Tooting

Meza

We have been meaning to visit Meza in Tooting for ages and, finding ourselves at a loose end last Saturday, we decided to book a table and go for it.

Meza has 2 restaurants and we were booked in, for a table of 3, at the branch on Mitcham Road (a couple of minutes up from Tooting Broadway station). It is small and compact with seating for about 30 people. When we arrived, at 7pm, it was busy and there were only a couple of free tables available. Luckily, we had booked in advance and this seemed to be the case with most of the customers who arrived after us. Advice: book a table in advance!

We browsed the menu and decided on a selection of meze to share for starters and then a main each. The menu included brief descriptions of the dishes but left a bit to the imagination.

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From the meze selection we chose the sautéed prawns cooked in tomato sauce with vegetable rice, the batata harra (potatoes, garlic and coriander) the moussaka bantenjen (aubergine, chickpeas and tomato) and the jawaneh (chicken wings served in a garlic sauce). These arrived in the style of tapas and smelt really good. The potatoes were well cooked and had a sort of sauce on them. They went really well with the other dishes which were a lot saucier. The prawns, although small, were nice and juicy and the sauce they came in was flavoursome. Sadly, it tasted very similar to the sauce for the aubergine which arrived at the same time as our main dishes. The flatbread was nice although only just warm.

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The aubergine was a little disappointing as there wasn’t a great deal of it that was distinguishable from anything else in the dish.

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For mains we had each selected one of the meat dishes: kafta meshweih (skewers of minced lamb with parsley and onion); lahem meshweih (skewers of lamb cubes) and shish taouk (grilled skewers of marinated chicken). All of the main dishes were well cooked and came with a side salad.  The chicken was succulent and the flavour of the grill gave it a nice smokey taste. The cubed lamb was nice but not the nicest we’ve had, lacking a little in flavour.

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The minced lamb again was nice, but the flavour wasn’t as good as I was expecting, and a little more parsley may have helped.

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We also chose a portion of vegetable rice to accompany the mains. This served its purpose to add some depth to the main but it was just a basic vegetable rice.

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By the end of the meal we were all full. This was our first experience of Lebanese cuisine, although the flavours and style of food can broadly be described as regional Middle Eastern cuisine as it shares a lot of similarities with Syrian food and the surrounding geographical area, and we enjoyed what we ate and the fact that the dishes felt reasonably familiar to us. The service was functional and lacked some of the personal charm of other restaurants in Tooting, but that is a minor point.

If you’ve not been, we’d suggest you book a table and decide for yourself.

 

 

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Koi Ramen Bar (Tooting)

 

We love Gyoza after discovering them at Tootopia last December and sampling the little pillows of heaven cooked up by the Gyoza Guys. These tasty morsels are reason in themselves to visit the Koi Ramen Bar in Tooting Market, although the rest of the food on the menu is also pretty tasty.

Koi Ramen bar has been open for a while now, and it’s proving to be a popular food stop in the market, and it’s easy to see the reasons for this; the food is very tasty, reasonably priced and super quick. The menu is simple. They offer 4 types of ramen: Toukostu, miso tofu, miso pork and shoyu. Alongside this are the aforementioned gyoza and ice-cream for dessert. What could be simpler?

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Having sunk a few glasses of wine earlier in the evening we were looking for something to soak up the alcohol and quiet our grumbling tummies, and were lucky enough to find seats at the counter allowing us to watch our food being prepared.

Rather than ramen, we ended up choosing the summer special of abura soba (a combination of noodles, shredded pork/tofu, crispy fried shallot, bean sprouts and spring onion)  along with a mixed portion of chicken and pork gyoza (vegetable option also available).

The gyoza arrived first and were perfect; soft delicate dumplings topped with soy sauce and spring onions. Yum!

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Our main dishes arrived pretty quickly after that. One of us had chosen the pork and the other the tofu option. Both smelt amazing and, after following the instructions to mix everything together, we tucked in. It was the perfect meal to soak up some of the alcohol, and it certainly filled us up.

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The dishes tasted as good as they looked and smelt. A perfect combination of soft meat/ tofu and noodles with crunchy veg and seasoning.

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As we said earlier, it’s a quick and tasty meal and really worth a visit. The service was really friendly and it’s also available through Deliveroo if you don’t fancy a trip to Tooting.

@koiramenbar

Sunday Suppers @ Tooting Market

Sundays can often be dreary evenings spent feeling blue about work the following morning, and channel hopping through the mediocre television on offer. So, when we heard about the Sunday Supper collaborations happening in Tooting Market it seemed like just the thing to beat the Sunday blues.

Over the summer months, a range of businesses based in Tooting Market are offering a 3 course meal with drinks. The first event took place on the last Sunday of  June and the final one will be in August. July’s theme was Street food and saw Unwined, Graveney Gin, The Joint, Boom Bap Burger and Nuvolo bakery collaborating.

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Seating is at the communal tables in the middle of the market which creates a sociable and laid-back atmosphere. Having said that, we were sharing a table with another couple and had plenty of space without feeling like we were encroaching on each other’s conversations.

On arrival we were treated to a Cocktail from Graveney Gin. If you’ve read our previous reviews you will know that we love Graveney Gin and it was lovely to see Victoria, who always serves her gin with passion. The cocktail was called a Graveney Street and was a blend of gin, fresh grapefruit, sugar syrup and soda, served in a tall glass. It was lovely and refreshing and the perfect way to start the evening.

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Next up came the chicken wings from The Joint. These were described as spicy and they certainly ticked that box. They were delicious with a lovely heat and flavour and the meat was tender and just fell off the bone. There were 3 each, and I couldn’t resist eating one before taking the pic below.

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This was matched with a Holzer ‘Wagram’ Rose: Zweigelt 2016 from Austria. As always from Unwined, we were given the background to the wine which is always interesting. I’ve had several lovely red Zweigelt wines but this was a rose, and it was a really good refreshing match for the chicken wings, not easy given the flavours.

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We haven’t tried Boom Bap Burger before so were looking forward to what came next which was a Ricky Martin Burger, described as a 28 day aged beef patty, brindisa chorizo, manchego cheese and smokey mayo in a potato brioche. When it arrived it looked great and was accompanied by a portion of fries. The burger was great; well cooked with a tasty, toasted bun and the combination of the patty, the chorizo, the cheese and the mayo was enjoyable. The fries were also really good, they were perfectly seasoned.

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To wash the burger down we were treated to a Patrick Sullivan ‘Samurai’ shiraz from Australia. It was a good match, with berry fruitiness complimenting the flavours in the burger well.

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Finally, dessert came from the Nuvola Little bakery and was a limoncello tiramisu. This was very clever and came served in a plastic glass with a shot of limoncello in a straw. Sometimes lemon desserts can be either too tart or too sweet but this was perfectly lemony and creamy.  Licking out the glass wasn’t really an option but if we could have, we would have.

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This was served with a favourite tipple of ours, the Suck it and See frizzante by The Rude Mechanicals. A perfect wine to accompany the limocello as it didn’t battle with the flavours and instead was just delicious, refreshing and incredibly drinkable.

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The relaxed atmosphere, friendly service and great food and wine combination made this a great way to spend our Sunday evening. There is only one more left in the series, so if you fancy an evening of good food and wine in a relaxing environment, hurry and book your tickets!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sunday-suppers-tooting-market-sundaysuppers-tickets-35698554337?aff=erelexpmlt

UnWined – A new pop-up

With the arrival of a new pop up kitchen, we decided to spend our Saturday evening at Unwined in Tooting Market. For the next few weeks Rustica Kitchen are in residence serving up Sicillian dishes which have been paired with wines that have a rock star theme.

It was a warm evening and the market, as always, had a buzzing atmosphere. We were seated at a table for 2 and quickly started salivating over the menu.

We decided on some mozzarella arancini balls to start. These were served with a tomato and pesto sauce. Served piping hot, they had a soft, gooey filling and a crispy outer shell. The sauce and pesto also added a nice depth of flavour.

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The wine to accompany them was an unusual sparkling red wine from the Loire region of France. Made from gamay grapes, it was light and full of red berry fruitiness.

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The starters on offer were 3 different types of bruschetta, something we are both big fans of. We opted for the nduja and mascarpone bruschetta and a portion of the Parma ham and fig bruschetta. These were served on boards and were delicious.  The Parma ham and fig was drizzled with sweet honey which bought out the flavours of the other ingredients.

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The nduja provided a lovely bit of heat, with the creamy mascarpone helping to take the edge off it.

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The wines to accompany these were a Patrick Sullivan wine called ‘Bonkers’ from Australia and a BK Wines ‘Ovum’, a pinot gris, also from Australia.  The Ovum was full of pear and honey, and well balanced. The Bonkers, made with a blend of red and white wine grapes from 3 vintages, was quite unusual. Light and fresh like you’d expect from a white wine, with citrus fruit to start but then red fruits taking over. Strange, but quite drinkable.

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For our main dishes we chose the pesto risotto stuffed peppers and the crispy pork belly strips. The stuffed peppers were delicious. The risotto was perfectly cooked and had a nice depth of flavour.

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The crispy pork belly strips were also a hit. The pork was perfectly cooked, with lovely soft meat and juicy fat. The lentils had an earthy touch to the dish.

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The accompanying wines were both reds. For the stuffed peppers, we had a glass of Papegaai cinsault from the fantastic Adi Badenhorst of South Africa. Lovely cherry and red fruit, smooth and a nice finish. To go with the pork, we had a Bodegas Arraez Mala Vida from Spain. A blend primarily of tempranillo and shiraz, it had bramble fruits with a hint of oak and vanilla from the 8 months aged in French and American oak barrels, and a subtle touch of spice to the finish. Lovely.

Finally, to finish things off, we shared a 3 cheese, cheese board. The cheese here is always good and tonight was no exception. A nice hard cheese, a perfectly salty blue and a soft. These were washed down with a glass of Suck It and See frizzante from The Rude Mechanicals, Australia. This is such an easy drinking wine; light and fruity with a great hint of elderberry, it’s a perfect summer drink. We have had it here before and when we saw it on the menu, just had to have a glass before going home. Others on tables around us appeared to agree, with some buying a bottle to take with them.

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Again, we had a really lovely time here. The food was great and served piping hot. The wines were unique and surprising, in a good way.

Rustica Kitchen are at Unwined for the next 4 weeks so if you are looking for somewhere to eat over the next month or to enjoy a glass or two of interesting wines, we recommend you give it a try.

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.