Zumbura, Clapham Common

Summer this year has been awesome. Besides the fact that I work long hours as an architect, I have been eating and drinking all summer through the Cyclades, Athens, Copenhagen and London. The backlog of photos and food adventures are piling up, but I am living life and trying to find inspiration once more through my lens.

Just over two months ago, we were invited to Zumbura, an Indian restaurant down south in Clapham. Since we moved to London three years ago, we have only been to a couple of Indian restaurants. Apart from Dishoom and the usual brick lane stretch, we have never ventured far.

When we got to Zumbura that summer evening, we were welcomed by vibrant shades of colour and beautiful furniture, a delightful modern setting which set a scene for our dinner meal. It was no wonder that Aamir Ahmad, Sean Galligan and David Garrett, co-founders of Zumbura, used to own the contemporary furniture store, Dwell.

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Zumbura’s menu features “authentic homemade food from the Purab region of North West India”. We were encouraged to order 2-3 small plates each to share for our main meals. The selection on the menu catered well for vegetarians as well as meat lovers. It featured curries like and a salon (an egg curry in light home-style sauce) to flat lamb kebabs “twice cooked for a velvety smooth texture”.

For our starters, we ordered the pakora, which were spinach and onion chick pea flour fritters. Accompanied with chutney, the pakora went down a treat.

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Next up were the main dishes. We selected khullia (lamb and turnip stew), machli ka salan (pollock fish curry), kharela, a bread selection and braised rice. The khullia was delicious and the lamb was stewed to perfection. It was a pity that there wasn’t much lamb in the portion but every mouthful combined with the braised rice was a delight. The karela is a bitter gourd dish, cooked very differently to the Chinese-style dishes I have tried before. It complemented our fish and meat choices well. Our only disappointment was the bread selection.

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For desserts, we ordered the warm creamed carrot pudding (gajjar ka halwa) which came recommended by the waiter. The warmth and sweetness of the pudding was something we had never tasted before and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
We also got the home made pistachio ice cream as it has always been a weakness of mine and when I saw it on the dessert menu, I knew I had to have it too. I dare say that it was one of the best pistachio ice creams I have ever had!

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We really enjoyed our meal at Zumbura and there were still lots of dishes on the menu like the meat grills which we didn’t order. We will definitely be back to try out the rest!

Zumbura
36a Old Town
Clapham, London SW4 0LB

*I was a guest of Jori White PR & Zumbura but all views here are my own.

A Very British cookbook – Roast

Three years ago, I did not own a single cookbook. Fast forward to today, my shelf is now home to a couple of beautiful cookbooks in addition to my architecture collection. Inside one of them, the recent Plusixfive cookbook has a full page spread of a photo I took! It is such a pleasure to browse through these cookbooks when out of ideas on what to cook for dinner. My latest addition is Roast – a Very British cookbook by Marcus Verberne.

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Roast restaurant opened in 2005 with a mantra that is “to use produce from the nation’s farmers and fishermen to bring a new level of energy to British cooking.” Located in Borough Market, on the mezzanine level of the Floral Hall, one needs to look up to admire this jewel directly above Brindisa and the Ginger Pig stall off Stoney Street. Its elegant white interiors and amazing high ceiling space offers diners another perspective into Borough Market and gorgeous views out towards the Shard and St Paul’s.

Last week, I was invited to Roast for the launch of their first cookbook written by their head chef. I have never been to Roast but have heard good things about the breakfast which they serve.

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Shortly after we were seated, Marcus Verberne, Roast restaurant’s head chef came out to our table to welcome us to the restaurant. He gave us an introduction to his first cookbook and how he went about writing it. Originally from New Zealand, Marcus has been living in the UK for the past 12 years. His career in food began in Wellington before he moved to Melbourne and finally London. It was a pleasure to listen to the passionate chef talk about the thought process behind the cookbook and his love for British produce.

The cookbook’s recipes are written to be accessible for home cooks. It is filled with gorgeous photos by Lara Holmes whom Marcus spent quite some with during the documentation of the cookbook. Besides recipes, the cookbook has step-by-step photos from how to fillet fish to carving meat. You can even scan the QR codes in the cookbook to watch a video for further information! Amazing!

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Prior to us ordering our dinner, Marcus took the opportunity to explain to us about their menu and where they have sourced their produce from. It was featuring some of the recipes from the cookbook and we were given recommendations on what to order. As it was Thursday, Marcus mentioned that they had roasted a whole rare breed suckling pig which was their Thursday daily special. What I really enjoyed during the evening was listening to Marcus whilst flipping through the visual cookbook and there it was, a slightly charred roasted suckling pig on the third page of the cookbook.

However, I did not end up ordering the roast suckling pig but instead went with the chef’s recommendation of roast breast of Yorkshire cock pheasant with sprout top hearts, chestnuts and wild boar bacon for mains. It definitely did not disappoint! The roast pheasant breast was so tender and well complemented by the sweet chestnuts and saltiness of the wild boar bacon. Giulia and I both had the same and loved it! For starters, I had the seared Isle of Mull hand-dived scallops with whipped apple mash and smoked black pudding which was delicious.

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When it came to dessert, I chose the sea buckthorn berry pousset to end the evening. I was extremely intrigued by Marcus’ explanation on how they picked this berry as the branches of this shrub are thick, dense and thorny. The dessert which came was an amazing orange, almost fluorescent and was delightful to taste. Federica had the poached pear with ginger shortbread, walnut and honey ice cream whilst Giulia chose the sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and Neal’s Yard creme fraiche which all looked amazing.

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It was a pleasure to have met Roast’s passionate head chef, Marcus and tasted the outstanding dishes of Roast restaurant. I cannot wait to try out some of the recipes in the cookbook. Stay tune!

Roast – a Very British cookbook is now available from all good retailers, online and in store, for £25 (RRP).

*There is a twitter prize draw going on now for the month of November held by Roast Restaurant where you could win a signed copy of the Roast cookbook!

Roast Restaurant
The Floral Hall, Borough Market
Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL

*I was a guest of Jori White PR & Roast but all views here are my own.

That brown sourdough loaf of bread…

Growing up in Asia, I never quite got into the idea of bread. Our staple is rice and our consumption of bread is usually limited to breakfast or tea time. Afterall, when you could have wanton noodles, why would you want to have bread? On the other hand, one of my fond memories of growing up in Singapore in the 80s is the extremely soft white bread spreads with Planta butter and kaya by the local old man in white tee and a push bike with a box at the back. This bread is soft, light and fluffy, nothing dense like the breads in Australia nor London.

Having lived in Australia for a good ten years and being a poor student, I have done quite a few sandwiches for lunch with the usual ham and cheese. The dryness of bread usually gets me gagging and it isn’t the tastiest thing around when I am dreaming of prawn noodles. Of course, when you get a chance to have a sumptuous breakfast with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, the good ole’ toasted bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

The day of revelation came when I first tried Irrewarra Sourdough in Australia.
Have you ever had bread and thought that it is the BEST bread you ever had in your life? Irrewarra sourdough was it. Priced at AUD$6 a loaf, it does not come cheap as compared to your usual loaf of $3 wholemeal sliced bread from the supermarket. I do assure you that it makes your sandwiches more delicious than ever. It is wholesome and tastes perfect.

Having moved to London Jun 2011, I have been trying all sorts of breads but haven’t come across anything that good. Just three weekends ago, I was catching up on twitter and saw a photo of St John’s Bakery baked goods and boy, I was intrigued. Within an hour, I was on my way to St John’s Bakery somewhere in SE1, Arch 72. My main aim was to try and see if I could get my hands on some hot cross buns, given that it was just a week before Easter.

When I got there, there was a small crowd and though there weren’t any hot cross buns in sight, I dived straight into the custard buns (recommended by The Skinny Bib) and as the baked goods looked way too good, I couldn’t resist getting a brown sourdough loaf as well.

The custard bun was coated with sugar and when I bit into it, the vanilla bean custard was light and absolutely delicious. The bun was perfect and the custard oozed out when I took the first bite. I spent a good time licking the delicious creamy custard. My recommendation is if you ever get yourself out to St John’s bakery on a Saturday, be sure to get your hands on one. I hear they go pretty fast!

As for the brown sourdough loaf, I didn’t try it until the next day when we prepared poached eggs on toast. When the dude (my other half) was cutting the slices, he was quite impressed with the density of the bread. In fact, we were pretty sure that we found an equivalent to our favourite bread in Australia. The dense brown sourdough tasted perfect with a good dollop of butter and poached eggs. We felt like we could do quality breakfast at home instead of out at a good brunch place. For £4 a loaf, it went the distance and we couldn’t quite get enough of this bread!

St John’s Bakery (Open Saturdays only!)
Archway 72
Druid Street
London
SE1 2DU

NOPI

As a fan of Ottolenghi’s cafes and cookbooks, I’d been looking forward to visiting his restaurant, Nopi (North Of Piccadilly), for some time.  Ottolenghi’s Israeli influenced dishes have always been a firm favourite of mine due to his original, contemporary and healthy style of cooking.

The restaurant itself is stunning.  White and gold dominate the colour scheme with glossy white tiles and gold hooks lining the walls.  There is a buzz when we enter the restaurant.  It’s 7:30pm on Friday night and the place is in full swing.  The tables are elegantly set with cutlery and beautiful gold napkin rings (which are discreetly cleared away immediately after we unfold our napkins – I suspect a few napkin rings must have gone ‘missing’ in the past).  One criticism is the tables in the window are rather close together.  In a cafe this would be fine, but for a restaurant having only 20cm between tables seems a little tight.  The much talked about Nopi bathrooms are a destination in them self.  I felt like a child stuck in a mirrored maze as I tried to figure out which mirrors were doors, and which were walls.

Service throughout the night was exceptional.  The menu suggests ordering three savoury dishes per person.  Chap and I were particularly hungry and attempted to order seven savoury dishes between us.  Our waitress steered us against this idea and said to order six now and one later if we really needed it (turns out she was right).  An honest touch, I thought.

We started with the cauliflower, chilli and coconut fritters, accompanied with lime yoghurt.  They were crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  The coconut was particularly subtle, and I hoped it would be a little more prominent.

The French beans with smoked wheat, tahini and lemon dressing sounded promising on the menu.  I was looking forward to tasting a simple vegetable that had been given the Ottolenghi spin.  Sadly I was let down.  The beans were cooked perfectly, retaining their crunch.  However the wheat, tahini and lemon dressing was bland and would have benefitted from more salt (which wasn’t on the table).

Next were the seared prawns with a sumac, feta and fennel sauce.  The prawns were fresh, firm and juicy, and the peppery fennel and sumac sauce was a great accompaniment.  The chunks of feta balanced the peppery-ness of the dish.  I would have loved some bread to wipe up the sauce!

The scallops were spot on.  Tender and perfectly cooked-through.  The black bean and ginger was tangy and sweet.  One of the highlights.

Twice-cooked baby chicken, served with lemon myrtle salt and chilli sauce was another highlight.  Baby chicken seems to be making a renaissance on menus recently and this dish proved why.  Another highlight.

We saved the best to last and finished with pork belly, caramelised Nashi pear and mustard jus.  Everything about this dish was perfect and I was left sighing “I don’t want this to end” on my last mouthful.   Crunchy, juicy, sweet.  Heaven on a plate.

We finished with two desserts (we couldn’t decide on just one!) and opted for the vanilla rice pudding followed by the caramel and roasted peanut ice cream.  The rice pudding’s creamy delicate flavours went perfectly with the crunchy pistachios and rose syrup flavours.  The caramel and roasted peanut ice-cream was incredibly rich and sweet.  I tipped the runny sauce all over the ice-cream and then scattered the salty nuts.   I was left singing the praises of anything with salted caramel and chocolate in it.

Nopi is impressive.  It’s sleek, sexy and sophisticated.  The meat and fish dishes were exceptional.  Criticisms?  Only a couple.  The vegetables were the weakest link.  They left me searching for Ottolenghi’s famous wow-factor, which he usually has in spades.  My final jibe is the table spacing – it’s fine to sit that close to someone in a cafe, but when you’re paying over £100 for a meal you expect a bit more space.

Our meal with wine came to £118.

Dish Piglets’ Rating: 7.5/10.

Nopi

21-22 Warwick Street  London W1B 5NE

Tel: 020 7494 9584

NOPI on Urbanspoon