Just reporting back after a fast w'end in London.
I trudged out to Earl's Court for a solo dinner at Mohsen -- had a lovely hospitable welcome and a warm seat by the tandoor (or whatever it's called in Farsi). I'm afraid I've not got the menu with me, so I can't remember the exact names of the dishes, but I had a starter of mashed grilled aubergine with walnuts and mint which was rather different and quite lovely, particularly when scooped up with amazingly light naan (sprinkled with sesame seeds, which I hadn't expected).
I went for the daily special, which was a lamb and "bitter greens" (saabzi?) stew over a veritable mountain of saffron rice. The lamb was so tender it probably would have disintegrated under the pressure of a stern glance. Great assertive flavour from the greens, too. I ate until I whimpered and there was still a ton left -- so I ate like a queen for the shocking total of 11 quid. I told my boss I wanted an award for the lowest consistent per diem in the team...
Sunday lunch was at Quilon. I have to say the ambience didn't do much for me upon walking in -- it's a bit hotel restaurant-y, and there were only 3-4 tables occupied. I decided to make an absolute pig of myself and went for a starter in addition to the vegetarian thali. My partner -- foolishly, in retrospect -- opted not to go for the thali (Howler, I did warn him). He started with pepper shrimps, and I had the asparagus with mustard seed, curry leaves and coconut (my heart racing wildly in anticipation of revisiting a favourite dish from a trip to Kerala). The shrimps were ... fine. Nothing special. The asparagus was ... not fine. I can understand the veg itself being tasteless (it's asparagus in January, for pity's sake), but the dish as a whole was just pallid and insipid. I began to quake with fear.
However, the thali redeemed the situation with a vengeance. I asked politely to substitute the "aubergine two ways" for the avial -- no problem -- and then feasted, absolutely feasted on said aubergine, spinach poriyal, aloo gobi, sambar, chickpeas masala, pineapple pachadi, appam, paratha and lemon rice.
It was amazing -- I was chuckling with glee the entire time. When it comes to veg, that was easily the best 20 quid I've spent in London, and I can't wait to go back.
My partner did not fare so well with his Koondapur fish curry. Overcooked fish and a sauce that was eerily reminiscent of something Chef Boyardee in a lungi might have dreamed up. Stay away.
Ah, and FWIW -- we had dinner with friends Saturday at Andrew Edmunds, where I've been a couple of times. I've always found it pleasant, and it continues to be what I think is really good value for money, particularly in the heart of Soho. My chicken liver parfait starter was perfectly adequate, and the tomato and borlotti soup of which I snagged a spoonful was lovely. Mains included a seared duck breast with coconut and sweet potato dauphinoise (EXCELLENT) and a massive lamb shank with garlicky mash (tasty, but the duck edged it out in the flavour sweepstakes). We washed everything down with a 2003 Collioure, which was a London bargain at 22 pounds.
So -- thanks again, Howler.