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22nd December 2010

Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant

58 Serangoon Rd, Singapore

It may have been hunger that drove me into the first restaurant in Serangoon Rd visible from the end of Buffalo St, and I wondered whether I’d made a mistake, for it has a western, bourgeois feel. But Ananda Bhavan is the real thing, with an alcove for washing hands, and its ambience is a reminder that globalization need not be sinister, but can represent non-Western people adopting western ways so as to integrate them into their own systems. They do a wonderful range of thosai (dosas), which come either with or without ghee, simply excellent, and there is a range of fruit drinks,among them the beautifully coloured watermelon.  

There are so many possibilities for vegetarian eating as you stroll along Serangoon Rd! Among the new looking places are a pure vegetarian halal restaurant, and place called Big Bites that seems to be modelled on Western fast food outlets…the former would certainly be interesting to try. And the surrounding streets, such as Racecourse Rd, are full of eateries. Little India is a wonderful section of a country where the food is simply fantastic.

This will be the last restaurant review posted in 2010. I’m grateful to the friends who’ve joined me at the table, and all those who have commented on the reviews. A happy and blessed celebration of the Nativity to all readers of this site! To finish for the year, here’s a short poem by Les Murray, entitled ‘In a Time of Cuisine’.

A fact the gourmet

euphemism can’t silence:

vegetarians eat sex,

carnivores eat violence.

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19th December 2010

Komala Villas

12-14 Buffalo St, Singapore (Little India MTR)

This vegetarian restaurant, the offshoot of a famous establishment just around the corner in Serangoon Rd, offers a range of light meals which, despite the unexpected appearance on the menu of mini chocolate dosas, described as a kids’ special, is basically traditional. The long dosas come with small dishes of dahl, a coconut paste and a tomato and chilli paste, which compliment them perfectly. They are also available with various fillings, but you don’t really need to order one, as the waiters prowl about asking diners whether they’d like refills of the accompaniments.  There is a range of fruit drinks available, and you end up with a satisfying and very cheap meal which, if you’re as lucky as I was, you will enjoy in charming company. Little India is the headquarters of the Indian community in Singapore, and should be on any visitor’s list of places to check out.

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12th December 2010

Ling Zhi Vegetarian Restaurant

541 Orchard Rd (#05-01/2 Liat Towers; enter by the side street), Singapore

As you study the menu at this stylish restaurant, munching the bowl of plump peanuts that have appeared on the table, it becomes clear that its cooks are keen to try new ideas. Slices of eggplant, stuffed with tofu, come stewed in a mixture of bamboo shoots, mushrooms and both red and green chillis; the dish is nicely textured, very tasty and well complemented by the four small buns that accompany it. The almond jelly recommended by the waiter isn’t as successful; while fine in itself, it comes with an avocado puree of a slightly unsettling colour, two berries and a sprig of mint, creating a mix of flavours that don’t really cohere. The freshly pressed juices are excellent. This restaurant is certainly worth a visit if you are keen to try new things, but you should be aware that you’ll pay twice as much for a meal as you would at the restaurant reviewed most recently.

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5th December 2010

Happy Realm Vegetarian Food Centre

 100 Eu Tong Sen St (#03-16, Pearl’s Centre), Singapore

When you see that sign on the wall, ‘Please no meat or alcoholics’, you realise that the people who run this restaurant are serious about what they do. Some of the enticing dishes on the menu are familiar, such as the bean curd with eight wonders, although the implication that green peas are wonderful might be pitching it a bit high; the soft tofu is nicely complemented by the wonders, among which are several types of mushroom. New to me were the preserved dough with green chilli (what I would call capsicum), which comes in a black bean sauce, and the seaweed ginger broth, the seaweed dark and soft yet chewy and the ginger in long strips; more mushrooms are included. The restaurant has a gentle air and is popular with families. You eat off  plastic, but the cooking has integrity, the menu, entirely vegetarian and almost completely vegan, is amazingly long, and the goodwill of the friendly staff makes exploring it a sheer delight.

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28th November 2010


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


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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31st October 2010


124 Drummond St, London NW1, UK

The search for the perfect dahl may be unending, but the product at this smart vegetarian restaurant comes pretty close. The cooked lentils are accompanied by a mix of curry leaves, dried chillies, mustard seeds and garlic which give it a rich flavour without the heavy use of spices. They also do a great bhaji of shredded onion, spinach and potato, that comes with a powerful chutney.

Like other restaurants in Drummond St, Chutney’s offers a buffet for lunch.  Indian food suffers less than most cuisines do by sitting in a bain-marie, and the hot dishes, a good half dozen of them, are all tasty and satisfying, as are the cold ones (the strong tasting salad, with slices of red onion, goes beautifully with curry and the chick-peas that sit beside it .) There are fruit and milk based sweets, plenty of rice and bread, and you are welcome to all you can eat! And quite apart from the question of how much you eat, which will probably turn out to be more than you thought you would when you walked in, for this price the food is of astonishing quality.

Chutneys on Urbanspoon

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24th October 2010

Drummond Villa

118 Drummond St, London NW1, UK

Standing just across the street from the two vegetarian restaurants most recently reviewed, this restaurant seems to have decided to aim for a different clientele. This is not to say vegetarians can’t eat there, for they do a very respectable vegetable thali, which comprises thick dahl, mushrooms, okra and potato with spinach, along with rice, a small chapati and raita. But people after veggie food will find  themselves better catered for elsewhere in the street, so this restaurant is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

Drummond Villa on Urbanspoon

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17th October 2010

Ravi Shankar

133-135 Dummond St, London NW1, UK

There’s far more to enjoy in this vegetarian restaurant than you might think from looking in as you stand outside. You can start with the amazingly plump samosas (you can tell a lot about an Indian restaurant by how seriously they take their samosas), then move on to a bowl of  the dahl, richly satisfying without being hot, which is based on yellow split peas with plenty of mustard seeds and coriander. Then you might incline towards the Mysore masala dosa, which comes with sambal, coconut mix, chutney, and…cutlery; I’m not sure whether the necessarily awkward use of knife and fork on a dish designed to be eaten with fingers is a good idea, but the product is fine. The same sambal and chutney appear as accompaniments to the uthpappam, a kind of spicy lentil pancake. If you find that deciding what to order is beyond you, there’s always the daily special, which offers a wide variety of dishes served on a metal tray, although as it inevitably includes dairy desserts vegatarians will appreaciate it more fully than vegans.  Behind the modest appearance of the Ravi Shankar there lurks a very serious restaurant.

Ravi Shankar on Urbanspoon

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