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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The Wine Show and Masterchef Live 2010

Made good use of a friends free ticket to  The Wine Show and Master Chef Live, bumped into several people I knew, which was nice. Surprisingly sociable for such a huge event.

I spent the bulk of my time at The Wine Show, as the Master Chef Live stands on the whole were very busy.

The event was not restricted to  just wine, as delicatessens such as Gastronomic were there, along with  chocolatiers such as Chocolate and Love.  There was also the rather amusing Mad Cow Fudge company, selling fudge “Made by cows from Yorkshire who like their Huddersfield”. Their Christmas Pudding fudge is a real winner.

On the wine front we tried several very good wines.  Wines of Chile for example had successfully matched their wines with some delicious Benares curries.  I also had an interesting chat with Mark Hellyar of Chateau Civrac on popularising wines from the Bordeaux region, and sampled a couple of  their  full bodied wines.  Chateau Civrac supply wines to several restaurants including Benares. I then moved on to the next stand Cantina Cirotto to try their rather lovely Prosecco. We also had a short presentation on what makes a good dessert wine from Tastour and enjoyed a nice glass of German Eiswein.

The highlight however had to be the Coutts Private Cellar, where Tim Atkin gave his presentation and several high end wine merchants provided samples of their wares. My personal favorite was the Cascina Bongiovanni Barola Pernanne 2004 from Colasanti (£71.50 RPR) . The  food plates from British Fine Foods were a perfect accompaniment – I know where I am ordering my Christmas goodies from.

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Foodies Festival @ Hampton Court

Spent most of bank holiday Sunday at the Foodies Festival in Hampton Court.  They are set up at  different locations throughout the year.  There is going to be one in Edinburgh for example during the Edinburgh Festival in August. Foodies focuses on seasonal food and drink, specialty and local produce and local restaurant talent.

The weather was good, always a real bonus at this type of event. The show itself is not as big or as well attended as Taste, but I have to admit I prefer this one. Very few queues,  space to see what you want to see, easy access to tables and chairs.

We attended several sessions at the Chefs Theatre, including  the one from Gary Lee of The Ivy, who made a real point of stating that he was not a celebrity chef.  The highlight here though, had to be Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi of Caffe Caldesi. Katie had been on Saturday Kitchen the previous day and there was some hilarity as she compared cooking with James Martin to cooking with her husband. The BBC missed a trick not having them both on together. They are a great double act.

There were unfortunately not too many top restaurant stands.  Benares was the most high profile one. However there were some very good small stands.  They included Lauden, one of my favorite chocolatiers, Doughmasters who made lovely club sandwiches using bread that was baked while you wait (not something you see often) and a stand selling Whoopie Pies – the trend following on from Cup Cakes,  I had a maple syrup one, delicious.

On the drinks front, Joe Wadsack at the Cordorniu wine presentation was very good. He is a real raconteur. The El Dorado Rum tasting was fun and the champagne supplied by Eminent Wines (pictured), much to my surprise, really cut through a spicy Jamaican Pattie I had just eaten. So yes maybe good Champagne does go with everything.

Will definitely try and do this event again next year.

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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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