Tag Archives: restaurant

Restaurants that don’t know chutney from cheese

When you go to a restaurant that says it is Indian, or Chinese, or Thai, you expect the staff and management to have some knowledge of the cuisine they are selling, but I end up being disappointed by restaurants – in Brazil and in Europe – so often  that I thought I would post a rant.

I was actually kicked out of an Italian restaurant in Spain (Santander) last August. I had complained that the food was terrible and sent back my starter, only to then find that my wife had an inedible starter *and* main course – at least my main course was OK. When we talked to the manager about it, he took great offence when we asked if he – or any of his staff – were Italian. When we asked further about which type of Italian food they were even attempting to cook, the manager got angry and said he was cooking Italian food Spanish-style for the locals.

He then booted us out. We had not eaten much, but had managed to consume a free bottle of wine so it was not a bad deal.

Today I went to an Indian restaurant in São Paulo and it felt the same. I ordered the combo meal in the vegetarian section of the menu, expecting some kind of veggie curry, only to get lettuce leaves with chunks of Minas cheese.

This was more of a fast food Indian restaurant, than a high class place, but I have tried several higher budget places in São Paulo and none of them serve anything that is at all authentic. One place I went to claims how they pride themselves on their Maharashtran cuisine, when everything remotely Indian on the menu looks more like north Indian food – and they even had things like pasta on the menu too.

I know that British restaurants are not perfect either. The bog-standard small-town Indian full of Friday night drinkers is usually run by Bangladeshis with dishes that originated in Birmingham rather than Bombay. But visit London and it is possible to easily find very good and authentic Indian food – especially around Southall (Punjabi, Gujurati) or Harrow (Tamil).

I know restaurants often modify food to suit local palates, but why don’t they offer a blend of the authentic and the modified, rather than trying to pass off nonsense dishes as “authentically Indian.”

I actually feel cheated. I go to a “good” restaurant hoping to learn something from the chef and management, not to find that I know an immeasurable amount more about the food than them.

I sent an email to the restaurant I was just at, asking exactly which part of India serves cheese from Minas Gerais on top of lettuce… if they answer, I’ll post it as a comment here…

Hot Stuff

Santa Maria pizza: “best pizza in London”

I was really pleased to see this review of the Santa Maria pizza restaurant in Ealing in the April 14 edition of Time Out magazine.

I had just walked past the restaurant the other day and Pasquale came out to say that he was short-listed in a Time Out survey of Italian restaurants. He was telling everyone that they may possibly be listed as the best pizza restaurant in west London. I was only walking past the restaurant and he came over to tell me this. I’ve only eaten there three times, but already it feels like I’m a regular… it’s new though, just a few months old, so he must have noticed a few people developing into ‘regulars’.
Santa Maria, Ealing

But the Time Out review goes much further, giving the restaurant 5 stars for food and listing it at the top of all their pizza restaurant reviews for London. And it’s listed as the best pizza place in London whilst also being listed in the ‘budget’ category for price!

Congratulations to the guys at Santa Maria. I loved the food there when I tried it and I know I will be returning more often – if I can get a table.

Oh, and if you want to know how to find it, use the 65 bus. The bus goes north from South Ealing station or south from Ealing Broadway – the 65 runs right past the restaurant, and it’s next door to the Red Lion pub. Well worth a visit for their collection of ‘Ealing Comedy’ posters and photos (the pub and restaurant are directly opposite Ealing Studios), and the Fuller’s beer.
Best pizza in London

This is customer service. Landlords take note…

A couple of weeks ago I went to a local pub in Ealing, The Rose and Crown, for dinner.

I was with my girlfriend, and she had a rough time with the dinner – she really thought it had not been cooked all that well… as far as I remember, it was some very overcooked pasta. But we ate what we could and shrugged as you typically do when pub food is a bit dodgy. Then, just as we were leaving, the boss Tom said hello and how was the food etc… she let him know that it’s usually fine, but tonight was really bad and she was disappointed.

He offered to give us a free meal the next time we were in there eating dinner. I pretty much forgot about this when I called in last weekend for dinner, but when I saw Tom, he actually reminded me about his promise. I had a tab running with dinner and a few drinks on it. When I went to pay the tab – assuming something like the main courses might have been free – I found the entire tab had been cleared! Even the drinks…

It’s the kind of gesture you think that pubs and restaurants really should do when they let you down, but it rarely happens, so thanks for that Tom – and dinner this weekend was great. No complaints this time!

Secret and underground in Kilburn

I went to an underground restaurant on Saturday night… the place in Kilburn (The Underground Restaurant) run by Ms Marmite Lover.

I have to say, I was bit surprised to find myself photographed and on her blog here. Nobody asked me for permission to be photographed eating my dinner and then having the photo published somewhere. What’s that all about anyway?

I took a photo of one dish, the wild asparagus, here.

I’ve never been to any of the underground restaurants in London before, and there is quite a scene developing, but from my first experience I’m inclined to feel that there is a lot of hyperbole associated with the “movement”. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time – a couple of decades – so I’ve tried veggie food all over the world. Therefore I had some high expectations of a secret restaurant in London serving veggie food, especially after glancing at the blog and reading about the extreme levels of preparation that go into each dish. According to the blog, it took 9 hours to prepare the aubergine.

But, I was just disappointed with the whole experience. The food might have taken a lot of time and effort to prepare, but it didn’t interest me much, let alone excite me. I can get something more exciting at the Soho Hare Krishna temple. Then there was the secret and underground nature of the dining experience. Before dining we were warned that if the police busted the place for being an illegal restaurant then we should all pretend to be at a private birthday party – one girl was singled out for it to be “her” birthday. That none of us even knew her name didn’t seem to concern anyone – even the trigger-happy Metropolitan police are not that stupid!

It did seem that most people at the restaurant were treating it as a social experience – it wasn’t like a normal restaurant. You were expected to socialise with fellow dinners because of the shared “secret” experience. Yet when I looked around the place and listened to some of the conversations going on I just thought I had been dropped into a convention of estate agents or actors… plenty of preening and posing going on and indulgence in the supposedly naughty underground experience. I’m afraid I just yawned and watched as people filed outside to smoke their fags – more than half the room were smoking, which possibly says something about the crowd?

So will I continue pursuing more underground experiences? Maybe, but I won’t bother returning to that one.