Bengal Classic

by the Munching Mariner (published 22 May 2011)

My Thirst Mate and I had heard rumours of good food at Bengal Classic so we felt duty-bound to verify this for our loyal readers.

It was a Friday evening. We arrived without a booking, while it was still quiet. We noted the attractive decor around us. A large tiger (surely of the Bengal variety) stared down from the ceiling. I enjoyed the Indian string music played softly in the background throughout the evening.

After taking our order of poppadoms and drinks our waiter left us with the extensive menu. We are big fans of Indian/Bengali food, so it didn’t take long to find something suitable.

To start, my Thirst Mate ordered aloo chat (potato-based) and I ordered chatpotti (chickpeas and hard-boiled egg). They were both served in a tasty tomato-based sauce and whet the appetite for the rest of the meal.

My Thirst Mate’s choice of main course was lamb korahi, a medium-spiced dish with capsicum, served in an iron wok. The meat was nicely cooked and the sauce was thick and satisfying.

My order was described as a Bangladeshi speciality, particularly popular in the relatively wealthy city of Sylhet. Murgh (chicken) Jaflongi could be popular anywhere. The sauce contained shatkora, a local citrus fruit bringing an element of sourness to the feast.

To accompany the dishes, we had pilau rice, an excellent special rice and peshwari naan. It should be no surprise the peshwari was sweet, but we noticed all our dishes carried an edge of sweetness. So my Jaflongi was both sweet and sour (but very tasty) and even the rice was a little sweet.

The meal certainly measured up to our high expectations.

What marred the experience a little was that a few young people were in and out like yo-yos chatting to mates dining in the restaurant. Perhaps being sat next to the door made this all the more noticeable.

The experience was otherwise a good one and a restaurant we would recommend. The service was welcoming and attentive and the venue was certainly popular.

Our bill came to £34.25 excluding service.

Bengal Classic is at 11 Pennyfields, just 2 minutes away from Westferry DLR, E14 8HP. Telephone 020 7517 9955.

Aniseed

By the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 12 September 2010)

My Thirst Mate was convalescing at home after a nasty bug, so my Pool Buddy agreed to join me for a curry.

Aniseed is a small Indian restaurant based in a former public house on the north west of the Isle of Dogs. The interior design has a contemporary feel, well-lit and neatly furnished. There are just a few dining tables set apart from a small bar area.

Aniseed

Formerly Rogue Trader, and before that the Blacksmiths Arms

We ordered two large Cobra beers and pondered the extensive menu. While all the typical Indian dishes are catered, we were impressed with a generous choice of unusual dishes or house specialities.

I don’t normally take the trouble to remark on poppadoms, but we were both very impressed. Very thin, crisp and served with delicious accompaniments.

I started with reshmi roll: small chunks of marinated lamb wrapped in chappati. It was rich in flavour, innovative and delicious. My Pool Buddy chose the Aniseed spicy chicken which was thin strips of chicken in a pepper sauce, almost as sweet as it was spicy.

For our main course, we shared special fried rice, a seeded naan and saag aloo (spinach and potatoes). My Pool Buddy ordered a faultless king prawn jalfrezi and I chose chicken rangani. This is cooked in honey, ginger and a rich spicy sauce.

All our food was excellent.

Aniseed

Aniseed is a "Bar & Indian cuisine"

The service was friendly and generally helpful, with our waiter eager to check we were happy with our food. Later my tongue was tormented after I crunched into a chilli pepper. I asked for a glass of water, but it didn’t arrive and the bill was also slow to come.

However, our meal was delicious and we enjoyed our time at Aniseed. There were a few other diners there and the small bar area grew quite busy as the evening progressed. This just added to the atmosphere and our overall experience.

Our bill came to £48.40 excluding service.

Aniseed is about five minutes walk from Heron Quays DLR, at 25 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, E14 8JH. Telephone 020 7517 9233.

Zain’s Restaurant and Grill

by the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 11 July)

Zain’s is a reincarnation of The Milestone, next to Mile End station. The Munching Mariner enjoyed a meal there once but noted with surprise how quiet it seemed to be. Zain’s is Bengali-run with a very different theme to before.

Just seconds away from Mile End station

The menu is halal throughout. That means, as my Thirst Mate noted with eyebrows raised, no alcohol. There is an excellent selection of mocktails and milkshakes along with other soft drinks.

We opted for Snickers and Bounty milkshakes. They tasted wonderful, but a little warm for our liking and the waiter was happy to bring us ice.

My Thirst Mate ordered a chicken bhuna along with garlic naan bread. I selected the mixed grill and steamed rice. We also ordered dum aloo to share. That’s sweet and spicy new potatoes, fried in spices and tomatoes. The potatoes were cooked to perfection and the spice was nice.

My Thirst Mate’s chicken bhuna was tasty, but I should have left it well alone as I simply couldn’t find the space to finish my mixed grill. This was a selection of chicken tikka, lamb chops and sheek kebab which also came with a small side salad.

The waiting service was appropriately attentive. The front-of-house staff were obviously keen to please and quick to take care of our needs. Without prompting, our waiter offered to pack the remainder of my mixed grill to take home and it formed a welcome part of our meal at home the next day.

Zain’s is simply decorated with a red trim and dark wood. It is named after the four-year-old son of the owners, who claim to devote as much “care and effort into the preparation of food and service” as they do “into looking after Zain”.

Our meal came to £33.60 but there are savings to be made for students, NHS workers and lunchtime visitors.

Zain’s is at 588 Mile End Road, E3 4PH.  Telephone 8981 4100.

Spice Merchants

by the Munching Mariner (published East End Life, 18th January 2010)

Spice Merchants is in a small and simple but stylish venue with modern décor. The food is Indian, inspired by Mughlai cuisine.

My Thirst Mate and I arrived at 7.30 on a Saturday evening and were guided upstairs to a table by the window. There is a smaller seating area and a bar downstairs. A few people were dining already and more gathered during our stay.

 

Spice Merchants

We ordered tap water and a bottle of Rioja for £14.50. House wines were £10.50 and Tiger, Cobra and Kingfisher beers were all available.

I opened with lamb tikka and my Thirst Mate opted for vegetable samosas. In both cases they were presented beautifully and tasted great.

For our main course, my Thirst Mate ordered lamb madras which we both enjoyed but was a little hot for her palate.

I ordered the “exotic” xacuti chicken which was richly flavoured, as many of the specials were described. This dish was delicious, containing fenugreek, star anise, javantri and red Goan chillies. It was the first time I’d tried this dish and I’m seeking out a recipe already!

We shared some rice, naan bread and saag paneer (spinach with cheese) which all complimented our main dishes.

The service was friendly and professional. I was impressed at the waiter’s efforts to lay out our dishes, ensuring our space was uncluttered.

The toilets were bright, clean and modern. My Thirst Mate remarked they were among the best she’d seen in a restaurant of its kind.

Our bill was £45.15 excluding service. Spice Merchants hopes to attract “the ever discerning and affluent diner”. We felt that while it was not cheap, the quality of the experience was well worth the price we paid. It is also possible to eat there more cheaply as many of the Indian favourites are reasonably priced.

Spice Merchants is a matter of seconds away from Westferry DLR and is served by a number of bus routes. Takeaways and deliveries are available.

Spice Merchants is at 38 Salter Street, Docklands. Telephone: 7987 8779.

The Milestone

By the Munching Mariner (published in East End Life, 16th March)

The Milestone is a trendy gastro-bar a stone’s throw to the right out of Mile End station.  It’s clean and comfortable, with a row of hookah pipes on the side. I’ve been in a few times for a drink and it’s been surprisingly quiet so close to such a busy station. I always wondered why, but the landlord expressed such great enthusiasm for his chef’s food that I felt compelled to try it.

 

The Milestone
The Milestone

I popped in with my Thirst Mate on a Thursday evening and we had our choice of tables. The only other customers were a group of students who – despite knocking back mostly soft drinks – gradually became more raucous as the evening wore on. Another couple arrived later for a meal and then a trio of young men propped up the bar.

The Milestone specialises in “traditional Indian dishes cooked in a modern way”. All the favourites are on the menu though naan bread is conspicuous by its absence (chapatti and parantha take its place). There are a few surprises too; fish and chips among them. The Thirst Mate went for lentil soup followed by chicken bhuna and steamed rice. I chose lamb samosas then chicken dhansak with pilau rice.

The meals arrived within the promised fifteen minutes. It was plentiful and delicious, though the lentil soup was more like stew. We told the barman how much we enjoyed it, but he retorted with an apology: the regular chef was off and his cooking must be tasted to be believed. The service was a little scatty but well-intentioned: the starters and mains arrived at the same time, we had to request cutlery and our drinks arrived after some delay. On the plus side, the manager took an interest in us and was chatty but unobtrusive.

The Milestone has potential. The food and atmosphere were good, but it was still fairly empty. In mitigation, previous incarnations of the establishment were hideous and the new look is hidden out of sight of the nearby tube station. There are no disabled toilet facilities. Our bill came to £31.60 including a beer each.

The Milestone is at 588 Mile End Road, E3 4PH. Telephone 020 8981 4100.