Bean & Hop – Refurbished

Bean and Hop has recently been taken over and undergone a refurbishment. We were looking forward to trying them out and taking a nose at the new interior, so we headed there for brunch on Saturday. Since it opened, Bean and Hop has been a busy and popular coffee and brunch spot for the people of Earlsfield. At weekends it can be difficult to get a table and the previous layout made it tricky to manoeuvre your way through. The new layout has created more space and decluttered the interior. There is now space for at least 10 more people inside and the place has a modern and clean feel to it. We easily found a table on Saturday morning.

We were pleased to see that the menu hadn’t really changed and still included a wide range of options.

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Bean and Hop has always served good coffee but as it was very warm we both decided to go for cold options: a cold brew tea and a cold brew coffee. For our food, we decided on a full brunch plate and a sweet potato, halloumi and aubergine stack.

Having placed our order we sat back to take in the surroundings and wait for everything to arrive. And we waited…and we waited some more. 25 minutes after placing our order our waitress walked by and realised we were still waiting, and went to chase up our drinks. We were really hungry by this point and our brunch was fast becoming more of a lunch.

The drinks did finally arrive about 5 minutes later, and the cold brew tea was nice and refreshing. Sadly, the cold brew coffee was a little disappointing; quite weak and a bitter after taste to it.

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Eventually, after another 10 minutes of waiting, we asked another waitress how much longer our food was going to be. We were told it was being prepared and would be 5 minutes. So, approximately 45 minutes after placing our order, we finally received our food.

I have to say, the sweet potato, halloumi and aubergine stack itself was pleasant but it was served with a whole bag of rocket which was just overkill. No human needs that amount of rocket.

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There was clearly an attempt at some fancy presentation with the brunch plate which was served with a smear of chilli ketchup and the food piled up on the other side of the plate. This was a little unnecessary and just meant everything had to be un-piled before it could be eaten. No complaints about the taste of it all though, especially the chilli ketchup which was really good with a bit of bacon and egg.

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After all that, we did leave feeling a bit miffed. The whole brunch had cost us £29 and hadn’t really felt like good value, and taken just about an hour. The service in Bean and Hop had always been a little slower than average before the refurb but they had 6 members of staff working on Saturday, many of whom had worked there previously, and it was a little chaotic. We weren’t the only ones complaining about the slowness of the food and drinks arriving. The staff didn’t seem to know which table was which and orders were taken to the wrong table on several occasions.

We really hope this was just teething trouble and that things improve as it would be a real shame to see such a popular place go downhill.

The Eclectic Collection v.2

We were back at The Eclectic Collection at the weekend, a week after our lovely brunch there. On the face of it, The Eclectic Collection appears to be another great independent coffee (and tea) shop, so when we found out they were offering a 5 course taster menu for an evening, it got our attention. The menu looked interesting, priced at £25 with the various courses sounding as if they were trying for a fine dining angle, so we thought we’d give it a try. We enjoyed our previous trips to Sylvan Oak which was in the single restaurant unit closer to Burntwood Lane, but unfortunately that closed down at the start of the year, and there aren’t many other options for a bit more refined cuisine in our immediate area.

We had booked a table for 7pm and when we arrived we were seated in the conservatory area. There were a few other tables already in use, and a number of empty ones that had reserved signs on, indicating about 10 reservations for this test taster event. Having looked at the menu when we booked, we knew there were going to be some unusual and creative flavour combinations in some of the dishes. There was also the option of a matching wine (£2.80 for a 50ml tasting glass) or cocktail (£7-£8) for each course.

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To get the evening started, we ordered a Pinkster Gin and Tonic and a tasting glass of the first wine, which was a Merlot from Chile, and eagerly awaited the arrival of our first course. We like gin, a lot, and the Pinkster Gin was served with a raspberry and a basil leaf. It was lovely, really smooth and refreshing. The wine was OK. Medium bodied, soft black berry fruits and easy drinking as you’d expect from a Merlot.

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When our first course of goats cheese truffles with roasted walnuts, pickled beetroot and red grapes arrived it looked great. Served in a small glass dish with a closh, it really made an impact.  One of us is not a fan of goat’s cheese and one of us loves it, however we both enjoyed the truffles. The cheese wasn’t overly chalky but soft and creamy, and the beetroot, roasted walnuts and grape went nicely with it. The wine taster, which was just about enough for the course, didn’t overpower any part of the dish and in fact went quite well with it.

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The second course was cured smoked salmon, floral guacamole, purple truffle potatoes, yuzu pearls and lemon micro herbs. Again, it looked great on the plate and the flavour combinations worked well. The salmon was cut into small pieces but perhaps the amount of herbs was slightly overpowering for it.  The guacamole was smooth and refreshing. There was a thin crispy pastry base on the bottom of the plate, which was unexpected and perhaps not really needed.  The wine to accompany this course was another from Chile, a Vine Trail Viognier. Intentional or not, it was cold but not fridge chilled, and that allowed its flavours to be a bit more pronounced.  It paired quite nicely with the food.

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Following this came something we’ve not really had a lot of before…pastrami. It came with a blueberry compote, crushed meringue and pomegranate ketchup.  Interesting. The pastrami was nice, and it went well with the blueberry and also the pomegranate, but we’re not sure that all 3 worked quite as harmoniously together though. The pomegranate was quite rich and the blueberry was sweet which clashed slightly. Still, an interesting idea.

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Course number 4 was wonton ravioli filled with mushroom and aged black garlic with a black truffle sauce.  When this arrived the distinctive earthy smell of the truffle smelt fantastic. This course was really good. The flavour combination was a bit more of a classic than some of the previous courses and we really enjoyed every mouthful. The sound of our cutlery scraping every last morsel out of the bowls was a testament to how much we’d enjoyed it. The only downside was that the parmesan crisp wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.

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All that was left was dessert and this arrived with some theatre, hidden underneath a metal closh. When this was lifted it revealed a good sized slice of dark chocolate and raspberry parfait with beetroot meringue and coconut tuile. This was delicious. The texture was smooth and creamy and the balance of chocolate and raspberry worked well.  I particularly enjoyed the coconut tuile and the beetroot meringue which both provided a bit of crunch.

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After all that, we were quite full. We’d had an early table and by the time we left it was considerably busier. This had a bit of an impact on the speed of service, something that I think they’ll realise with the timing required between each course along with serving drinks, but that should be easy to resolve. Of course, service itself was very friendly.

We like this place. As mentioned in our review of their brunch, the décor really helps to create a sense of occasion and everyone is friendly and welcoming. It had a different atmosphere in the evening and the cocktail menu looks really good, so it would be somewhere to go and enjoy a drink or two. We also really admire the fact they’ve created something a bit unique to the area, and are offering something unexpected for, what is normally, a coffee and tea shop. We’re looking forward to seeing the next taster menu they offer.

We had a really nice evening and are really interested to see how The Eclectic Collection evolves over the coming months, and recommend that if you’re in Earlsfield you pop in and give it a try.

 

 

The Eclectic Collection

The Eclectic Collection opened a couple of weeks ago along Garret Lane towards Earlsfield Station. The transformation of this rather run down book shop to a stylish and very classy looking café/restaurant is startling. The décor is eclectic (indeed) and beautifully put together with a range of seating and tables in 4 different areas, each with a slightly different feel. We liked it as soon as we walked in but were keen to find out whether this would be a case of style over substance and whether the food and drink on offer could live up to the surroundings.

We’ve already had a quick visit for coffee during their soft launch, and it was good coffee, but we decided to try out their brunch to give us an opportunity to sample some food as well as some of their extensive tea menu. The brunch menu is different. Dishes on offer included a heritage beetroot salad, midnight porridge and raw cauliflower salad: not necessarily your usual breakfast fare.

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We ordered a heritage beetroot salad, and poached eggs on sourdough with mushrooms and truffle. From the tea menu, we ordered a Brockley breakfast tea and a Mojito Mint tea.  We were given a carafe of water for the table but didn’t have to wait long for the tea to be delivered.

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Firstly, like everything here, it looked great. Each tea was served on a small wooden tray in a glass tea pot. It was accompanied by a tea cup, a stainless steel pot of hot water, and a tea strainer. The Mojito Mint tea was lovely, refreshing and funnily enough, minty but not in an overpowering ‘I’m drinking mouthwash’ kind of way. The serving provided me with 3 cups of tea.

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The Brockley breakfast tea was great. It was quite light and refreshing for a breakfast tea and although the menu suggested otherwise, I didn’t need to add any milk.

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A short while later the food arrived. It looked, and smelt incredible. Served in interesting crockery, it really did look like some of the dishes we have been served in fine dining restaurants. The heritage beetroot salad was served with goats cheese mousse and a delicious coffee and balsamic glaze. There were a range of different beetroots chopped into discs, chunks or wedges and topped with some salad leaves.  It was so good I wanted to lick my plate at the end. The flavour combination worked well together and that glaze was incredible.

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The sourdough, poached eggs, mushroom and truffle smelt amazing.  Lightly toasted sourdough, eggs with perfectly runny yolks, mushrooms and bold earthy truffle, served with generous sprigs of dill and flat leaf parsley. It was fantastic.

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This is an exciting new addition to Earlsfield, which perhaps has been flagging and struggling with its identity recently. Bean & Hop has recently been sold and is currently undergoing a refurb, so I can’t see why The Eclectic Collection won’t pick up a good number of those customers. It might be hard work for Bean & Hop, or whatever it may change its name to, to get those customers back.

Next weekend at The Eclectic Collection, they are doing a 5 course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday evening and the menu looks really interesting.

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We’ve booked a table and are really looking forward to visiting again to see if the evening offer matches what’s on offer for brunch. I’m sure we won’t be disappointed but we’ll let you know.

The Tapas Room

We were very excited when we heard that The Tapas Room was opening in Broadway Market, Tooting. We love tapas and wine so this promised to be a winning combination for us. The Tapas Room is located just along from Craft Tooting and opposite Hi-Ki. The unit has been nicely decorated and a classy and cosy atmosphere has been created. Seating is available at 2 long wooden bars on both sides. Wooden crates are used as shelves and the food is prepared in the open kitchen in the corner.

We settled in at one of the tables and perused the menu. The food menu included nibbles, cheese, meat and plates. We opted for some padron peppers, a cheese and meat plate, some chicken liver parfait and some morcilla with quails eggs.

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The wine menu contains all Spanish wines and they are available by the glass or bottle. We selected a glass of the Finca Manzanos Rioja Blanco and the Montevannos Roble from the Ribera del Duero region. The wine was served quickly and in really nice, long stemmed glasses (I’m a sucker for nice glassware).

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The Rioja was lovely. Perfectly chilled and with a nice smooth flavour. It was incredibly drinkable but I was on a one glass limit. The Montevannos Roble was nice, with good dark fruit and subtle oakiness to it. It had a dry finish with slight chewy tannins, but it went quite nicely with the food. A glass of the Familia Pacheco Roble was also enjoyed later in the meal, slightly lighter than the Montevannos although not a light red wine, it had more red fruit characteristics with a hint of spice.

Pretty quickly the food started arriving. The chicken parfait was served on a board with slices of toasted crostini and a fig. It was lovely and smooth with a good depth of flavour. The fig cut nicely through the richness of the parfait and complimented it really well.

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The padron peppers were next and we are big fans of these. We have had them plain as well as in batter, and these came plain sprinkled with rock salt. They were yummy and cooked perfectly so that the flesh of the pepper came easily away from the stalk.

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Next came a very impressive cheese and meat board. This was fantastic. There were 5 different cheeses, all of which were explained to us, as was the plentiful slices of Spanish chaucuterie (I believe this included some Catalonian fuet, an Iberico salsichon and Basque chorizo). The board came with slices of baguette, some quince paste and some fig and almond wedge. Not only did this look incredible, it tasted fantastic too.

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The cheeses were lovely and came from their daily selection. There were 2 goat cheeses, one soft and gooey which tasted like a really good camembert and one harder which wasn’t overly chalky, as some goat cheeses can be. There was a lovely blue cheese which strangely, was quite meaty in texture and flavour. All in all, this was accompanied by many appreciate noises from us.

Finally, the morcilla and quails eggs was fantastic. Lovely quails eggs sitting on top of Spanish black pudding, resting on soft sweet peppers, finally on top of lightly toasted baguette. It was great!

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Now, because we were going to be writing a review we gave into the temptation of the dessert on the menu which was a chocolate brownie (not made in-house) with strawberries. This was decidedly wicked. It was quite dense in texture but rich and very chocolatey. The strawberries were sweet and cut through this perfectly.

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As we said, we love tapas and everything we tried at the Tapas Room was delicious. We now have two great Tapas places in Tooting we will not hesitate to visit, but they are both quite different. The Tapas Room, being in a marketplace, has a more relaxed social atmosphere and the more focused menu means it is the perfect place for nibbles or a light dinner. It would be the perfect place to spend an afternoon, grazing on the tapas and working your way through the wine menu.

@thetapasroom

Apollo Banana Leaf

There are lots of Indian (and Sri Lankan) restaurants to choose from in Tooting and we have been on the search to try and find our new favourite. Someone recommended Apollo Banana Leaf as one of theirs so we thought we would give it try. We booked a table for 4 earlier in the week for 7.30pm on Saturday evening. You can’t book online so we did this by calling them and were told “don’t be late”. OK!

The restaurant is situated further away from Tooting Station, along Tooting High Street towards Colliers Wood, not far from Kaosarn Thai. The décor is decidedly 1980’s and took us all back a bit. The walls are painted in interesting colours and are adorned with various large landscapes, and the padded chairs are covered in blue shiny fabric with flashing fairy lights twinkling around the bar. For us though, as long as it is clean, and it was, it is all about the food. We were seated at a table for 6. The tables are crammed in so it was nice to have a little extra space.

The menu was interesting. It lacked a lot of the dishes you would expect to find on an Indian menu eg. rogan josh, bhuna etc but, to be fair, they advertise as a Sri Lankan restaurant which may explain that.

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We decided to choose a range of dishes which were similar to those we have had elsewhere to make it easier to compare. For starters, we opted for onion bhaji, chicken pakora and deep fried prawns. We also ordered poppadums, but these never arrived.

The starters were good. The onion bhajis were large, very crispy and easily shared between the 4 of us. The prawns were great. They had a spicy finish and a meaty texture to them and the coating was nice and crispy.  The chicken pakora were also good and had a nice bit of heat to them. They were served with a mint yogurt and a spicy dip.

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For mains, we ordered chilli chicken, chicken korma, chicken tikka masala and jeera chicken. To accompany these dishes we chose mushroom rice, pilau rice and a garlic and plain breads. The dishes arrived in stainless steel dishes and were good sized portions.

The tikka masala was slightly different to others we have had bit tasty. It had quite strong garlic flavour to it and came with plenty of sauce.

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The chilli chicken was a drier dish and not as hot and spicy as we had hoped. It was tasty but lacked a bit of kick.

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The korma was creamy and had a nice balance of coconut flavour to it. The chicken was tender and nicely cooked.

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Finally, the jeera chicken was really good. Marinated in herbs and then flavoured with cumin and fennel seeds, giving it a lovely peppery and aniseed hint. The sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I’d like but it was still tasty.

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The bill came and it came to around £15 a head. We were pretty impressed with that. This was of course helped by the fact the restaurant was BYOB which makes it a considerably cheaper option.

Is the Apollo Banana Leaf our new favourite South Asian restaurant? Probably not, but it is certainly a good value meal and we had a very nice time. We weren’t rushed at any point and could have sat there all evening. If you have a favourite Indian dish, you may be disappointed with the menu here, but if you are happy to try something new, this is a good place to try. The dosa, which the neighbouring table had, looked fantastic. Next time we will give that a go.

Kaosarn Thai

Kaosarn was recommended to us by friends who had previously visited both the Battersea and Tooting branches. We booked a table with them at the Tooting branch for 7.45 on Saturday evening.  Kaosarn is situated on Tooting High Street, about 5 minutes walk away from Tooting Broadway Station in the direction of Colliers Wood, but it’s worth the walk.

We were warmly greeted by Giselle, and seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Kaosarn is BYOB and cash only so we had all come equipped with our preferred tipple for the evening. The menu was extensive and had all the thai staples you would expect to see.

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Whilst we made our choice, we were provided with a couple of bowls of fantastic Thai prawn crackers to nibble with a sweet chilli sauce.

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Between us we ordered a selection of starters: spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, king prawns in batter and fish cakes. They were all served piping hot and very quickly to our table and were delicious. The spring rolls had a perfect crispy shell with a soft mushroom and vegetable filling. The prawns had a light and crispy batter and were served with a grated radish and soy sauce dip. The fish cakes were soft, fragrant and spicy, and the satay skewers had a chargrilled flavour with a lovely sweet peanut sauce.

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The main dishes we had ordered included a Gai Tod (deep friend garlic and pepper chicken with sticky rice and green salad). A good crunchy coating surrounded the chicken, which was very tasty. The sticky rice perfectly cooked, and the salad was lovely and fresh. The dipping sauces were a good contrast to each other, and the hot dipping sauce had a good kick to it.

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We also had a beef massaman curry, and this was so much nicer that when I have had it in other restaurants. The sauce was just the right balance of flavour with soft chunks of beef, potato and onions.  It was full of flavour and served with soft and fluffy rice.

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Chicken pad thai was also ordered. This was also delicious, and again it was considerably nicer than has been eaten at other Thai restaurants.

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Finally, one of us ordered the Kao Pad Kra-Praw with chicken. A good mix of flavours and textures, and a fair bit of heat from the chilli.

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We were all full by the end of the meal and when the bill came, it came to about £15 per person. Based on the amount and quality of the food we had had, this seemed like really good value. Because the restaurant is BYOB, it’s a great way to keep the overall bill down and Kaosarn would be a great place to go with a group of friends.

The service all night was friendly and speedy and when we left, there was a queue at the door. If you are planning on giving Kaosarn a try, we’d really recommend you book a table or go on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday evening when it is a bit quieter. Whether  you like Thai food or have never tried it before, Kasoarn is sure to hit the spot.

 

Hinta – Japanese tapas

Hinata is housed in a small unit next to Plot in Broadway Market. It is newly opened and serves Japanese style food.  The menu is succinct and in the evenings they describe their menu as ‘tapas’.  The unit is decorated in a modern way with 4 stools along the counter and a table in the main walkway of the market. Stylish copper lights hang over the counter and everything is clean and tidy. The kitchen area of the unit is neat although it doesn’t look quite finished.

We sat at the bar on the stools and in order to get into the ‘tapas’ spirit decided to order 1 of each of the 6 available dishes.

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As Hinata is BYO we ordered our food and then quickly popped round to Craft beer to get some drink. The food started arriving quickly. Edamame are a favourite of ours and those came first, followed by a bowl of potato salad. Potato salad may not sound like a Japanese dish, but it is yōshoku cuisine, which I think I’m correct in saying is western food done in a Japanese style. Crushed chunks of potato, with carrot and cucumber in a light mayonnaise, it was nice. Both of these were a good start. 

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The gyozas arrived next and were really nice. Soft shells with a tasty pork filling and served with a soy dip. Something like some slices of spring onion would have livened up the plate a little, but they were good. I’ll be honest and say that I prefer these soft grilled gyoza to the fried ones at Hi-Ki, although I wouldn’t turn either down.

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We haven’t had chicken Karaage before and this is best described as Japanese fried chicken. It was very tasty and the batter was crisp and well cooked, although a bit more of the dip would have been good.

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Finally the salmon and prawn tempura were served. The salmon was well cooked and served with a soy dressing and sesame seeds. It was served on its own but it really needed something to go with it; some rice on the side would have been perfect.

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The tempura prawns were good, the batter was light and crispy and it came with a soy dip with plenty of fresh ginger to warm it up. 

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At the end of the meal they asked me if we had enjoyed the food, having just opened, and they wanted honest feedback. I told them that we had enjoyed the food but the salmon needed an accompaniment, and she did admit that they’d run out of rice.

The food was well cooked and it was tasty, which you would expect when the menu is limited and focused in this way. For all of the dishes on the menu, it cost us £30, and it’s cash only so make sure you’ve been to the cash machine and somewhere for drinks beforehand. It’s not bad value for money but with the choice of 3 Japanese style kitchens in close proximity in Tooting, they need that addition of rice or perhaps another accompaniment dish on the menu that would give customers a bit more choice.