Xquisite Caribbean restaurant – Tulse Hill SE27

Completing LardButty’s A to Z of restaurant reviews with the letter X at Xquisite, West Norwood (SE27)

The LardButty Index (A to Z) has been complete for a long time, with the exception of the letter X. A review of a restaurant beginning with X is long overdue but they’re few and far between. And so – with some enthusiastic nudging from H – we arranged an outing to Xquisite, a Caribbean restaurant just off the South Circular next to Tulse Hill train station.

I made the reservation through Open Table whose listing is appealing enough, in contrast with the Xquisite website (2015) where the food gallery is not enticing. But the website says that the restaurant is under new management and that the website will be improved soon. So we decided to visit and find out for ourselves.

 

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Hurricane cocktail – light rum, dark rum, passion juice, lime, sugar gum grenadine @ £6.50 (2-for-1 in happy hour)

 

Arriving at 7pm tonight, a Friday evening, I’m the first customer dining in although there are a few collecting take-aways. The restaurant is nicely lit with interesting art work (immediately appealing) and staff greet me promptly and are friendly and helpful. It’s happy hour until 8pm (2 for 1 on cocktails) so we start with a hurricane (light rum, dark rum, passion juice, lime, sugar gum grenadine). With island tunes playing from the DJ booth, I’m transported to being away on holiday. And that’s a nice way to end the working week.

 

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Inside Xquisite

 

We share starters:
The hot pepper sauce on the prawns is gorgeous and spicy (even if it does mean licking the prawn shells and faces before peeling!) and the dumplings are like a dense Yorkshire pudding.

 

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Spicy saucy pepper prawns – starter @ £5.00

 

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Triple mix stuffed dumplings – stuffed with ackee + saltfish, cabbage, callaloo + saltfish @ £5.50

 

For main course, we share curry goat – slow cooked, really tender if full of the bones that the meat has fallen off, in a Jamaican curry sauce (lovely flavours but overly salty) with rice and kidney beans @ £9.00, jerk pork – tender pork in a sticky sauce @ £13.00 (really good but also overly salty) and sweet potato sticks @ £3.50 (perfect).

 

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Curry goat – tender chunks of meat in a Jamaican curry sauce @ £9.00

 

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Jerk pork – seasoned, marinated and jerked pork @ £13.00

 

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Sweet potato sticks – side portion @ £3.50

 

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Sample menu – as of Nov 2015

 

On the wine list there are two prosecco options: a ‘prosecco wine’ @ £20.00 and a ‘prosecco sparkling wine’ @ £30.00. They are both sparkling proseccos, the difference being one is a screw-cap bottle, the other is corked like champagne. We went for the screw-cap. We while away a leisurely 3.5 hours here, during which time the restaurant fills up with other customers including a party who are celebrating with a special buffet.

The verdict: Formal Caribbean restaurants serving high-end quality food don’t seem to be that common in London; this is one of them. Good food, reasonably priced. The experience of feeling transported away on holiday was pretty special too. If Xquisite was in my neighbourhood, I’d go back.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Caribbean
~ Address: 7a Station Rise, London
~ Postcode: SE27 9BW
~ Nearest station: Tulse Hill, West Dulwich, West Norwood
~ Website + menus: Xquisite website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Xquisite food
~ Location: Xquisite map

 

Xquisite Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asia de Cuba at St Martin’s Lane Hotel

Hearing people rave about Asia de Cuba had given me high expectations. We finally went this week to celebrate my birthday. It didn’t live up to the eulogising.

It would be easy to walk straight past, if you didn’t know that Asia de Cuba was inside the inconspicuously sign-posted St Martin’s Lane Hotel (a grey block).

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Unsigned hotel + restaurant from St Martin’s Lane

You go through the soulless hotel reception to get to Asia de Cuba at the back. If you can get over the hotelish, impersonal atmosphere you might like the cylindrical towers positioned throughout the restaurant, covered in book shelves and pictures that add an element of style and homeliness.

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We had a couple of rum cocktails while we read the menu, one served creatively in a chunky jar.

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Rum cocktails

Concentrating on design and style Asia de Cuba seems to be attempting to be swanky, and while the wooden chairs may match the book shelves they’re extremely uncomfortable to sit in.

The pre-theatre prix fixe menu is currently £27.00 for three courses (check the website for various menus including the a la carte dinner menu).

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Sample prix fixe menu

For appetizers K had crab coquetas: jicama (a root vegetable that looks like a turnip), mango and mirin infused slaw with roasted red pepper rémoulade (or, as LardButty might’ve described it: a bite-size sample of deep-fried crab in breadcrumbs on a whisper of shredded fruit/veg – if you’d like more than a quarter of a plate of food, don’t order this) and I had calamari salad Asia de Cuba: crispy calamari, chayote, hearts of palm, banana (??) cashews, chicory and radicchio with sesame orange dressing (an unusual mix of flavours, particularly banana which didn’t go) served in oddly sized portions (K’s was tiny and he wanted more, while mine was generous and I was full after the starter).

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Crab croquetas appetizer

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Calamari salad Asia de Cuba

For entrées K had seared tuna and I had Cuban BBQ chicken (slightly dry, bland and disappointing), with a side order of wok sautéed Asian and Caribbean vegetables (all distinctly average, dishes weren’t quite as exciting to eat as they were to read on the menu. And bear in mind that the prix fixe ‘deal’ only includes a component of the main course; you have to order veg and any accompaniments as separate side orders). The tuna was more of a side dish portion than a main course so K still had an appetite – on the plus side we had enough room for desserts.

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BBQ chicken, seared tuna and sautéed vegetables

Neither of us have an especially sweet tooth and don’t often eat dessert but thoroughly enjoyed this break from normality. K had Cuban Opera (rich chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate butter cream, coffee mousse and coffee brittle ice cream) while I had Coconut Invasion (coconut, white chocolate grenache and rum flavoured banana layer cake with dulce de leche ice cream).

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Cuban Opera

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Coconut Invasion

Asia de Cuba had been on my (mental) list of restaurants to try for years. Tick. It’s more about style than substance. I won’t hurry back.

After so many recommendations for this place and for so long, I can only assume I missed the party.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Asian fusion
~ Address: St Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martins Lane, London
~ Postcode: WC2N 4HX
~ Tel: 020 7300 5588
~ Nearest station: Leicester Square
~ Website: St Martin’s Lane Hotel website – has details of Asia de Cuba restaurant
~ Location: Hotel + Asia de Cuba restaurant map

Asia de Cuba on Urbanspoon