Friday, 18 January 2013

Siam Garden, Smithdown Rd, Liverpool

Back in my student days, a must-eat business lunch for me was the Siam Garden. In between my busy schedule of Kimos, Caesar’s Palace and the now defunct Kebab House, I always squeezed in a visit to the Siam on days when I didn’t have lectures as it was near my house. Their three-course and a drink special offers were an open secret amongst us South Liverpudlians; its moody, purple exterior giving people the impression it was a select, pricey venue. Sadly, it started to rest on its laurels, its bad reviews on TripAdvisor and embarrassingly low scores on the food hygiene database Scores on the Doors being testament to its decline. After much Googling, it seemed that it has had a major shake up and I decided to sample its offerings all in the name of research!

Siam Garden offers a business lunch for £6.95- starter, main and dessert plus a soft drink or glass of wine. The addition of a free drink definitely gives it a head start above its local competitors, Fung Lok and Eastern Diner. The restaurant has had a bright, modern refurbishment without appearing too stark and Pizza Express-like, still maintaining the cosy ambience from before. Thai ornaments garnish the windowsill and an eyecatching fishtank complete with Nemo clownfish give the white restaurant a welcome touch of colour.

To start, I opted for the Tempura Vegetables- fluffy, battered carrots, peppers and onions served with a chilli dip. The portion size was extremely generous for a cut-price business lunch, a welcome change from a frozen spring roll oozing oil. My colleague had a chicken and sweetcorn soup but this old favourite came with a zingy twist as it contained spring onion and a hint of lemongrass. The perfect pick-me-up for these Baltic times.

For the main course, I chose the interestingly-named vegetarian Pad Ped, a mix of aubergines, minicorn, mushrooms and an abundance of greens in a sweet-hot sauce served with jasmine rice while my colleague opted for a vegetarian noodle dish which was heightened with coconut milk. Both mains were faultless and a much needed cocktail of vitamins after all the Christmas stodge.

Dessert was a choice between Banana Fritter and coconut ice cream, so we ordered both. The ice cream made a welcome change from Asda smartprice vanilla and was a generous portion, unlike its neighbouring rivals who serve their ice cream in those nasty metal dishes reminiscent of school dinners. There’s not much you can say about banana fritters, they don’t tend to differ but it was a great warmer before we braced the biting January frost.

Siam Garden, good to have you back on top form. May you continue to bring a touch of the exotic to damp, dull Smithdown.

Siam Garden on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Saravanaa Bhavan, Mississauga, Canada

I found this interesting alternative to bog-standard curry houses tucked away in suburban Ontario. A far cry from the beer, poppadoms, chintz carpet and rowdy vindaloo-eating contests, this eaterie is a tranquil retreat. Although this place is strict vegetarian, its gentle spices and combinations of exotic veg and home made dips can fill the belly of the most dedicated carnivore. I ordered the Special Meal (above) at approx $10- needless to say, it never got finished as there was so much of it! Even my carnivorous colleague didn't complain- the first time I've ever seen a meat eater say they were full after a herbivorous feast. The meal came as a traditional Thali setup,complete with rice, popadom and two puffed naan-style breads. If you're expecting familiar names like Madras and Chicken Tikka Biryani, you'd best either look elsewhere or embrace this alternative Indian experience with an open mind. To be honest, I didn't know what some of the dishes were on the menu, hence my decision to go for a mixed platter. I recognised some familiar faces like Dhal and Aloo Gobi, plus there were some familiar tastes with a different but nonetheless appetising appearance like lime pickle and raita. The lime pickle was out of this world, the zesty lime harmonising with a potent chili that was well off the Scoville Scale. Definitely a more culturally enriching experience than the nearby Pizza Hut and co.

Saravanaa Bhavan on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

New India Sweets, Britannia Rd, Mississauga, Canada

Check out this bountiful thali I picked up in Mississauga, Canada! At a bargainous $6, it included 3 veggie curries, pickle, naan, rice and salad. New India sweets is more of a cafe than a fancy restaurant, but they do not scrimp on quality. Despite its name, they are not just experts in sweets but put on a great show when it comes to savoury treats. At approx 50 cents for homemade samosas, who can resist? Popular with expats and locals, this is the perfect stop for homesick Brits too thanks to its convenient location next to the Yorkshire Arms pub. Recreate a slice of home with a curry here and a pint or several after!

New India Sweets on Urbanspoon