Topolski Café-Bar – South Bank

In the railway arches by Waterloo station, Topolski gallery-café-bar-venue (a part of the Southbank Centre estate) serves ‘East meets West’ Lebanese flatbread pizza, sharing platters, and a good range of cocktails and drinks (with a 2-for-1 offer on selected drinks between 6-7pm, Mon-Sat).

As you might expect, the interior has an industrial feel (great look, poor acoustics) and – being Feliks Topolski‘s former studio – the walls are covered in his paintings.

 

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Topolski interior, Hungerford Arches
 

During the day (10am-5pm) you can relax in this airy café-bar (maybe after experiencing a cultural event on the South Bank) and choose from pastries, light bites, sandwiches and soups and pizza. Then, from 5pm, only pizza and sharing platters are served. It’s £6.50 for a margherita pizza and £1.25 for each topping (so £9.00 total if you choose two toppings).

 
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Parma ham and mushroom pizza @ £9.00
 

On our visit last night, after seeing Circus Geeks: Beta Testing at the Udderbelly festival, I ordered a mushroom and parma ham pizza, while L had artichoke and ham.

We ordered at the bar (no table service). Our order included a bottle of prosecco @ £29.00. And food arrived quickly. It was quick and easy, and there seemed to be a fairly rapid turnaround on tables, making this is an ideal place to come to for impromptu dining after a South Bank event (as restaurants around here are often booked up, making it a challenge for walk-ins).

The freshly baked flatbread base was udderly (doh) thin and gorgeous – a really good pizza. A slight downside was the noise: with loud music playing and a lack of soft furnishings in these exposed wall arches, it was quite hard to hear each other talk (so not the most ideal place if you want to have a good catchup).

 

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Parma ham + artichoke pizza
 

The verdict: Spacious venue. Fast (but decent) food. Handy for South Bank events.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Pizza, international
~ Address: 150-152 Hungerford Arches, Waterloo, London
~ Postcode: SE1 8XU
~ Nearest station: Waterloo
~ Website + menus: Topolski website + South Bank Centre website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Topolski food
~ Location: Topolski map

 

Click to add a blog post for Topolski on Zomato

 

Dalila – Lebanese in Battersea

Any restaurant that opens next door to Santa Maria del Sur on Queenstown Road, Battersea, is going to have fierce competition.

It may not be surprising then, that Dalila’s predecessor, Tom Ilic – a French-style restaurant that looked like a carnivore’s dream – only lasted a couple of years. Disappointingly for me, it closed before making it to the top of my ‘to try’ list. Dalila, a classy Lebanese restaurant opened in 2013 in the same spot.

J and I came here on a Friday evening recently. At the end of a working week in the City where everywhere’s overcrowded and hectic, it was pleasing to get out of central London and unwind over great food and wine in the serene, spacious restaurant that is Dalila.


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Fresh n crunchy falafel – divine


We ordered very leisurely. Our server gave us help with food and wine choices when asked. Nothing was rushed. We shared a ‘mezze’ selection of both hot and cold dishes, accompanied by a dry white Massaya Blanc wine from the Bekaa Valley @ £21.50 (very reasonably priced and very well suited to the food ordered – it went down very well).

I eat a fair amount of falafal. I love it. Some of the best I’ve had being from street food stalls. But Dalila’s falafel (deep fried beans, chickpeas and fine herbs croquettes, served with sesame paste @ £5.95) is in a league of its own. It is quite simply the best I’ve had, coated in coarse, crunchy crumb and stuffed with fresh herbs.

Just writing this makes me want to go back right now and eat some.


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Hummus + moutabel dips with Lebanese pitta bread


The super-soft, stringy, melt-in-your-mouth halloumi was in a league of its own too. No rubbery squeaking here that you often get with supermarket longer life halloumi packets. Though I must admit I quite like a cheese that squeaks.

The moutabel (grilled aubergine puree with sesame paste and lemon juice @ £4.95), hummus @ £4.75 and fresh pitta bread, plus calamari pane (squid dipped in a spicy flour mixture and fried with garlic, coriander and chilli @ £5.95) were all an absolute treat.


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Mixed mezze: halloumi, calamari so tender it melts in your mouth + samke harra fish


We also shared batata harra (potato cubes sautéed with garlic, sweet pepper, chilli, onions and fresh coriander @ £4.95), samke harra (grilled fish fillet with onions, garlic, tomatoes, green pepper, red pepper and coriander) @ £6.95 and – even though we were stuffed – managed to squeeze in five *tiny* baklawa pastries between us (filo pastry filled with ground nuts, baked and then drenched in honey) @ £3.95.


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Samke harra fish mezze


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Baklawa


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Total bill for two including a 10% service charge was £78.16


The verdict: Dalila might be off the beaten track (it’s a few minutes walk from both Queenstown Road or Battersea Park rail stations or a good 15 minute walk from Clapham Common tube station) but it’s well worth a visit. Some of the best middle eastern food I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to go back.

The a la carte menu is reasonably priced as it is but they also offer set menus. And if you go during off peak hours, they accept Tastecard (currently 2-for-1 for a max of two people) but check the website for latest offers.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Lebanese
~ Address: 123 Queenstown Road, Battersea, London
~ Postcode: SW8 3RH
~ Tel: 020 7622 0555
~ Nearest train stations: Queenstown Road, Battersea Park (or Clapham Common tube station)
~ Website + menus: Dalila’s website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Dalila’s food
~ Location: Dalila’s map


RELATED LINKS
More Battersea fine-dining:
~ Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak – *best* restaurant on Lavender Hill (Indonesian / SE Asian fusion)
~ Santa Maria del Sur


Dalila on Urbanspoon

Goulston Street food court

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Rain. Rain. Rain.

 

It may have rained all week but it’s Friday, it’s lunchtime and Goulston Street food court is just around the corner. So all is well. Among the international ‘street food’ stalls here in East London (near Petticoat Lane/Middlesex Street), there’s something for everyone. I’m gradually working my way around all the stalls (on different days, of course!) and haven’t been disappointed yet.

 

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Food stalls: Moroccan spiced fish, Lebanese falafel + Satay Bangkok

 

01. Lebanese falafel The first stall you come to, if approaching from Whitechapel High Street, is – I find – hard to resist. It’s worth stopping just to watch the happy chappies there assemble wraps at super-sonic speed. And they still find time to give you bits of deep fried falafel to munch, to keep you happy while you wait. It’s £3.00 for a medium size wrap which is stuffed full of falafel (of course), salad, pickles, humous, chilli sauce (if you want it) and even a few chips (a bit odd but again – only if you want it). This is a filling – and fairly well balanced – meal for me. It’s flavoursome, fresh, spicy and totally amazing.

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Falafel wrap – so dense it stands up on its own

 

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Sunny sometimes at Goulston Street Food Court – falafel making

 

02. Moroccan fish At the 3 habibis stall, a spicy fillet of fish is griddled fresh in front of you. Choose your selection of vegetables and either rice or a wrap to go with it. All for only £4.50. Just divine.

 

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Moroccan fish with rice + veg @ £4.50
 

03. Satay Bangkok The chicken in the chicken satay is so tender it’s as if it’s been slow cooked for hours (perhaps it has, in their industrial size woks?). Served with a smooth, peanutty sauce and a side salad at only £4.50 this is great value for such a tasty meal.

 

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Satay chicken – really tender, served with rice and side salad

 

04. Thai Tasty Takeaway
Choose from the suggested dishes pictured around the serving hatch (or you can go off-menu) and watch fresh ingredients being cooked to order right in front of you.

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Individually cooked Thai dishes served at Thai Tasty Takeaway

The spicy (eye-wateringly so) tofu Thai red curry is excellent value @ £4.50 and  contains sweet basil, red and green peppers, peas, bamboo shoots and mixed veggies (carrots, mange tout, cauliflower and/or broccoli) cooked in coconut milk. Excellent.

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Tofu Thai red curry @ £4.50

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Chicken green curry

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Yellow massaman curry

 

Other stalls include Japanese katsu, Beijing dim yum, Jordanian rice and meat dishes, and more. Very, very good – check it out.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: international
~ Address: Goulston Street, London
~ Postcode: E1
~ Nearest stations: Aldgate East, Aldgate
~ Photos on flickr: images of Goulston Street food court
~ Location: Goulston Street food court

 

RELATED LINKS
Nearby street food markets:
~ Goulston Street food court
~ KERB at Spitalfields
~ World Food Market at Devonshire Square

 

The First Fez

An evening out in Hammersmith doesn’t end as planned but a mezza meal at Fez more than makes up for it.


I’d got tickets to be part of the audience for last Wednesday’s recording of The Last Leg at Hammersmith Studios (the episode featuring Russell Brand). To make an evening of it, I wanted a good restaurant that was handy for the studios, that served middle-eastern food and so would have lots of vegetarian options.

Fez on Fulham Palace Road scores well enough on community review sites like TripAdvisor, is convenient for the recording studios, has a varied menu and is reasonably priced. My only concern was that, from photos on the web, it looks like a very basic cafe – and a bit of a dump – from outside. I took a gamble and booked a table a couple of hours before we needed to start queuing (as with all TV recordings, audience tickets are over-allocated to ensure the studio gets filled and you’re not guaranteed entry).


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Vegetarian mezza at Fez includes moussaka, moutabbel, falafel, fatayer


It’s fair to say that Fulham Palace Road (the A219) is a traffic-heavy road, right next to the seriously busy Hammersmith Flyover. Any grubby shop fronts can be excused to some extent, as it must be a real challenge keeping buildings pristine here.

And immediately inside Fez, we get a warm welcome from the waiter and are seated at a table for two in the middle-eastern styled room with cushioned seating skirting the walls, ornate light decorations and candles. On ordering a mezza to share, he quickly moves us to a larger table that can accommodate all of the plates.

There’s a good food menu (typical Middle-eastern fayre) and wine list (for example, a good dry white like a Lebanese Cave Kouroum or a French Picpoul de Pinet are less than £20 a bottle) and G and I home in on the vegetarian mezza at £21.95 for two.

The vegetarian mezza comprises:
~ Kallaj – halloumi cheese in pitta
~ Hoummus – dip made from chick-peas, tahini + lemon juice
~ Moutabbal – aubergine dip aka baba ghanoush
~ Tabouleh – salad of bulger, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint, etc
~ Moussaka – baked aubergine cooked with tomato + chick-peas
~ Moujadara – lentil + onion mix
~ Falafel – deep fried chick-pea patties
~ Fatayer – small spinach + cheese pastries aka börek

I’m not sure why we think that eight dishes may not be enough (ok, two are ‘just dips’) but we also order a Fattoush Salad (lettuce strips, tomato + cucumber chunks, peppers, sprinkled with fried pitta bread ‘croutons’ and lemon juice) @ £4.50.


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Mixed salad and desserts – chocolate cake and baklawa


This is a very satisfying banquet (each dish is carefully cooked and presented and nothing disappoints). Even so, G can’t resist a chocolate cake for dessert @ £4 (it’s slightly frozen in the middle and I wonder if it’s a Sara Lee frozen cake) and I do the decent thing and keep her company with baklawa @ £4 (it’s slightly dry, there’s no honey in sight).

The total bill for two, including food, drinks and a 10% tip, comes to £64.00.

It’s worth noting that Fez is currently in the Tastecard scheme (offering a 50% discount off food to Tastecard members; some restrictions apply).

With happy hearts and bellies, G and I leave Fez to queue for The Last Leg recording at Hammersmith Studios. Our good luck runs out and we’re turned away.

Ah well. I guess I’ll just have to try more of Fez’s menu when I do get into the studios next time…

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Fez – doesn’t look like much from outside


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Lebanese, Moroccan
~ Address: 32 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London
~ Postcode: W6 9PH
~ Tel: 020 8563 7176
~ Nearest station: Hammersmith
~ Menu: Fez take-away menu
~ Fez photos on flickr
~ Location: Fez in Hamersmith map


RELATED LINKS

More Middle-Eastern restaurants in London:
~ Azou – North African restaurant in Hammersmith
~ Meza – Lebanese restaurant in Tooting
~ Yalla Yalla – Lebanese restaurants in central London


Fez on Urbanspoon



		

	

Meza – cosy Lebanese by Tooting Bec

A teeny tiny Lebanese restaurant within spitting distance of Tooting Bec tube station, Meza can accommodate about 20 diners at a time and has the feel of being squished cosily into someone’s living room.

It’s intimate (an open kitchen takes up half the room), popular, and gets booked up quickly. It’s also cash only.

There’s a 1.5 hour turnaround time on tables (our table this evening was booked for 7.30pm and by 9pm we were being asked to leave, to accommodate another sitting). But service is fast and attentive (without feeling rushed) and it’s well worth booking ahead for.

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Falafel with garlic sauce

The menu is fairly short and sweet, and while you can choose a selection to share, we – at our server’s excellent suggestion – went for a mixed meze at £15 a head.

This included more than enough for six of us, of the following:
~ fresh pitta bread
~ hummus (normally £3.45 a portion)
~ moutabel (grilled aubergine, tahini + lemon juice and often called ‘baba ganoush’, normally @ £3.95)
~ tabbouleh (parsley, crushed wheat, olive oil dressing, normally @ £4)
~ wara einab (stuffed vine leaves, normally @ £3.75)
~ bemieh bil zeit (okra, tomato, coriander, normally @ £3.75 a portion)

~ falafel (normally @ £3.95)
~ grilled kallaj (haloumi bread, normally @ £3.95)
~ kibbeh (croquette stuffed with minced lamb, pine nuts, onion @ £4)
~ sambousek lahmeh (deep fried lamb and onion pastry parcels @ £3.95)
~ fatayer spinach (spinach, onion + pine nut pastry parcels normally @ £3.95)

~ soujouk (spicy sausagues @ £3.95)
~ mixed grill comprising chicken shish taouk, kafta meshwieh and lahem meshwieh
~ barley (?) with crispy fried caramelised onions

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Kibbeh

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Meat mixed grill

These freshly prepared dishes kept arriving at the table in a steady stream and all proved popular, particularly the moutabel (baba ganoush) stuffed vine leaves, and spicy sausages.

We shared two bottles of a very palatable house red wine (@ £12 a bottle) and, including a 10% tip, the total bill came to £22 a head. Excellent value for fresh, good food.


Home deliveries
As of summer 2013 deliveries are now available from Meza if you order through MyDeliveryCab at https://www.mydeliverycab.co.uk/Meza-Tooting


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Lebanese, Turkish, Middle Eastern
~ Address: 34 Trinity Road, London
~ Postcode: SW17 7RE
~ Tel: 07722 111299
~ Nearest station: Tooting Bec or Balham
~ Time Out review: Time Out’s review of Meza
~ Location: Meza map


Other nearby restaurants
~ Gurkha’s Diner


Square Meal


Meza on Urbanspoon



		

	

Al Hamra – Lebanese restaurant in Shepherd Market

Three of us (at work) decided to go out for lunch today. It was a last minute idea and – this close to Christmas – wasn’t surprising that most nearby restaurants in the Mayfair/Shepherd Market area were booked up.

Fortunately, we were able to reserve a table at Al Hamra, which turned out to be fairly quiet over lunchtime.


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Al Hamra in Shepherd Market


Al Hamra describes itself as “the finest Lebanese restaurant in London” (quite a superlative; quite a claim – we would see). Their menu has an un-customer-friendly warning that the minimum order is £20 per person excluding drinks, even at lunch time. And there’s a cover charge of £2.50 per person.

So, be warned – don’t come here if you’re after a light lunch in the region of £10 – £15, as you’d end up being charged £22.50 minimum (plus drinks and service) anyway.

The three of us shared a few dishes including:
~ Baba ganoush – smokey aubergine dip
~ Houmous and pitta – chickpeas + sesame seed dip
~ Olives
~ Grilled halloumi – Grilled Cypriot cheese
~ Falafel – ground chick peas, broad beans, etc rolled into balls + deep fried
~ Chicken wings
~ Foul Medames – mixed beans
~ Fatayer – pastry filled with spinach


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Meze at Al Hamra


The total lunch bill came to £102 (so £34 each). While the food here is good, it’s probably a bit over-priced.

I suspect we’ll stick with our regular lunchspot, Ye Grapes (Thai) – also in Shepherd Market – in future.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Lebanese, middle-eastern
~ Address: 31-33 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London
~ Postcode: W1J 7PT
~ Tel: 020 7493 1954
~ Nearest tube station: Green Park
~ Website: Al Hamra website
~ Location: Al Hamra map


MORE LINKS

Nearby dining:

~ Ye Grapes – good Thai food in Shepherd Market


Al Hamra on Urbanspoon



		

	

Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge

Our visit last night to the Knightstbridge branch of Mamounia Lounge started off well. It was a surprisingly warm evening and the restaurant front was wide open, on to the street, with many guests sitting outside enjoying a shisha pipe.

Inside, the decor is stylish Arabic – all very appealing and comfortable. The restaurant wasn’t particularly busy but service degenerated from slow to terrible (the second bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano Castellani – a white wine @ £24.00 a bottle – was served warm, with barely an apology that they’d run out of chilled bottles of this particular wine, and no suggestion of a chilled alternative).

For starters, our party had a selection of briouat (deep fried filo pastry cases filled with cheese and potato, lamb, chicken + vegetables) @ £6.50, a chicken pastilla (chicken baked in a thin pastry with almond + cinnamon) @ £8.00, a fish pastilla @ £6.50 and a kallaje (cheese with bread) @ £6.50.

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Kallaje starter – not particularly exciting

For mains, two of us had a mixed grill and two had a lamb tagine. The tagines were excellent and seem to be the house speciality, while the mixed grill was good but some of the meat was very tough and chewy.

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Lamb tagine – beautifully prepared and extremely tasty with varied, deep flavours

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Mixed grill

We finished with a mint tea (probably the best mint tea I’ve had) which was served quite ceremoniously in Arabic glassware from a large pot, and a selection of baklawa @ £7.50 which was also very good, perfectly moist and honeyed.

I’m glad I’ve tried this restaurant but I won’t rush back. It has a nice feel and the food’s not bad but service is a let-down.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Lebanese, Moroccan
~ Address: 136 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London
~ Postcode: SW3 1HY
~ Tel: 020 7581 7777
~ Nearest tube stations: Knightsbridge, South Kensington
~ Website: Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge website
~ Location: Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge map

Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge on Urbanspoon