Sagar – Covent Garden

Reviewed on January 22nd, 2013 by Dina

When a friend came over from Europe in December, I got to see her briefly for an early evening catch up. But it was so short as time was a real factor. So I was happy that the next day both of us and her friend were free to do a relaxed Indian lunch in Covent Garden.

Sagar is a south Indian vegetarian restaurant. It has always looked busy whenever I have been past it. It made me wonder whether this was because of its central tourist location or if it was due to its food. It was nice to discover that it was more the latter.

Even though it was late lunchtime, the restaurant was busy and it was good that we had booked a table. The dining area is quite small although I am not sure if there is also an upper level. Light wooden tables and chairs matched with the light walls and flooring. Some of the tables are just that little bit too close together. The alcoves on the walls contained small statues.

Sagar Special UpmaSagar DecorSagar IdliSagar Paper Masala Dosa InsideSagar Brinjal BhajeeSagar Paper Masala DosaSagar Dosa FillingsSagar InteriorSagar Masala Dosa

The staff were friendly and gave us quite attentive service. It was fairly easy to get their attention when we needed anything.

The Idli were steamed rice dumplings and came as a portion of two. They were a lot bigger than expected. The Idli were served with sambar and coconut chutney. The soft, pillow-like Idlis were delicious with the accompaniments.

The Special Upma was really moist and very moreish. It is usually made with semolina. Sagar’s Special Upma was made with the addition of fresh tomatoes, cashews, peas, coriander and this came with a spicy chutney.

Even though we had Idli for the starter, we still felt like dosas for the mains. My friend really wanted the Paper Masala Dosa as it is not readily available in her country of residence. The Paper Masala Dosa came as a huge crispy cone! It was lucky that we sat at a table for four people so that we had the space for it. The mashed potato, onion and carrot filling was served on the side together with sambar and chutney.

The other dosa that we had and it was easier to handle was the regular Masala Dosa. This was served as a folded triangle and came already filled with the potato, onions and carrots.

Both the dosas were made from rice and lentils. They were equally tasty and even though they were big, we managed to munch our way through them!

For a bit of variety, we also had some rice and curry. The Brinjal Bhajee was a great dish made with aubergine, red and green capsicums and tomatoes. The vegetables were chunky and the delicate spices brought the whole dish together. Instead of plain rice, we had the Lemon Rice. This rice was made with peas and lemon juice. Having yoghurt with curry always works well and it was good that we had Raita with the meal.

Sagar gave us good quality, fresh tasting food. They have some good lunchtime offers and also on their menu is classic Thalis which gives you a complete meal with all the different dishes!

Sagar, 31 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JS

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Woodlands – Hampstead

Reviewed on September 3rd, 2012 by Dina

It is not very often that my mum gets a chance to come down to London! So on this special occasion, I decided to take her out for some dosas! Dosas are thin pancakes made from ground lentils and rice, which are then fermented.

The first place that came to mind was the Woodlands restaurant. I knew that their speciality is dosas as well as other south Indian dishes. They also have north Indian dishes on the menu!

To start the meal, we had two colourful drinks! The freshly squeezed apple, carrot and ginger juice was pretty refreshing. The mango lassi was made with Alphonso mangoes and yoghurt. I am used to mango lassi having a thick consistency but this one was fairly thin. It was still enjoyable though!

Woodlands Special UpmaWoodlands DrinksWoodlands Paneer Lal MirchWoodlands InteriorWoodlandsWoodlands Interior 2Woodlands Mysore Masala DosaWoodlands Masala DosaWoodlands Kulfi Falooda

There were many starters on the menu that looked interesting but then we decided only to go for two, so that we would room for our main dosa meal! The waiter said that it would be better not to choose the idli for the starter if we were having dosas later. This was because they are made from the same ingredients of rice and lentils and they are also served with the same sauces as the dosa.

Taking that into account, we made the decision to have the Special Upma and the Paneer Lal Mirch. The Special Upma was a soft savoury semolina dish. It was delicately spiced and had peas, carrots and cashew nuts in it. It was presented as a dome topped with pomegranate seeds and a Mysore coconut chutney on the side.

The Paneer Lal Mirch was cubes of Indian cottage cheese with slices of red chillies and red peppers. It was a saucy dish with a sweet and sour flavour. The sauce had cooked onions and spring onions in it. The paneer cubes were of a good size and it was a good combination of flavours.

Now onto our main dosa meal that we had come especially for. Again, we took the recommendation from the waiter who said that the Mysore Masala Dosa was one of his favourites. This dosa had the classic potato filling but it was cooked with butter and came with a spicy red chutney. It was served folded into a triangle.

The other dosa that we had was the normal Masala Dosa. This was served as a long tube and was filled with potatoes, peas and onions. Both dosas were generously filled and had good sized chunks of potato in them. The dosas were served with sambar which is a lentil dipping sauce and also with coconut chutney.

The dosas really were great and did not disappoint us in any way. They both had a good taste and the combination with the fillings and the sauces and chutneys worked perfectly together.

Dessert had to be done and there were again lots of choice on the menu. The Kulfi Falooda was a nice way to end the meal. The slices of malai kulfi ice cream with the rose syrup took me right back to my childhood days when we used to have rose syrup milkshakes! The kulfi was topped with strands of vermicilli and nuts.

Woodlands was decorated with beige furniture and soft lighting. The restaurant felt clean and well maintained. Even though it is not a huge restaurant, it still feels fairly spacious.

The staff were more than happy to give recommendations when we asked them their opinion on the dishes. They were honest and if they did not know, then they went and asked their manager. The staff all gave such lovely service and were very attentive. They made us feel comfortable and very welcome and it seemed like they really valued our custom.

Dining at Woodlands was really great and it was even better that I got to spend the evening out with my mum! Nothing beats that!

Woodlands, 102 Heath Street, London, NW3 1DR

Rating: ★★★★½

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The Sitara – Archway

Reviewed on February 15th, 2012 by Dina

As it was a week of ongoing celebrations, this meant that there were a fair amount of meals out! On this particular evening, we decided to stay local and opted for The Sitara.

The Sitara describes itself as “The Indian Jazz Restaurant”! We were intrigued and not quite sure what to expect. Entering the restaurant, we were welcomed by the friendly staff. Framed pictures lined the red walls, tables lit by candlelight and jazz music softly playing in the background all contributed to the mood of The Sitara.

Our round table had the turntable in the centre, which made it a lot easier for us to share the dishes throughout our meal. As the menus were black, we had a little bit of trouble reading them as the restaurant was dimly lit. The kitchen was at the back of the restaurant and it was nice that we could see the food being prepared from the dining area.

For the starters, we had the meat samosas, pakoras and special mixed grill. The meat samosas came as a portion of two and were filled with minced meat and onions. The pakoras were deep fried onion bhajees and were fairly spicy.

The favourite was the special mixed grill. A sizzling plate of tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, sheekh kebab and lamb tikka. All of the meat was cooked perfectly and it had a wonderful delicious thick sauce. The sauce of onions, tomatoes, fenugreek and capsicum completed this special mixed grill.

Originally, we chose a few main dishes to share as we were not sure how big they were going to be. The main curries came in small silver bowls and after they were brought to the table, we decided that an extra one was needed. A selection of meat, chicken, lamb, vegetables and fish made up the main meal.

The karahi chicken was a tomato based dish with tender chicken cubes. The tasty sauce was made with garlic, spices and capsicum. The saag gosht had a fair amount of spinach in it and the taste slightly overpowered the lamb. Saying that though, it was still nice enough.

The dish that we added at the later stage was the fish masala. There was a good amount of cod pieces coated in the masala sauce. The fish was not overcooked and remained flaky.

For the vegetarian option, the matar panir was chosen. You can’t go wrong with the cooked cubes of cheese, together with peas in a spiced tomato sauce. We were also tempted by the classic dal tarka but this will have to wait for another visit.

To accompany the curries, rice, plain naans and garlic naans were chosen. The naans were piping hot and were freshly made. The rice was served on oval silver dishes.

The staff made sure that everything was the way we wanted throughout the meal. Even though the food was freshly made, we didn’t have to wait too long for our meal.

The Sitara is a gem of a restaurant! It’s great that all the food at The Sitara is made fresh to order and not prepared beforehand. The Sitara will definitely be our local Indian restaurant of choice!

The Sitara, 784 Holloway Road, Archway, London, N19 3JH

Rating: ★★★★½

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