Flavours by Kumar

I have been eating regularly at Flavours by Kumar for months now and just realized that although it is included it in the No Expert – Where to Eat and Drink in Ramsgate Guide it does not have a more in-depth review in its own right; which it most definitely merits.

The restaurant is tucked away in a side street in Ramsgate (2 Effingham Street). It is in a converted pub that still looks like a pub when you enter, but don’t judge this place by the decor, this is not your average Indian Restaurant. The owner and Head Chef, is Anil Kumar, he is the former Head Chef of the acclaimed Ambrette Restaurant in Margate. He also worked at The Cinnamon Club in London, and in restaurants in Dubai, Jordan and India.

We go for the set lunch which is amazing value. You start with a welcome drink usually a mango juice concoction. Then a small amuse bouche, which is a mouthful of deliciousness. They have a nice selection of starters, the Masala Dosa is a work of Art, and I highly recommend the Squid dish.  Next there is a small complimentary cup of spicy soup. There is also a good few main courses to choose from. We have tried several of them, the highlight for me is the Goan Fish Curry, it is served with rice and warm freshly made naan bread.

The service is good and there is a small selection of  wine.

The restaurant is well regarded, it won a Tiffin Cup award to find the UKs best South Asian Restaurant and has been favourably covered in the national press, see Guardian article which described the food at Flavours by Kumar as some of the tastiest Indian Food in the South East of England and they are so right. If you are in the area, this is a treat not to be missed.

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The Ambrette – Margate : Kent Restaurant of the Year 2013

We booked Sunday lunch at The Ambrette in Margate. It won Restaurant of the Year in 2013 in the Taste of Kent awards and was just pipped to the post in this years awards by Rocksalt in Folkstone.

I have never been much of a fan of Margate, but I have to say it is starting to grow on me, helped very much by its burgeoning food scene. We decided to explore Margate before lunch, there was actually quite a lot to see, we managed to fit in a visit to the monthy Cliftonville farmers market, a brief trip to the Turner Contemporary Gallery and wandered around the old town which has lots of interesting shops, cafes and architecture. Margate has really embraced the art scene and there are retro shops everywhere.

The Ambrette is in the old town, just round the corner from the stunning Tudor House. The Ambrette has quite the reputation. Dev Biswal is famous for his spicing and is planning to open 4 more restaurants in Kent, which is very good news indeed. The hype is definitely justified, this is somewhere you feel you could order anything from the menu and not be disappointed. I have been to quite a few high end Indian restaurants and when it comes to food and service The Ambrette can hold its own. The room and ambience is less inviting, OK there is no flock wallpaper but instead the tables and decor would not be out of place in a bland Italian restaurant. This place is special however and it really would not take much to elevate it.

We had a delicious amuse bouche where my only complaint was that it was served on a cocktail stick rather than having a small spoon which would have ensured that I got every drop of the beautiful sauce off the plate.

We started with the Crab and beetroot cake, locally grown sea purslane  and Crab riata and the Dosai with gently spiced potatoes, mustard and onions and Coconut chutney. The flavour of the crab and potatoes were both enhanced by the accompaniments and spicing. We were then presented with tiny tasting cups containing a delicious broccoli and pepper soup.

For main course we ordered the Kentish Mutton and pearl barley biryani, served with Masala potatoes, Kashmiri style sauce of cinnamon and saffron and the Claresse (fresh water catfish) with locally grown sea beet, served with kedgeree, sauce of coconut, ginger and mustard, again beautifully judged.

Dessert was also a triumph. Chocolate Samosas are a match made in heaven, and the delicate rose flavoured vanilla crème brulee was perfect.

Matching wines with Indian food can be difficult but not so here as the spicing does not kill your taste buds. Our bottle of Chablis was not lost, its fruity flavour complimented all the dishes.

We enjoyed this meal so much we have already booked our table for an event they are holding in May called The Ambrette Tapas Experiment which should be fun and will give us the chance to taste even more of their food.

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Chor Bizarre – eclectic Indian cuisine

Our visit to Chor Bizarre in Mayfair was by invitation, and we were totally spoilt.  Having the opportunity to try several of the dishes on the rather eclectic menu, which covers feasts like the famous Kashmiri Wazwam, South Indian Tiffin, the quintessential Indian street food Chaat, along with other well known Indian dishes.  I am going to have to use the word eclectic a lot as that very much sums up Chor Bizarre. The decor is both stylish and eclectic (and some of it is even for sale). The  food is equally eclectic covering several Indian regions, we ordered a fairly mixed range of dishes.  Sambar, Gazab ka tikka, a lovely mild dish with very moist chicken marinated in cheese and cream that is also served in Chor Bizarre’s New Delhi branch.  Dakshni crab cakes, light and as spicy as advertised, Lamb Rogan Josh, Pepper Scallops, Baghara Baingan and Palak Makkai a rather delicious spinach dish.

The restaurant has an extensive wine list which they are happy to match to your food, something I always struggle with in Indian restaurants.  For a useful guide on pairing see Charles Metcalfe’s Chor Bizarre Wine and Food matches. We had a nice bottle of Castillo de Clavijo Rioja Crianza, which only really worked with the milder dishes.

I very much wanted to try their Tandoori pineapple dessert, but alas after our feast I had no room, I just managed to fit in some mango sorbet and a nice glass of dessert wine.

Chor Bizarre which translates as Thieves Market has a nice relaxing buzz to it, on our visit it comfortably handled groups, couples and single dinners.

I have indulged at top London Indian restaurants like Benares and The Cinnamon Club, and dined at numerous less expensive establishments. My favorites include places like Dockmasters HouseCafe Spice Namaste and The Mint Leaf, and now I can happily add Chor Bizarre to that number.

Chor Bizarre is managed by Old World Hospitality.  They have several restaurants in London including one of my favorites Tamarai in Drury Lane.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 6.5

Ambience 6.3

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Square Meal

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Mint Leaf – deal or no deal?

I really like the Mint Leaf, but it can be expensive for what it is (a mid range Modern Indian restaurant).  Fortunately Top table regularly offer 50% discounts on the food, covering a subset of the menu.  I did notice however on this visit that the size of the menu had shrunk for the toptable deal, which is a shame.

The food is first rate, we were especially impressed by the delicious Chicken Tikka, the sauce was amazing.

The dessert selection is also good, I especially like the way they recommend matching wines or liqueurs.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 6.7

Ambience 6

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Mint Leaf – pose on the cat walk!

You will find the Mint Leaf just off Haymarket in Piccadilly, it’s an ideal pre-theatre location.

The entrance is a bit off putting, but once you get in, there is a smart bar and very “Modern Indian” Restaurant. The food is off a high standard and designed for sharing. I would recommend you order maybe 6 or 7 of the smaller dishes to share between 2. This being subject to appetite and wallet!. This approach can get expensive, so I would look out for one of the toptable deals that offer  a 50% discount, they come up quite often for the Mint Leaf.  Some nice wines too – no discount on them unfortunately.

There is also what I can only describe as a Cat Walk in the main dinning room, so I guess you could “pose” here too.  The restaurant has 1 AA Rosette, which it certainly merits.

 

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Dockmasters House – pre cinema treat

Dockmasters House looks very out of place now in the Docklands, surrounded by warehouse style buildings and opposite a multiplex cinema. It is such a stunning building, both inside and out. The modern Indian food is top notch,  they do a pre theatre menu that is ideal if you want to splash out on something a bit special before hitting West India Quay Cineworld, which  is now my cinema of choice for several reasons:-

1 – it’s a modern cinema complex with a good sound system

2 – it’s cheaper than central London

3 – central London cinemas do not have Dockmasters House next door.

Marks out of 10 for Dockmasters House

Food 6.5

Service 6.5

Ambience 7

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Benares – the return!

It is always interesting doing return visits.  My first visit to Atul Kochhars flag ship London Restaurant Benares was well over a year ago on a Friday evening.

We went for the tasting menu and were blown away by the glorious food and the subtle wine combinations. We’d been to the Cinnamon Club and our experience there with Indian Food Wine matching was scary – give the customer lots of really strong red wine, being the basic philosophy I think. Not so at Benares. Indeed the meal was close to perfect, let down only by the meat course which was fine, but not that different from the sort off food you can get at a good curry house. Ironically our dinning neighbours had the opposite reaction “finally something we recognise” they said. So I guess you can not please everyone!.

Marks of 10

Food 8

Service 8

Ambience 7

Now comes the second visit, it was like going to a different Restaurant. This time I went with friends who were experiencing the restaurant for the first time, it was for Sunday Lunch, on a weekend where Atul was not in the kitchen.  One of my companions had to send her Lamb back, and when it returned (much too quickly) it was still not as ordered. We also had to redirect the waiter to a nearby table that had been trying to get his attention for ages.

Marks out of 10

Food 4

Service 4

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Update : October 2009 – The Restaurant is currently closed for refurbishment.

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The Cinnamon Club – Spicing it up

The Cinnamon Club is probably the most famous high end Indian restaurant in London.  It’s located in a lovely building and has two bars, one in the Library that is cosy and a more flamboyant one in the basement.

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Service was a bit lax initially, but it improved after we ordered. We went for a menu with matching wines, which was not very successful. Benares handles matching wines to Indian cuisine much better. The wines at Benares complimented the flavours of the very subtle Indian food. The Cinnamon Clubs Wine matches were competing too much with the flavour, all of them were really heavy and full bodied. I found the whole experience exhausting.

Some friends who visited The Cinnamon Club a few days before us, had issues with not being allowed to transfer the bar bill to the restaurant bill, which was inconvenient as the bar was busy and they ended up having to wait 15 minutes for it.

The restaurant has 2 AA Rosettes, which sounds about right.

Marks out of 10

Food  6

Service 5

Ambience 6.8

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