restaurant. Deservedly popular with both Singaporeans and tourists, the Annalakshmi takes food seriously, and I remain grateful to the person who first took me there, years ago.

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17th November 2010

Merkato

196 Caledonian Rd, Islington, London N1, UK

While this small restaurant has a smart appearance, it is typical of central London: seating and a bar are at street level, and  there is a kitchen downstairs.  The menu is intriguing, but a good choice is a mixed plate that will give you a variety of tastes, the Yestome Beye-Aynetu (pardon me while I check the spelling…) It comes on a silver dish covered with pieces of the soft sourdough bread, injera, which overhangs the edges of the platter. On top of the bread are generous portions of six fairly dry dishes; three of them vegetable (green beans and carrot, cabbage, and my favourite, spinach) and the other three pulses (orange lentils, brown lentils and split peas with green chillis…the last obviously has a strong taste. but it’s not overwhelming.) It’s a hearty, tasty, filling and I would say nutritious cuisine that works well as finger food. Nestled in a part of London that seems to be changing its character (there’s a vegan shop further down the street!) this restaurant is most definitely worth the short walk it will take you to get there.

Merkato on Urbanspoon

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7th November 2010

Massala Hut Indian Restaurant

161 Drummond St, London NW1, UK

While this well-appointed restaurant caters for omnivores, its vegetarian selection is extensive and excellent. I recommend the bright yellow, gently textured mulligatawny, and another yellowish dish, the tarka dahl which, despite coming with thin slices of garlic, is subtle rather than aggressive in its taste. From there you can go on to a very pleasing dish hitherto unknown to me, aloo jerra, in which soft potatoes swim in a sauce of tomato and spices in which cumin bulks large. The aloo saag is similarly good. This is one of those Indian restaurants where the cooks, while happy to throw chillis into the mix on request, produce very tasty and satisfying food without relying on heat.  It should be on everyone’s short-list of places to visit in Drummond St!

This completes a series of reviews of Indian restaurants in Drummond St…I had hoped to review a sixth, but it was closed at the time of visit. This street is not as well known as Brick Lane in the East End, but seems to me preferable for those seeking Indian food: there are no touts hassling passers-by, on balance the food is better, and being immediately to the west of Euston Station it is easier of access. The restaurants have been reviewed in the order in which you will encounter them walking away from the station.

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