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September 20, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 2:40pm

Sitwell Scoffs: Dishoom Café, Hardy’s Brasserie, Monty’s and Aubaine

By William Sitwell

SO CONTINUES MY diary of unrelenting gluttony. And since it only ever focuses on the three days a week that I’m in the bustling metropolis, the pressure of food being forced through my face feels unrelenting.

The last few days went a bit like this:

There was breakfast in Dishoom, that Iranian-style Bombay café in Covent Garden. I sat and read a copy of The Times of India and was instantly reminded of the many months I spent in Delhi, aged 17, when I was stationed in a school called St Columba’s opposite the old post office of Gole Dak Khana, near Connaught Place.

When I wasn’t teaching English, Geography and Moral Science – and ‘teach’ isn’t really an appropriate word – I used to love reading the Indian papers. This was mainly for their penchant of using rather old-fashioned English. Headlines that were perfectly grammatically correct and spot on in language terms often came across as rather eccentric.


Pictured above: The rules of the Dishoom Café

By way of example I particularly remember the story of a terrible traffic accident whose headline read ‘Six die in rickshaw mis-hap’. Today’s papers have sharpened up a little but I was comforted and happily nostalgic to spot a couple of gems, nevertheless.

One crime story read: ‘Habitual Offender Detained, Youths Near Tracks Under Lens.’ Or perhaps I’m being unfair and there really is a detective in Mumbai walking around with a large magnifying glass.

Another headline read: ‘A suspected dengue death bares city’s unpreparedness.’ There again maybe the sub-editor just had to fill the space and words like ‘not ready’ wouldn’t quite spell out the gravity of the situation.

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This I all pondered as I dipped a bun maska – a toasted bun with so much butter I thought it was slices of cheddar – into a glass of spicy chai. And as if this didn’t fill me I wolfed down a bacon naan roll, a great take on the bacon buttie but with naan and yogurt and the ketchup more a chilli tomato jam. 

Next time I’ll try the house granola, which promises cashews, almonds and pistachios and might weigh less heavily on one’s bicycle.

Hardy meal

Lunch that day was at Hardy’s, a charming brasserie in Marylebone. While it’s technically a French place the locals demand their shepherds pie and the like so there’s always a smattering of English grub on the menu which does confuse the place’s definition a little.


Pictured left: Hardy’s Brasserie and Wine Bar

Still, the mushroom ravioli was good – and my pal enjoyed his pie and peas. The starters were the best thing: a soft and hot haddock soufflé and another dish that promised a crisp egg yolk. This seemed a frightfully clever idea; that of crisping up egg yolk. Of course it was just an egg yolk surrounded by crispy stuff, which still made my companion happy.

Later at another more famous brasserie – or is it a bistro – chef Henry Harris was sparkling. He cooked a menu to celebrate the publication of a list of the 50 foodie things we should all aim to do before we die.

The Kenwood Bucket List, devised by some of the nation’s most brilliant foodie minds (ahem!) had several of its items prepared by Monsieur Harris. I think the most sensational was the bread and butter pudding. The raisons were hidden underneath and it was the softest example I’ve ever had of this great pudding.

Then there was lunch Monty’s, an Italian wine bar on Wells Street, which nobody has heard of yet – it’s been open four months – and was empty bar one other table. This has nothing to do with the food – great calamari, and braesola and excellent pasta (and a less exciting tart that tasted of very little).

Bacon at Aubaine

More memorable was the bacon at Aubaine in South Ken. Smoked and charred and chewy, it was delicious as was the toast (sour dough possibly). Poached eggs were fine (amazing, eh?) but I did get confused as it came with salad on the side.

I ate it but felt disorientated. I don’t think one should eat salad before at least ten in the morning. But I don’t feel a major campaign coming on. It’s not really something that would stir the heart of a pamphleteer, but it’s worth a mention if you’re bored at a bus stop and are short of a conversational ice-breaker.

Finally, before my stomach exploded, there was lunch at one of my favourite institutions on the planet, Quo Vadis. No ordinary lunch, it was to mark the publication of a Christmas catalogue from Booths (a fine supermarket well north of the Watford Gap). And a very fine book of Christmas it is too!

Make sure you shop there – especially if you’re in Media City in Manchester – and while you are think sagely about the fact that they have doors on their fridges, which means the units are lit beautifully, but more crucially save the company about 40 per cent of the electricity they were previously using.

It means you don’t need a coast and scarf when you shop there, like you do in Tesco. Every supermarket should follow suit. Honestly, it’s not scary opening the doors!

As to the lunch, it was actually cooked by the CEO Chris Dee, and some finer, softer, more tender, more deeply delicious venison I hadn’t eaten til that point. The shrimps were epic too and the smoked salmon worth travelling a very long way north for.

I had to leave before the bread and butter pudding so will never know if it was as good as that of Monsieur Harris. Still, if Chris Dee ever gets sacked from his top job at Booth’s he can rest assured he could have a more lucrative job as a chef.

And one whose restaurant I would patronise frequently. Up the north!!

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