wine & dine
Summer eats at Kutir
TRACY BORMAN is wowed by the chic Chelsea Indian's unique take on traditional dishes
The words ‘hidden gem’ have been used so much that they have become a cliché. But there is no better way to describe this exquisite Indian restaurant, tucked away in a quiet side-street close to Sloane Square and the bustling King’s Road. Set in an elegant town house with a sign so discreet that it feels as if you are visiting a (very rich) friend, Kutir has an atmosphere of serenity, enhanced by the perfectly harmonious decor. If the intention is to clear the mind in preparation for the sensory feast to come, then it works a treat. The delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen had our tastebuds tingling before we had even opened the menus.
We opted for the set lunch menu, which changes with the seasons. At £25 for three courses, plus an appetiser and petit fours, it is excellent value. It was summer when we visited, and the menu made the most of the season, with a choice of a light and fruity strawberry gin cocktail or a deliciously creamy mango lassi to begin, and plenty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables evident in each course – from aromatic mint to plump vine tomatoes. My starter of salmon mooli with dill raita was unctuous and aromatic – one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. My partner was in no fewer raptures over his starter of tandoori chicken chops with lentils, garlic pickle and salad. The main course offers a similar choice of vegetarian, meat or fish. The jackfruit with sautéed kale, dumplings and vine tomatoes was divinely delicate, and there was nothing ordinary about that staple of Indian restaurants: chicken tikka masala, here served with fenugreek, tomato and Kashmiri chilli. Both came with sides of tadka dal and rice or naan bread.
The portion size was just right, allowing enough room for dessert – not something that can be said about the average Indian meal. The mango cassata with cranberry, pistachio and caramelised rose was light and refreshing, but the star of the dessert show was the malpua-rabri, a saffron-infused custard with pancake and fresh berries.
Kutir is a perfect haven for flagging shoppers, but it is also a destination in its own right. Those lucky enough to live nearby owe it to themselves to work their way through the entire menu. Although it is not exactly on my doorstep, I consider the hour-long journey less a chore than a pilgrimage. And the fact that the menu changes with the seasons gives me the perfect excuse to return.
Chic-ken at Cocotte
So, the concept is simple: chicken – served whole, half or quarter – with a range of different
sides. Sound familiar? If you’re thinking of a certain well-known high street chain that
starts with ‘N’ and ends with peri peri sauce, then think again. Cocotte is about as far from
that as Claude Monet is from painting by numbers.
For a start, it’s French – genuinely so. The chickens (all free-range) are sourced from the
Pays de la Loire; the sides and other dishes have an unmistakable French feel, with truffles
being a particularly prominent ingredient; and the
Tracy Borman discovers a French eatery that plans to truffle a few feathers (and chips, mash and more) with its elevated take on the humble fowl.
wine list is as ‘beautifully curated’ as the website claims. The décor is also reminiscent of an unpretentious but excellent bistro, with
tables and items from the menu picked out in gold lettering on the windows.
My husband and I visited the Parson’s Green restaurant, but there are also branches in Notting Hill, Shoreditch and Queen’s Park. Because of restrictions, it was outdoor dining only but the warm welcome from the friendly staff more than offset the distinctly chilly evening. We started with a glass of the crisp and perfectly chilled Picpoul de Pinet while perusing the menu. There was an enticing array of starters, sides and salads, as well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. We chose two varieties of croquettes (foie gras/mushroom and ham/cheese), both of which came with a perfectly matched dipping sauce and were absolutely divine – light, crisp and creamy.
It would have seemed rude not to go with chicken for the main, and from the extensive selection of accompanying sauces we went for tarragon and mustard and truffle mayonnaise. While this was all delicious, the star of the show were the sides: roasted root vegetables, truffle mash, ratatouille and sweet potato fries. OK, so we over-ordered slightly but everything was so tastebud-tinglingly good that hardly a crumb was left on our plates by
the end. My only regret is that we were unable to do justice to a dessert because they, too, promised great things.
Cocotte is open all day, so if you fancy treating yourself to breakfast or brunch, there is plenty of choice: from the traditional sausage and egg muffin to truffle croque monsieur or an array of sweet treats. The lunch menu is just as tempting, or if you’re in a hurry there’s a range of organic coffees to go.
I think it’s always a sign of a good restaurant when on the train home I’m already planning what to have next time. The train had only just pulled out of Parson’s Green station when I was busy pondering whether to go for breakfast, brunch, lunch...or all three.
Cocotte, 271 New Kings Road, London SW6 4RD
A Silk-Wrapped Sensation:
Cook at Home Meal Kit From CERU
Fine dining in your front room has been a rising trend during lockdown. EMILY WILLIAMS delves into the delights of CERU, South Kensington’s Levantine restaurant that delivers flavoursome, stylish and sustainable DIY meal kits to your door.
What was going to be just another Friday night in lockdown turned into something surprising and special thanks to CERU in South Kensington. By this point, I’d exhausted all options on Uber Eats and dried up dinner choices on Deliveroo. It was time to go back to the drawing board and find a unique and authentic meal that would transport me from the confines of the flat.
I virtually scrolled the streets of South Kensington on Google maps and the bright aquamarine awnings of CERU restaurant popped up on street view. It’s this captivating shade of blue that inspired the name of the restaurant and the Levantine cuisine that it serves. The cerulean colour represents the beauty of the East Mediterranean sea, which fringes the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan that make up the Levant region in the Middle East.
The word ‘levant’ originates from the French word ‘to rise’, as the sun rises in the east. It’s a historic and colourful part of the world with a kaleidoscope of flavours, aromas, and ancient cooking styles. CERU restaurant aims to encapsulate the sensorial experience of this rich agricultural region known as the ‘fertile crescent’, using fresh ingredients from top London markets, and bring it into the comfort of your home. The result? A flavour-filled package that’s bursting with Mediterranean sunshine.
I could tell from the moment my CERU delivery arrived that it was prepared and presented with care. On receipt of the large cardboard box, I stripped back the seal to unveil a cool bed of reusable frozen gel packs nestled around a vibrant parcel of ingredients wrapped in a bespoke silk scarf. As I carefully undid the knot and held up the luxurious fabric in front of me, the print revealed captivating clusters of raspberry coloured cows framed by a chic royal blue edging.
It was a thing of beauty, and before I had even turned to the ingredients, I started mentally pairing it with outfits in my wardrobe. What a brilliant idea - CERU has crafted stand-out sustainable packaging that combines its food concepts with a fashion accessory. With this stylish keepsake, the memory of the meal kit experience lives on beyond the final bite. Never mind haute couture, haute cuisine anyone?
At once, I’d donned the scarf around my neck and was beaming from ear to ear as I unpacked the ingredients and laid them out on the counter. Each vacuum-packed bioplastic slip was clearly labelled with allergen information and the Beef Fillet recipe card provided detailed instructions alongside a step by step video link condensed into a useful QR code.
I was impressed by how easy the instructions were to follow (the whole recipe only took 20 minutes in total), and how well adjusted they were to domestic kitchen conditions. All the ingredients were included and only familiar cooking equipment was required, such as an electric or gas hob, an oven with two shelves, a sharp knife for chopping, one bowl for tossing the cooked potatoes, two metal oven trays and a grill or frying pan.
As I cut open each ingredient package, I could smell and see the fresh quality of the ingredients, from the aromatic zing of the Zhug salsa to the lean tenderness of both beef fillets. For starters, homemade houmous and warm pitta were on the cards, a winning combination. Dipping the light and fluffy bread segments into melt-in-the-mouth garlicky creaminess set off the meal to a great start and it was only up from there.
Achieving a perfectly cooked medium rare beef fillet was far less daunting when the recipe specified minute by minute instructions. All it took was 1 minute 45 seconds in the frying pan on each side, followed by 8 and a half minutes in the oven to create that edge to edge pink interior and a seared outer casing. As I plated it over the artistic sweep of verdant Zhug salsa and sprinkled it with crushed hazelnuts, I was amazed at how professional the finished fillet looked. CERU has refined the minutiae of the menu so that customers can get it right every time.
The side dishes were another highlight in the overall composition. CERU provided lightly spiced pre-cooked potatoes that only needed 10 minutes in the oven to complete. Meanwhile, sauteeing the tender stem broccoli added a divine dose of green, topped with the contrast of velvety tahini. Tucking into the varied palate of textures and tastes, I felt completely transported and excited by the thought of visiting the Levant region in person.
CERU provides a gastronomic journey that fuses Levantine cooking methods, locally sourced British ingredients and a premium restaurant experience in a relaxed setting of your choice. Plus, thanks to their environmentally-conscious plush silk packaging, you can indulge in high-quality cuisine and embellish your wardrobe all in one go. CERU delivers a dine at home meal kit that goes the extra mile — it’s a flavoursome and fashionable silk-wrapped sensation.
To order your CERU cook at home meal kit, visit: www.cerurestaurants.com
SID RAGHAVA goes to Flora Indica in his endless pursuit of the finest in Indo-British gastronomy
Flora Indica is a book which came out in 1855. It was a comprehensive compendium of epic discoveries made by pioneering Scottish botanists in 19th century India. It is a fitting name especially since Flora Indica expertly combines the best of British innovation and India’s historical connection with beneficial use of herbs and plants such as those espoused through the ancient discipline/science of Ayurveda.
As you enter this rather stylish eatery at the corner of Old Brompton Road, you’ll be thrilled by the Victorian steampunk vibes that reverberate within the zinc, copper and brass touches. The food at Flora Indica is an accomplished collaboration of Indian heritage and quality British produce. It is modern and innovative whilst still staying true to classic flavours. There is even a house amber ale brewed locally in Kensington and Chelsea (W10) by Portobello Brewery to complement the wizardry of some rather leftfield small plates, at least by London standards, such as Baby Bitter Gourd and Delica Pumpkin Kadi (the latter being the original Indian pronunciation of curry or curry leaves – the word comes from it). There is also an interesting take on Indian street food with the fabulous Jerusalem Artichoke Papdi Chaat.
As you’d expect at a place with botanical connections, vegans can feel completely at home here with dishes such as the wonderfully balanced Sauteed Zucchini and Carrot laced with coconut, curry leaves and ginger chilli). For meat and game lovers, there is a Venison Biryani is to die for.
For those with a sweet tooth, the Warm Candy Beetroot Halwas served with Amarkhand (a clotted cream flavoured with mangoes) and seasonal berries tops off the thoroughly enjoyable fare at FI.
IAll in all, Flora Indica is a class act which delivers on ts wonderfully exquisite concept through immaculate execution and finishing and is indeed a triumph of Indo-British cuisine.
‘Flora Indica 242 Old Brompton Road, Earls Court, London, SW5 0DE www.flora-indica.com
Our pick of Easter treats
Our daily walks have taken a turn for the sunnier, clouds of daffs are raising their sunny heads and there's a cautious hopefulness in the air – yes, spring has sprung, and what better way to celebrate than with the most indulgent eggs and seasonal treats.
COTSWOLD LAMB EGG (£16 FROM DAYLESFORD)
Emblazoned with a whimsical illustration by artist Hugo Guinness of Daylesford's own rare native breed Cotswold lambs, this extremely tasteful (and tasty) egg has a lot of things going for it. Its cocoa comes from sustainable Colombian farms, it's been crafted by award-winning Welsh artisans, and it's made of creamy milk chocolate wrapped in a white chocolate shell. But overall it's an incredibly cute offering from the farm shop that never fails to delight.
A FLUFFLE OF BUNNIES NIBBLE BAG (£13.50 FROM ROCOCO)
We're long-time fans of Rococo's wildly flavoured bars and dangerously moreish caramels, and maybe the only thing that can improve on their already stellar output is crafting their chocolate into adorable bunny shapes. This bag is a great alternative for those who can't get through an egg in one sitting (although the bag probably won't last long. Plus, it's sustainably made and ethically sourced.
HAND-PAINTED CHICK EASTER EGG (£95 FROM FORTNUM & MASON)
Fortnum's Easter output is impressive this year, with chocolate- and hazelnut praline-filled dippy eggs made from real hollowed-out eggs, hazelnut-encrusted sweet Scotch egg, and Easter eggs with the daintiest of floral boutonnieres. But it's this adorable yet strikingly modern egg that caught our eye, with natural pigments deftly slicked on and a high cocoa content.
LARGE RABBIT EGG (£139 FROM PIERRE MARCOLINI)
Marcolini's Easter collection playfully riffs on an Easter-egg hunt with bunnies popping out from eggshells and more pralines than you can shake a cottontail at. We demolished his Little Pink Basket filled with chocolate goodies in under an hour, but if you want to linger on his silky smooth confections then indulge in this sweet-as-can-be egg, which comes with two drawers filled with praline eggs. A worthy investment, we assure you.
SALTED CARAMEL AND GANACHE DUCK EGGS (£6.50 FROM ARTISAN DU CHOCOLAT)
To get that sweet sweet sugar high, sometimes you gotta break some eggs, and these faux duck eggs, with their stylish eau de nil shell and gloriously creamy centre are the ones to get your teeth into. And, if you're looking for something more ostrich-sized, go for the caramelised white egg or dark-chocolate Tumaco egg.
EXTRA THICK ROCKY ROAD TO CARAMEL EASTER EGG (£29 FROM HOTEL CHOCOLAT)
Knobbly, built to endure and filled with cookie pieces – this beast from Hotel Chocolat is a thing of tooth-cracking beauty that will last well beyond Easter (clearly they anticipated this as it comes in a reusable tin). It's made with 40 per cent cocoa for maximum chocolatiness and is filled with pralines, caramels and those dessert chocolates you always eye up as you're waiting for a train. It's a challenge to demolish, but one you'll gladly accept.
Come to Como
KATE WEIR rediscovers the joys of fine Italian feasting with Como Garden's delivery service…
If you’re a fan of the zesty Latin American fare in Kensington’s Zuaya (indeed, we’ve covered it previously and could seriously do with one of their mezcal- and pisco-loaded cocktails right now) then it might excite you to know that Alberto and Arian Zandi, the Spanish twin brothers behind the venture, launched an Italian restaurant just next door late last year. Como Garden, as you can tell from the name, is inspired by Lombardy’s great lake and botanical beauty. The dining room resembles an extremely elegant planter, with trailing ivy clinging to the walls and even a fully grown tree buffered by cosy cream banquettes, plus a few Renaissance-inspired statuettes for a true holiday feel.
There’s just one teeny problem – you can’t see any of it – at least until Boris lowers the chequered flag on lockdown restrictions. But Como’s Italian pasta chef and dedicated team are soldiering through, turning to Deliveroo to get punters excited about their tapas-style plates and hearty mains, made using ingredients nonna would approve of from the motherland. And so, in a somewhat more modest dining room, we awaited a delivery that would, at least in spirit, whisk us away to the Med.
The restaurant recommended three dishes each, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule – with delights such as raviolo filled with gorgonzola and pear, and truffle and pecorino, and crowd-pleasing cacio e pepe and rich beef ragu, you may want to challenge your appetite. We shared the calamari with lemon aioli and steak tartare with sweet mustard – the former is a little diminished by the travel time and would be crisper dining in, but it was still succulent squid, the latter, while not pretty, had a generous helping of meat punched up by the sauce.
For seconds, the lasagna had a good ratio of meat, cheese and sauce, and was as comforting as a bear hug from mamma, while gnocchi slathered in gorgonzola with sweetened walnuts was a decadent rustic dish with a warming autumnal feel. To follow, a seductively unctuous osso buco, where the veal easily tore from the bone, and a tender tentacle of grilled octopus. But, there was more still, the big finale was the Como Ferrero Roché dessert: essentially a haute take on its namesake.
We’re still longing for the buzzy ambience of a restaurant in full flow once again, and even moreso a getaway to the Italian lakes, but at least with such top Italian food just a few clicks away, you can still satisfy some desires. Order via Deliveroo.
MADÉVI DAILLY revels in returning to London's dining scene
Pop-up. Pop. Up. In the dark, desolate depths of lockdown, I had almost forgotten those two magical little words, carrying with them the heady promise of a joyful night out in London. I love everything about pop-up restaurants – the ephemeral, blink-and-you’ll-miss it nature of them; the playful, experimental menus; the hint of chaos in the kitchen.
Papa L’s Kitchen is a prime example of the genre. The Papa in question is chef Lawrence Gomez, an alumnus of the Ivy and Sexy Fish, who’s set up shop at the Gojk on Brompton Road for five weekends. I headed there on a quiet Thursday night, determined not to let anything dampen my first dinner out in six months – not the imposing bouncer wielding a temperature gun at the door, not the masked and visor-toting staff, not even the torrential rain that meant the venue’s bijou terrace was off-limits. Papa L, it turns out, knows a thing or two about lifting spirits. His set tasting menu is generous to a fault – he’s the sort of man who’ll ply you with eight courses and send you waddling happily home. Our waitress, wisely, warned us to take our time. We fiddled ineptly with the digital menu, conjuring small plates from the kitchen at our leisure, over four very civilised hours. Sweet potato croquettes, zingy and piping hot, opened proceedings with aplomb.
Then came a grilled chicken salad dressed with mango and avocado, tiger prawns in a rich, buttery sauce, perfectly al dente asparagus and a handsome piece of soy and sesame salmon that flaked sultrily under fork. Thankfully, Papa L had our back: courses came paired with titchy but punchy cocktails designed to guide us giddily to gluttony.
‘This meal feels like a holiday!’ I exclaimed tipsily after the first course or four, breathing in the transporting scent of pineapple, rum and coconut from a small, delightful coupe. While ostensibly influenced by the chef’s Gambian roots – plantain chips and Jollof rice featured in later courses – Gomez’s cooking trots around the globe, borrowing flavours and ingredients from different cultures and cuisines – and sacrificing, perhaps, a certain sense of identity along the way. But there’s no denying Papa L is a deft hand in the kitchen: as we left and thanked him for an immensely cheering evening, he confided the gas had cut off half-way through service. A hint of chaos in the kitchen? I’d have never noticed.
Papa L’s Kitchen runs for five weekends from 28 August 2020.
Tickets are £65, and include an eight-course tasting menu with four paired cocktails; a vegan menu is available.
Little beats a perfectly chilled glass or two of wine to enjoy during our lazy, hazy evenings this Summer. Here are some of our top tipples to savour.
Danebury Reserve 2018
Showcasing just how incredible British wine can be, this Reserve from one of the most awarded and respected vineyards in the UK recently won the Gold Medal and Best Wine by the Glass for English still wine at the prestigious Sommelier Wine Awards.
A mouthwatering delight of fresh citrus, green apple, fragrant grass and a limestone finish.
Louis Jadot Chablis
For those who prefer to enjoy fine still wines, this Chablis is an excellent choice. Established in 1859, Louis Jadot is one of the Premier Negociant names in all of Burgundy.
Hand harvested and softly pressed, this wine is perfect with oysters, charcuterie and goats’ cheese.
A true taste of Tuscany, the wonderful multi-award-winning fine organic wines from the MonteRosola winery are well worth seeking out. Try Crescendo, a rich and characterful choice with spices, herbs and cherries, and also the excellent Merlot , Canto della Civetta, with its heady ripe dark stone fruit and blackberry flavours.
Taittinger Prestige Rosé
Hints of berry and peach with a light lemon lift make this a totally moorish champagne perfect for any celebration – or a stay at home treat.
Oastbrook Sparkling Rosé 2014
Another award-winning British delight, this time from the Sussex countryside, is a sparkling delight of cherries, strawberries and fresh brioche, the perfect for a smoked salmon supper. Oastbrooke has a “Bubbles” Wine Club where you can enjoy regular deliveries, straight to your door.
Jenkyn Place Brut 2014
A final wine from deep in the English countryside is the delicious Brut 2014. Made with the classic champagne blend of 60% Chardonnay with 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, this bubbly is fresh, fragrant and delicate. A perfect accompaniment to seafood and even strong cheeses.
Taittinger Nocturne NV
Another fine fizz from Taittinger is the Nocturn NV. Taittinger remains one of the few Houses to be owned and actively managed by the family named on the label. Its origins date back to 1734 when the original house was founded by Jacques Fourneaux.
Ripe peaches and apricots are freshened with hints of zesty citrus and white blossom. Perfect with sweet or savoury dishes.
KATE WEIR revisits old-favourite hotel the London Edition to see what’s new.
A few days before London went into lockdown, I went to the London Edition hotel, an elegant Ian Scharger-backed stay on Berners Street. At the time the world felt normal, we watched the news in our room predicting – wrongly, of course – that this would all blow over. Writing this now, long after hotels and restaurants have shuttered their doors, it feels almost incomprehensible that we spent such a carefree night here and feels like aeons until we can do so again. But, in the hope that one day this will once again be our reality, I present our experience at this refined Fitzrovia stay.
This wasn’t my first visit to the London Edition; I visited the newly minted stay on a journalistic mission when it first opened its doors. At the time, I didn’t associate its Marriott branding with a place of such polish and pomp, but I was duly impressed with its idiosyncratic artworks, English country lodge rooms and Jason Atherton’s excellent cuisine in connecting Berners Tavern. I was smitten with the lobby’s olive-green-velvet fainting couches, the furry throws and cocktail carts in the upper-tier rooms, the alluring amber glow of Berners Tavern’s well-stocked bar.
And these delights have remained, except one: the basement nightclub, undoubtedly added at the behest of the Studio 54 magnate; its devolution to gym hints that perhaps some late nights proved too rowdy. Ingo Maurer’s mirrored egg still draws focus from the hubbub of the huge lobby, Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn’s portal pulls the eye to the back of the room, close to where the Punch Bowl bar is hidden, and behind the check-in desk is a custom-made tapestry depicting an 18th-century scene. The workspace and lobby bar throng with guests, and the babel of happy diners can be heard next door.
We take a time out in our room first – it’s one of the hotel’s lower categories, but the wood-lined space with its top-drawer linen, considered tech and tongue-in-cheek photography by Dutch snapper Hendrik Kerstens make it a haven. The bathroom has a shower that could fit a few more in and the minibar is well-curated – there’s Crystal Head vodka, Patron tequila, Joe and Seph popcorn and Jealous sweets for the taking, if the price list doesn’t make you wince. But, there’s no time for snacking now, as Berners Tavern beckons.
The decadent decor in the restaurant – paintings on every inch of wallspace, cream-leather banquettes, circular chandeliers – prepares you for how indulgent the menu is – after a meal of warm bread with flavoured butters, lemon sole with capers and a gloriously dense and cheese-laden macaroni cheese with beef brisket, we can only muster the energy to stagger back up to the room. The rest of the night passes in lazy wine drinking and TV watching, with a cheeky charcuterie platter requested from room service sometime in-between. Considering its central location, the hotel’s rooms are immensely cosy and calm, so much so that we saunter down with just a few minutes until check-out the next morning. On the way out, I notice that one of the alabaster women carved into the ceiling is still wearing the red lipstick someone jokingly added during renovation – a small joyful reminder of things staying the same, much needed when everything is about to change.
The London Edition, 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP, www.editionhotels.com/london