Tooting High St

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.

IMG_0666

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.

IMG_0668

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.

IMG_0669

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.

IMG_0671

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

k

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.

j

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.

IMG_0634

IMG_0636

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.

IMG_0637

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.

IMG_0638

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.

IMG_0639

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.

IMG_0640

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

IMG_0641

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.

IMG_0642

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.

 

MUD

We try to avoid queuing if we can which is one of the reasons we haven’t been to Mud for brunch until now. The last time we ventured to that end of Tooting High Street there was a queue in the street and we decided not to wait (we were in desperate need of coffee and food!). After today though, we can see why people do wait in line here.

As the sun was out they had opened their garden at the back and, despite being a Friday, when we arrived this was the only place where there were tables free. The menu is varied and includes a range of goodies including smashed avocado, eggs benny and granola. Seeing plates of food being delivered to the tables around us made it hard to choose as it all looked so good but in the end we chose a Mud Muffin and the wild mushroom special. We also chose a long black, cappuccino and a Karma cola to drink.

IMG_0574

Sitting in the sun, it almost felt like summer, and the food and drink didn’t take long to arrive.  The food looked amazing. The wild mushroom special included 2 slices of toasted sourdough bread, 2 poached eggs, a grilled sausage, some red onion jam and a huge mound of mushrooms with pesto. It was delicious. The eggs were poached to perfection and the rich and creamy yolks provided a lovely rich sauce for the mushrooms. The mushrooms were earthy and well-cooked and the pesto provided a nice bit of flavour.

IMG_0577

The Mud Muffin, not dissimilar to a full English in a stack, was great. A tasty sausage patty with a slice of chedder, bacon and a lovely soft fried egg (although the edges of it were quite crispy), sandwiched perfectly between a muffin. Of course, I mustn’t forget the fantastic potato waffles with parmesan on top. I haven’t had them for years, and they were great!

IMG_0579

Mud pride themselves on making proper coffee and the coffee here is very good. The flavour of the espresso came through the Long Black well, with no bitter or burnt edge to it. The cappuccino had well stretched milk that added the perfect sweetness to it without having to add sugar.

IMG_0575

As we said, after having brunch here today we can see why people queue here at the weekends. It’s well worth it!

TOTA

We have never been to Tota. We aren’t sure why, but after last Saturday night we were both left very aware that we had been missing out on this little gem in Tooting and were very clear on the fact we would be back. We booked a table online for 7pm and arrived a little early. This proved to be a good thing as we were in time to take advantage of the 2 for 1 cocktails as part of happy hour. We had to order 2 of the same so selected a Pornstar Martini (vodka and passion fruit, with a shot of Prosecco), slightly unmanly but tasty all the same.

IMG_0468

The menu at Tota is wider ranging than most restaurants in the vicinity. What really came across was the passion for food and desire to create great dishes from good ingredients. This did present us with a dilemma though as all of the specials sounded delicious and we wanted to try them all.

IMG_0467

In the end we settled on some crispy pigs head bites as a nibble, then the lobster mac and cheese, and the foie gras and duck terrine for our starters. The pigs head nibbles were moist, meaty and had great flavour, and came with a nice aioli dip. They prepared us nicely for the food that was to follow.

IMG_0471

We can sum up our starters in 2 simple words; totally delicious. To add a few more though, the lobster mac and cheese was creamy, rich and full of flavour. Topped with some streaky bacon and asparagus on top, it was absolutely delicious could have passed for a main meal.

IMG_0474

The foie gras and duck terrine was equally lovely: it was rich and creamy but had a nice meaty substance to it, and it came served with a red onion chutney, adding some sweetness and sharpness, and some toasted bread.

IMG_0473

The meal had got off to a great start already and the mains had a lot to live up to, but thankfully they did. We chose the ribs, as we were told they were smoked in house and a bit of a specialty, and also the lamb rump. These were both from the main menu, but again, there was so much choice and the specials all sounded lovely. When they arrived we were not disappointed. The ribs were amazing: sweet, smoky and they just fell apart. The portion was also massive. They were served with a good slaw, and choice of baked potato, fries or sweet potato fries and I opted for the sweet potato fries. I couldn’t finish all of the ribs but luckily I was with someone who could help.

IMG_0475

The generous portion of lamb was lovely. Cooked perfectly pink and covered in a lovely gravy, it was served with some creamy mash, parsnips , lovely earthy mushrooms, and soft confit garlic. It was very tasty, and very filling.

IMG_0476

We had accompanied our meal with a glass of wine each (Sauvignon Blanc and a very nice Rioja) and by the time we finished our mains we were stuffed. The deserts all sounded amazing but we just couldn’t eat another thing.

I don’t know why we had never been to Tota before now, we’d walked past it numerous times, but we have been seriously missing out. The food was fantastic, the service was warm and welcoming and it was good value for money. As we said, it is a bit different to some of the other places in Tooting who offer much narrower and specific menus but Tota is the sort of place you could go to with friends, family or even on a date. The bonus is, there is something on the menu for everyone. On Tuesday nights they do half price ribs and, if what we had on Saturday is anything to go by, that would be an absolute bargain.

@TotaRestaurant

http://www.tota-restaurant.co.uk

Chicken Shop

Friday night and a visit from the parents meant we could either cook or go out, and being honest with you, who wants to cook on a Friday? Obviously the location was going to be Tooting, but what about the food? Well, sometimes you just need Chicken and chips, and for me Friday was one of those day, so the decision was easy; Chicken Shop.

Chicken Shop has been in Tooting for several years now, and they are now in 10 other locations around London (and a couple abroad). Like most places in Tooting, it is small inside but well designed and has a rustic feel to the décor. We arrived early, meaning they seated the 4 of us quickly at a table in the restaurant area at the back. The menu is simple. Chicken or burgers from the Dirty Burger menu.

05

After some deliberation we opted for a whole chicken and a selection of sides to share including sweet potato fries, a lettuce and avocado salad, corn on the cob, onion fries and coleslaw.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive and it looked great. The chicken here is finished on a rotisserie, and is succulent and tasty in a way you just can’t get it at home (unless you put some effort into it!). They chop it up into perfect portions, pop in some lemon slices to squeeze over if you so desire, and leave it to you to tuck in.

02

The sweet potato fries were delicious, really well cooked and crispy. We weren’t sure what to expect with the onion fries, but they were like ½ onion rings with a light and crispy batter.

01

The corn was drizzled with a garlic butter and the coleslaw was also fresh, crunchy and really tasty.  The salad was a good sized portion and came with a well flavoured dressing.

06

On the tables, they supply bottles of their own smoky sauce and their own hot sauce. These add a nice hint of heat and flavour.

We were all too full to eat desert and left with that feeling you get when you’ve had a really good meal.

For us, Chicken Shop beats Nando’s hands down. It’s not just the chicken that tastes nicer, or the great sides that they offer, but the atmosphere inside is more relaxed and the service is always friendly. Of course if you just want to stay in,  you can get Chicken Shop delivered straight to your door with Deliveroo, and we can vouch for the fact the food tastes just as good at home as it does if you eat in!

http://www.chickenshop.com/

@ChickenShop

The Little Taperia

We like tapas and have been to The Little Taperia in Tooting a couple of times since it opened. So, finding ourselves at a loose end on a Saturday night and with nothing inspiring in the fridge we booked ourselves a table for an early dinner.

The restaurant is small and cosy, and when it first opened it was walk-ins only and whilst the food is worth queueing for, being impatient, quite often we didn’t. The fact that you can now book a table means that we get to eat there more often, which is great. Even though we had an early booking at 18.30, it was reasonably busy when we arrived. The décor creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. For the first time, we were seated in the area at the back, which is where the kitchen is. This suited us perfectly as it was a bit quieter and a little cooler. We were immediately offered water for the table and then left to peruse the menus.

The bar menu comprises of a range of cocktails, wines and beer. From the decent choice of wine on the menu, we chose 1 glass of Lopez de Haro Crianza Rioja. It was also pleasing to see a G&T on the menu that featured our favourite gin, locally distilled Graveney Gin. So that was me sorted.

IMG_0418

Now, the trouble with tapas is, it can be tricky to order just the right amount of food. This is made even trickier when everything on the menu sounds so appetising.

IMG_0417

We opted for a few staple favourites: potatas bravas, padron peppers, gambas al ajilo and grilled chorizo, and then added scotch eggs, albondigas (meatballs) and the special which was lamb cutlets.  We have found that no 2 tapas restaurants are the same and they each have their own twist on these dishes. Here, potatas bravas is served with an aioli dip as well as (we think) a paprika dip, with more paprika sprinkled over the top (it’s not too much, honest!). The potatoes were crispy and well-cooked and I loved the 2 dips. The padron peppers are fried and served simply with rock salt, they are incredibly moreish.

IMG_0420

The grilled chorizo sausage is served on a slice of toasted sourdough with a pesto spread and piquilo pepper. It makes for a lovely combination of flavours.

IMG_1413

The scotch eggs are a bit of a speciality here and they are always perfectly cooked, runny in the middle with a rich surrounding meaty layer and crisp coating.

IMG_1412

The gambas were served still sizzling in their dish and were plump and well-seasoned with slices of garlic and chilli.

IMG_0422

We haven’t tried the albondigas before but with a juicy chunky tomato base, they were really good.

IMG_0421

Finally, the lamb cutlets, which were almost a course in themselves. Cooked perfectly pink, along with some crisp potato wedges and a lovely minty salsa verde. Fantastic.

IMG_1414

Finally we decided, perhaps unwisely, to share a portion of churros with some milk chocolate sauce to dip. They were a lovely end to the meal but, by the time we left, I couldn’t even mention the word food, because I was so full.

IMG_0423

Everything went well together and also worked as a dish by itself, and there was still plenty on the menu that we didn’t get to try, but we’ll save them for next time. Service was friendly and quick but we didn’t feel rushed at all.

As we said, we have been here a couple of times but, every time we come it seems to get better and better. The meal, including drinks came to just under £70. It was worth every penny.

 

http://www.thelittletaperia.co.uk

@littletaperia

 

 

Belpassi Bros

Meatballs were on the menu on Saturday evening as we had a table booked at Belpassi Bros, right next door to Honest Burger. We haven’t come across a restaurant offering just meatballs before but one of the great things about Tooting at the moment is the fact that many of the restaurants specialise in one thing and they focus on doing that really well.  In fact, Honest is a good example of this and we hoped that Belpassi Bros. would be another.

The decor inside is warm and cosy and we were quickly seated by our very friendly waitress. The menu is pretty simple. They do 5 different types of meatballs (including a vegetarian option) and you can either have meatballs and a sauce, or meatballs with a base and a sauce. The price point is reasonable with the meatballs, sauce and base costing £9.50. There are also a selection of side dishes and some cicchetti (small snacks) which can be served as starters. We ordered 2 portions of the squash and sage bruschetta and 2 portions of the arancini balls to start (we’re not that greedy, there were 4 of us).

Even as I write this, the thought of the bruschetta is making my mouth water. Quite simply, it was delicious! The smooth and sweet squash was complimented by small pieces of Gorgonzola and every mouthful was a delight.

img_0354

The courgette and mozzarella arancini balls, which came with a tomato based dip, were also lovely; well-cooked with a lovely crispy outer shell and soft, warm filling. Compared to the arancini we had at Brick & Liquor which had chorizo instead of courgette, perhaps they weren’t quite as good, but there isn’t much in it.

img_0355

For our main dishes, 2 of us chose the pork & fennel option and 2 of us went for Angus beef. Again, 2 of us opted for the San Marzano tomato and basil sauce, and the other 2 chose the amatriciana sauce (tomato, pancetta & chilli). We also had a mix between the chilli greens or rigatoni pasta as a base. We were each served a portion of 4 perfectly formed nicely sized meatballs.

img_0358

There was a good hit of fennel with the pork meatballs which worked really well with them, and the beef was rich and meaty. They weren’t drowning in sauce, which was a good thing as the flavour of the meatballs shone through and were allowed to speak for themselves. The rigatoni was cooked al-dente and was lovely. The chilli greens provided a tasty alternative with the chilli oil adding a lovely flavour.  We had also ordered rosemary fries and a portion of zucchini fritti. Now, I am not a fan of courgettes but these were lovely. The batter was light and crispy, not dripping in oil, and they were a real winner with all of us, in fact, my mouth is watering again as I write this just thinking about them.

img_0356

 

We ended the meal with ice cream or tiramisu. The ice cream on offer came in a range of flavours and we went for mint choc-chip (the best ice cream flavour in the world!), pear and whisky caramel (lovely pear and subtle whisky, they worked well together) and dark chocolate and orange sorbet (who doesn’t like chocolate and orange?). They were yummy with a smooth creamy texture, and really tasty.

img_0360

The tiramisu was quite a substantial portion which was rich, creamy, and generously dusted in cocoa powder.

img_0361

Along with our food, we also had a lovely but quite potent Negroni which was mixed and then served in a small neat medicine bottle, a can of pale ale (Beyond the Pale – London Beer Factory), a Sailor Jerry rum and coke, and a glass of Chianti which was quite decent and went really well with the meatballs.

img_0352

We really enjoyed our meal. The service was very friendly, attentive and not rushed. We left a full restaurant feeling comfortably stuffed and very satisfied.  Belpassi Bros would be a great place to visit for a date, a family meal or just a catch-up with friends. They might only serve meatballs, but they are a great core ingredient for a really good hearty meal.

 

http://www.belpassibros.com/

@BelpassiBros