Two fantastic meals this weekend, thanks to friends.
First up, Fino. Officially at 33 Charlotte St. (near Goodge St. Tube station), but the entrance is on Rathbone, around the corner. Reservations are a must (and they'll tell you beforehand when you need to clear the table).
We started with drinks in the bar. I had a Barcelona cocktail, which sounded better than it was. More to the point, the bartender had a panic attack when I ordered it, despite its being a signature cocktail with pride of place on the drinks menu. He had no idea how to make it, and there was much running around and consulting random people. Okay, maybe not *random* people, but he did ask me if I knew what the Peychaud's bitters bottle looked like. Utter chaos. (Oh, and my friend's Belvedere martini ended up costing £20. Is that normal?)
If the bar didn't immediately win our hearts, the food did. We had the bunuelos de bacalao (essentially salt-cod hush puppies); the chickpea-spinach-chorizo stew; the pork belly; and the purple broccoli. All were top notch, especially the broccoli (which was worth all seven quid they charged for it, truly). It was a bit too much food for the two of us, but I would solve that by ordering not fewer dishes but a lighter one instead of the stew (which was very filling and strummed some of the same chords as the pork belly).
To drink we had the Rivola cab/shiraz blend, and it was just spicy enough to complement the pork belly, and not too full-bodied. (We also had the Romate Solera brandy after -- excellent, and well priced).
Today it was off to Tayyabs (no apostrophe, to my surprise) after seeing a gallery show. The line was insane at 4pm, but it moved very quickly.
We let the South Asian scholar do most of the ordering, and it certainly seemed to me that he ordered way too much food. And if he weren't a bottomless pit, I would have been right, but luckily he devoured all the superfluity.
He ordered, and we ate: Samosas; chicken tikka; paneer tikka; lamb skewers; sag aloo; bhindi something; lamb curry; and one more dish I'm forgetting. It was all phenomenal, every bit of it. And all that food, which fed three humans and one bottomless pit, ended up being almost exactly £40. I was stunned.
A stiff march up Brick Lane to the Bhangra (is that the name?) Supermarket was required after a meal of that ambitiousness. My friends intervened to prevent me from buying a 7-kilo bag of turmeric that caught my fancy.