September’s local restaurant reviews
We check out foodie hotspots in south west London and Surrey, including Nazmin’s, Earlsfield, The Ivy Brasserie, Cobham and Cento Uno in Surbiton
While our corner of south west London is chock full of excellent independent restaurants – and long may we support them – few can claim to have been family run and in situ for 53 years. Nazmin’s, in the heart of Earlsfield, is the kind of local curry restaurant you hope to find on your doorstep. Customers are greeted like old friends and the front of house staff, which includes the son of owner Mayon Miah, are knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about great Indian cooking.
We are recommended a few dishes to start, including the pom puree – Indian street food snacks that crunch with fresh flavours and pomegranate seeds. Alongside these joyful morsels, all the classics are on offer… We plump for some crispy onion bhajis, poppadums and a delicately spiced salmon tikka to start, which is cooked to perfection. The rich chicken tikka masala main course has an interesting tomato flavour that complements the classic spices, and the delectably creamy sag paneer is moreishly good. The lamb shajani is also bursting with flavour, green chillies and coriander.Sizzling skillets fresh from the tandoor oven are also highly recommended and the buttery, fluffy, Peshawari naan is the best in the neighbourhood.
Owner Mayon heads up the kitchen to ensure everything is cooked to perfection – every sauce is made from scratch and the quality of the meat is excellent (it is sourced from local farmers and co-operatives where possible). A welcome surprise is the new dessert menu, which features classics including sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownies.
With 53 years of family heritage behind them, Nazmin’s menu is packed full of house specials, inventive Bangladeshi dishes, Indian classics and great options for veggies and vegans – no wonder patrons travel from far and wide for the convivial atmosphere and superb food.
The Ivy Brasserie, Cobham
After The Ivy West Street opened its doors in 1917 – it’s been a firm fixture on London’s social scene. The Covent Garden restaurant has seen its fair share of celebrities and diners chowing down on modern British classics but while it was a sign of prestige bagging yourself a table at the Covent Garden hotspot, when the Ivy Collection of brasseries and cafés opened up across the UK – offering up all-day casual dining with the Ivy signature style – everyone could enjoy the same experience without heading into central London.
The Ivy Cobham Brasserie may have only opened its doors two years ago, but it’s already established itself as a sought-after dining Mecca for those in Surrey. The din of chattering diners as I opened the main doors was overwhelming, it was packed to the rafters and on a school night, too. While it was disappointing to not be seated in the new summer terrace, we were shown efficiently to our bijou table for two – so compact, we had to hold our breaths to squeeze ourselves in. But such is the popularity of the place, it not surprising every inch of spare space has to be used.
Silent Pool’s limited edition Chamomile Garden Gin Cocktail was my first choice – refreshingly cool and sweet, with just a whisper of floral notes. I am familiar with the Ivy menu having dined in a few previously, but there’s no denying that there is always something that appeals.
For starters, my salty green asparagus were crunchy and fresh –and delicious dipped into the velvety hollandaise sauce. My friend’s Asian yellow fin tuna was tangy from citrus and soy and a delight to try – both great choices for a stifling hot evening.
The chicken Milanese is a favourite of mine, and its seasonal edit meant that it was adorned with sweet and juicy Marzanino tomatoes, capers, chickpeas and rocket flavoured with parmesan and pesto. This made for a lighter option and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps this is why the gooey cappuccino cake was the ideal way to end the meal – not too overpowering but a balanced combination of chocolate and coffee.
Sure, our table wasn’t in the best spot, but for lively atmosphere, elegant flower displays and posh nosh, it is a winner. With 14 locations in London alone, can The Ivy retain its core luxurious moniker of delivering sophisticated food and drink, but in a more approachable fashion? The answer is yes. Whether it’s a last-minute supper, or to celebrate a special occasion, The Ivy still retains its desirable essence.
Cento Uno, Surbiton
On a balmy Thursday evening, leafy Maple Road is a lovely and lively place to be, with diners spilling out on to pavement tables from both No 97 and Cento Uno, both owned by husband and wife team Sam and Alex Berry (who also own One One Four in Teddington).
We headed to Cento Uno – described as the ‘unruly younger cousin’ and indeed it was buzzing – it’s not the place for a quiet night out. Nor does it want to be. It’s contemporary, convivial and charming, and just the sort of neighbourhood joint you want for a plate of pasta or a good pizza. Somewhat unconventionally, we chose both (we like to do our research), opting for one of the pizza specials between us to start – an Iberica with Fior Di Latte, Iberico ham, spring onion, chorizo jam, confit tomatoes and Manchego. It was huge, messy and utterly divine. There was silence between my friend and I – a rarity – as we devoured this bready behemoth. Wow. So delicious and with a thin crispy base courtesy of the gas-fired pizza oven.
A slurp of an organic vegan Ciello Bianco and we were (sort of) ready for carb course two – a carbonara made the proper way (no cream) and a calamarata with paccheri pasta and fresh squid. Both sauces were rich and tasty,
A pause for breath and we surveyed the surrounds and our fellow diners. Several tables were occupied by girls’ nights out (are we ever that loud, my dining companion wondered?), others seated couples and a few suits tempted in on their way home. Décor is all clean lines, white tiles and cool lighting, with some quirky artwork for good measure.
Somehow we found ourselves ordering dessert…more research… a delizia al limone – Amalfi lemon delice with lemon sorbet – was a superb, sherbety, sweet and sharp concoction. Ricotta pears, meanwhile, came with a great chocolate ice cream. As we groaned our way out of the door three courses later, we vowed to make a return. This a fabulous local, full of atmosphere and fun.