Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Papaya (Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine), 161 Northfield Avenue London W13 9QT
One warm Saturday, after helping our friends move their lock stock into their new flat, they were lovely enough to treat us to a brilliant meal at this fabulous restaurant, now firmly a new favourite at the top of my list.
Not being too familiar with this part of town, I can't quite tell you where it is in the scheme of things, but from what I saw, this restaurant is located on a street with a few other restaurants, Maxim's being one of them (this is a place which I will get around to trying out soon).
Hunger in place, greed firmly tucked down, we let our friends do the ordering, seeing as they'd been there before, and thus, knew best. Letting me do any form of ordering while in a hungry state is surely one way to end up with takeaway, but also not seen as socially acceptable in polite company.
While our friends chose the nicest and best(est) items on the menu, I tried to calm my greed down by taking pictures of the menu and other people's tables. Service was good in this place, with one particularly friendly waiter popping up (literally) now and again to ask us if we needed anything.
The only downside to this meal was the one waiter who took our order, who, when asked if he could serve us some poppadum with the main course (so that we could eat it crushed into the rice), he looked hesitantly at us for a bit, and then said, 'It's something to have with beer, nicer with beer. I'll bring it as a starter?'
We then said, 'Erm, no, could we please have it with our main course, as that's the way we like to eat it'.
More shaking of the head, and looks of disagreement.
Hey, if I want to eat poppadum standing upside down with peppermint and strawberry ice-cream, let me.
Anyhow, that aside, everything else was lovely, absolutely lovely; the place, the food, the (other) waiters. I couldn't fault it one bit.
Egg rotti £3.50 (eggs, onions, green chillies, curry leaves and herb mixture cooked in folded rotti)
This was similar to the roti paratha with egg (or roti telur) that is found in Malaysia, which is why we ordered it. Knowing we were sharing our dishes, this was sliced into 4 for us, and my piece was absolutely delicious.
Flaky, buttery pastry enveloping an eggy mixture, sometimes surprising you with a fiery green chilli bit, and hints of onion throughout the bread. We had this as just something to be tried on the side, but it would have been excellent dipped into any of the curry sauces that came after it.
Mutton biriyani £8.50 (rice mixed with mutton and spices, served with boiled egg)
Of all the biriyanis I’ve eaten, this was one of the best. With each grain of rice perfectly cooked (al dante, with just enough bite), and with just enough spice coating the grains, I would have happily eaten the rice alone, without the meat.
Thing is, the meat was also just as perfectly cooked, each piece being so so so tender, and oh so very flavourful. Lamb has its unique taste, which makes some people not like it, but I love the taste of lamb, and this unique taste shone through loud and proud in this dish.
Best of all, it had a whole hard boiled egg in the middle of the rice, like a little treasure waiting to be found. Oh how we scarfed it down.
Chicken biriyani £8.50
We also had the chicken version of this dish, just to try it out. Conclusion? While this is good, the mutton was way better. The chicken pieces let the dish down as they were quite dry, and each piece felt like it had been cooked, and cooked again. The rice was good though.
Fish curry (Sri Lankan style) £7.50
One of the things we like to order when we’re having curry is fish, because not many places cook fish curry well so we kinda use it as a benchmark to see how good a place is. Using the same checklist that we use for other fish curries, this has to be one of the best. Soft, almost like cotton candy in texture pieces of fish came in a bowl of velvety, rich, spicy and excellently flavoured curry sauce. Try as I might have, I couldn’t make out what mixture of herbs and spices were in it, and how they managed to make the flavour blend so well into the fish.
The sauce alone kept us entertained for a fair bit of the meal, and if that had been served to us without the fish, we would have been (almost) just as pleased. It was that good.
Devilled wild boar £8
The name refers to the specific way in which this dish is cooked. While I have had many versions of this dish elsewhere, I’ve never had the wild boar version before. After tasting this dish, I can probably conclude that this is the best version you’ll find in London.
(If anyone is yelling indignantly at this point, eager to prove that they’ve had better elsewhere, please prove your point by buying me dinner.)
With big chunks of wild boar meat (not enough of it!) cooked to perfection (not too tough, not too dry, just perfect), the combination of slightly dry-ish curry sauce, fragrant fried herbs and spices really set the meat off, to a league of its own.
The onions and pepper slices used in the dish were also crunchy, probably thrown in just at the last minute to retain its texture.
Would I recommend this place? Can’t sing higher praises than I’ve already done, and for now, this sits firmly as one of the tastiest curry places in town. Wait till I find the next contender.
Google Maps to here!
View Larger Map