Location: Ely's Yard, west of Brick Lane, southwest of the brewery. E1 6QL
Thanks to ladymoonray, we had dinner on a bus! This ex-Routemaster bus has been converted into a vegan restaurant, with kitchen below, tables above, and takeout at the entrance. Our group of five had a reservation for the largest of the tables, occupying the back of the top, the banquette dressed up with throw pillows.
It's tasty food, with variety and flavor such that it being vegan was almost incidental to those of us who aren't. The gyoza, with seasonal vegetables, were light, but tastier without the astringent and overpowering ponzu sauce with which they were served. The teriyaki stir-fry main was substantial, but again, the quality of the vegetables, combined with the treat of the deep-fried, were what made the dish. Desserts were my one disappointment with the meal: both the chocolate fondant and the bitter chocolate-coconut tart were too large, too heavy, and neither - especially my tart which had none - came with anywhere near as much fruit as the dishes required to balance out their weight.
Service was reasonable and always friendly, even when we needed to return a corked wine. The wine - when not corked - was good. The bus does sway a bit, however, when ever anyone moved around much or goes up and down the stairs, so be warned. Overall, a lovely evening.
Location: 122 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch. London.
An unprepossessing façade, another Vietnamese restaurant in Shoreditch. The food, however, was remarkable. Satay chicken was enlivened with lemongrass. The pork with pork spring roll noodles was the best I've had since I lived in Toronto. Service was well-coordinated, serving our large tables of 11 or 12 simultaneously. It was bring-your-own-wine, but with glasses, corkscrew, and no corkage fee. Our bill, divided among the table, and including starters, mains, and service, came to an impressive £10 each.
Location: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, London. About five minutes' walk north-west of Green Park station.
The day before, we'd been discussing how we never go to upscale Indian restaurants. Then I skimmed an Olive article and misremembered it the next time, in time to invite DJ - who suggested Indian - to join us at a restaurant whose location C. looked up while still at work. We met there, it was marvelous, and I've been daydreaming about it ever since. The bit I misremembered? Tamarind isn't the cheaper sibling of a really good restaurant. That's Imli. Tamarind IS the really good restaurant.
While waiting for C. to show up, we had ginger mojitos, pappadoms, and chutneys. The ginger didn't really work with the drink but the chutneys were amazing - vivid, bright, unusual. They were what started us down the ordering of all the courses. We didn't mean to; but after the chutneys, starters meant we could try more dishes. Chickpeas, yogurt, potato cakes. We shared throughout. Chicken, lamb, vegetables. I wasn't taking notes, and it's all too long ago now, but we weren't disappointed by a single dish. Each one had personality, depth, and nuance. We even ordered dessert, and those were good too.
Located in a spacious basement, Tamarind takes advantage of the low-lit but not too-dim environment, comfortable, relaxing, with good service to support ambiance. The kitchen has a large window onto the dining room to help coordinate. I'd love to go back, but I may start by trying the actual cheaper sibling to see what the rest of the family is like.