Review: Rodells, Watford



They say the best things in life are worth some effort. If you want some excellent food, popping to the food court at the shopping centre ain’t going to make your taste buds’ dreams come true. So when I say that you all better bloody travel to Watford, you better bloody travel to Watford. In fact, I’m probably going to be shouting about this for the rest of the year. Zone 3 just became so much trendier. Watford is the place to go. Watford is the new East London. (Just with fewer moustaches and fixies.)

All of this enthusing is due to one place: Rodells.

Rodells... usually found without monkey-girl on lamp post

Rodells… usually found without monkey-girl on lamp post



Rodells is more than a restaurant; it’s an institution. It’s a food haven, a theatre, a family home, an evening hang-out and a democracy.

Rodells is the kind of place where you can spend five hours enjoying a meal. Which is exactly what we did.

Admittedly, I was a little sceptical when I received an email inviting me to Watford, but as I read on, my interest was piqued. Most restaurants have a speciality, even if it’s broad and regional in scope. ‘Modern European’ or ‘Pan-Asian’ might sound familiar. My most eclectic experience was probably when I visited a restaurant in Brasov that specialised in Mexican, but also served Hungarian and Romanian (and incidentally was fantastic).

Rodells takes eclecticism to a new level. The theme: world tapas. The reason: one man called Mario Tavares.

Cooking is like taking a photograph, Mario tells us. There is that one second where everything aligns and you have a beautiful shot, and a second later, the moment’s gone.

We’re sitting in a cosy upstairs room with Monty Python projected on the back wall. Rodells is a rather characterful property on the corner of some crossroads. Downstairs is a bar and some wooden counter seating, and larger restaurant tables are dotted around the two upstairs rooms.

Silent entertainment

Silent entertainment

Spending his early years in Macau, Mario moved to London just before his teens. However, the capital couldn’t contain him: he travelled the world as musician and film producer, playing for Motorhead, Paul Young and Keith Allen when he was a stand-up. During his adventures, he did what any self-respecting foodie would do and ate his way through a variety of cuisines. Yet Mario took his love of food one step further: he tracked down recipes.

‘I do a Thai green curry that’s not a Thai green curry,’ he tells us, perched at our table. ‘I learned the recipe in Kerala.’ It’s the kind of story that makes you blink twice. Whilst on the beach, he had been approached by a guy who sold three items: coconut oil, green curry and sunglasses. Brave or reckless – take your pick – Mario tried the curry and was blown away to the point where he pestered the man for the recipe.

Mario is clearly as creative as his background and the surrounds suggest. Food for him is ‘performance’; it’s an art form. Before he creates anything, he visualises it clearly in his mind. The theatrics extend to visitors’ dining experiences. Originally, each table had a blackboard built into them, each with a different menu. People had to strategically choose their menu depending on what they wanted to eat. For a past Valentine’s Day event, Mario hired an actress to sit drinking wine alone at a table. Whenever anyone went to the toilet, she would follow them and have an angry conversation on her phone at her good-for-nothing boyfriend who’d stood her up. This idea is so cheeky and hilarious that I grin every time I think of it.

As for the menu, we weren’t quite prepared for the scope of it: Korean, English, Portuguese, Louisianan, Caribbean, Cuban, Mexican, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Spanish, Lebanese, Cantonese… the list goes on.

Arriving at Rodells, we had been greeted by a tall, good-looking young man, who thankfully insisted on talking us through the list of world cuisines.

‘I’m very into food,’ he said.

‘I’ve come to the right place,’ I thought.

Is our waiter a red hot model? Why yes. Am I posing shamelessly with him? Why yes?

Is our waiter a red hot model? Why yes. Am I posing shamelessly with him? Why yes.

Choosing what to order was agony. Today’s menu contained no less than 28 tapas dishes and three larger dishes. As an obsessive foodie, I got out my biro and began marking ‘definites’ and ‘potentials’, whilst grilling our waiter, Louis, on his preferences. The menu changes daily; Mario’s repertoire consists of 130 dishes that he has collected over the years. He has two assistant chefs, Louis informed us, but they can only cook four dishes to the right standard. We all try them and vote whether they’re good enough, he explained. What a lovely gastronomic democracy.

Pretty pretty food

Pretty pretty food

Flat iron steak

Flat iron steak

In the end, we ordered one of the ‘mains’ that Louis raved about – flat iron steak (£14.50). This was served beautifully rare with a delicate pepper cream sauce and some of the best frites that we’ve had in a while – frites that actually tastes of potatoes rather than crispy air. The steak was clearly fantastic quality but had been a little over-enthusiastically peppered, which detracted from the flavour of the beef itself. Fortunately, the cream sauce did much to alleviate any mouth-burning and was also delicious in its own right.

Mac 'n cheese sushi style

Mac ‘n cheese sushi style

Next up, we had ‘mac n cheese sushi style’ (£8). Before you wrinkle your nose with revulsion, let me state now that no raw fish was mixed with cheese or pasta! The macaroni cheese is cooked, then rolled in breadcrumbs into a cylindrical shape and sliced like sushi. Each delicate ‘sushi’ piece is then topped with a blob of sweet mustard sauce. Not being the biggest macaroni cheese fan in the world and highly wary of ordering pasta out in this country, we only chose this based on rave reviews from previous bloggers and being assured it was a ‘favourite’.

One mouthful and its popularity suddenly made sense. It was not the rubbery, chewy lump I had expected but was soft with perfect consistency. The cheese, in our opinion, was a little too strong for the dish, but we fully enjoyed the concept: it’s rare that a single dish becomes an experience in itself.

Nonya chicken curry

Nonya chicken curry

Next up, we tucked into another customer favourite – ‘nonya chicken curry’ (£6), described as the ‘sexiest curry in the world’. Nonya – or nyonya – is a Malaysian curry that’s prepared by women for women. Women feeding women? How could that not be sexy?! Seriously, and with all mildly crass jokes aside, this curry had a very sexy flavour. It was mild but rich, with faint hints of lemongrass. The chicken was a little dry, but the sauce was so amazing that I would happily eat this every day. I would drink it for breakfast.

Jambalaya with some mac n cheese sushi style to the left

Jambalaya with some mac n cheese sushi style to the left

Along came a jambalaya with prawns and chorizo (£6). The rice was cooked to perfection and pepped well with fresh oregano. Sadly, the chorizo was bland and so there was little smoky, garlicky, paprika flavour to permeate the rice. This was the only disappointment for me.

Portuguese stifado

Portuguese stifado

For the savoury dishes, we finished off with a Portuguese stifado (£6), which Mario sometimes also calls Greek stifado as the dish is also found there. This is a beef stew that’s wonderfully flavoured with cassia bark – like a warmer, less sweet and earthier variation of cinnamon. It’s a dish that is truly comforting and is popular across the ages.

The dessert menu was profoundly traumatic. There was far too many delicious things begging to be sampled. In the end, we ordered three desserts – purely for quality control purposes. Obviously. Ahem.

Marry me.

Marry me.

The brownies (£4.50) were pleasant yet unremarkable, but the lemon and ginger cheesecake (£4.50) was marriage material. The base was crisp and thin and the flavours were so expertly balanced that the lemon and ginger pulled off a perfect duet in my mouth, scoring a 10.

The best carrot cake in the world

The best carrot cake in the world

Concluding the munchathon, we delved into possibly one the tastiest carrot cakes in the world (£4.50). It was again harmonious with warm spice cut by beautiful sweet icing. This is the kind of cake that would audition other cakes to get into cake heaven.

If food is performance, then Mario has mastered his ingredients well – they sing and dance to the taste buds. Occasionally, they might miss the odd beat but the show remains a stunning success.

Rodells 4.5/5 – Brilliant tapas-style dishes from around the world in a homey setting. Bring your friends and dig in!

Food 4/5
Value 4/5
Service 5/5
Atmosphere 5/5

Web: / @itsrodells
1a St Johns Road, Watford WD17 1PU
Lunch 11 – 3pm; Dinner 5 – 11pm; Breakfast – delivery to some local post codes.

Review: Rasa N16, Stoke Newington (Indian vegetarian restaurant)

Kathrikka - sliced aubergine in a spiced batter

Kathrikka – sliced aubergine in a spiced batter

I am dedicated to my carnivorous ways, despite being fully aware of my hypocrisy: I believe there is no ethical justification for eating meat, but life is just too short for me not to enjoy it. I don’t cook a huge amount of meat at home, so when eating out, it’s something I seek. Desperately. Determinedly. Especially beef, which tops my absolute most favourite food list in the whole wide world. (‘Obsessive’ doesn’t quite cover my devotion to beef.)

There are occasional moments, however, where I open my meat-crazed mind to the possibilities of delicious vegetarian fare out there, in the capital. Albeit this only occurs when dining out with vegetarians, but the point is that it does occur.

In addition to the meat bias of my blog, I try to keep it as a space for sharing food I enjoyed – even if it was just part of the meal, or one dish. Yet sometimes culinary atrocities are too great and they must leap out from my traumatised tongue onto a blank page or screen, as the case may be.

There was a veggie among our party of four and so the mission was on: find something to please all. We dined at Rasa N16 because it served Indian food – specifically south Indian/ Keralan – and that was universally popular choice. It wasn’t the easiest place for us to get to, but positive reviews online told us that we could expect some seriously tasty vegetarian Indian fare at ridiculously good prices. We voyaged out, ready to feast whilst feeling all ethical and healthy. Sadly though, these positive feelings were not enough to counterbalance the gastronomic sacrilege that was laid before us.

Mysore Bonda

Mysore Bonda

We tried four starters (£3.25 each): Kathrikka (sliced aubergine in a spiced batter); Mysore Bonda (spiced potato fried in a chickpea flour); Masala Vadai (deep-fried lentil patties); and Bhel Mix (essentially bhelpuri – a famous Bombay street snack of puffed rice, chickpeas and veg with tamarind juice and coriander). None of these were memorable or flavoursome, requiring a good deal of coconut chutney.

Masala Vedai

Masala Vedai

The Masala Vedai were particularly dry and bland and the Bhel Mix was initially interesting – coriander always adds a fresh tang – but quickly became monotonous. It was left unfinished.

Bhel Mix

Bhel Mix

Never mind, we thought. It’s hard to make a bland curry. How naïve we were. A tomato and aubergine curry appeared (Rasa Vangi, £4.50_ that was about as inspiring as X Factor reject auditions, save for the fact we couldn’t even laugh at its attempts.

Rasa Vangi

Rasa Vangi

Still, there was one more dish of intrigue – one dish onto which we could pin all our hopes. Our waiter had advised us to order Beet Cheera Pachadi (£4.50) a very adventurous beetroot and spinach curry, in a yoghurt sauce with coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves.  This is apparently a Rasa speciality. Highly recommended.

Beet Cheera Pachadi - all kinds of wrong mixed into one

Beet Cheera Pachadi – all kinds of wrong mixed into one

My friend tasted it first. She wrinkled her nose. “It tastes like salad!”

And she was right. Somehow, the chef at Rasa has created a ‘curry’, which seems to use salad cream as its base sauce. Had it contained a few potatoes, we would have been convinced it was supposed to be salad, served up next to charred meats at a barbecue. The dish remained, untouched. None of us could stomach it.

Re-reading the online recommendations for Rasa N16 makes me wonder whether my friends and I suffered some kind of collective hallucination. Yet whilst the service was good and the prices were undeniably reasonable, the food was something that we would never pay for again.

I have been told there is some very good vegetarian food to be found in the capital. Please restore my faith. Recommendations please.

Rasa N16 2/5 – The food was appalling. Vegetarian food deserves better. The ingredients deserve better

Food 1/5 – I think this might be my first 1/5 scoring on this blog. Sad times indeed.
Value 2/5 – It was very cheap but we would never pay for it again!
Atmosphere 2/5 – It was empty yet somehow a little claustrophobic.
Service 3/5 – Prompt and efficient.


Review: Breakfast at Dishoom (Covent Garden)

Dishoom bacon naan

Firstly, I need to apologise for the poor quality of the photos in this post. I promise that Dishoom’s bacon naan roll looks a lot more appetising than depicted here. In general, I’m not a very capable person before I’ve eaten in the morning. I barely managed to cycle to the restaurant without fainting. I’m going to blame it on that. Definitely.

Dishoom calls itself an old Bombay café and I’d heard good things about its breakfast. As my friend was in London town for an interview afternoon, it was the perfect opportunity to meet for a cheap, tasty and slightly unusual brekky to set her up a challenging day.

Having had dinner at Dishoom before, I knew exactly what I’d be drinking – Chocolate Chai (£2.70). To those who are now thinking, “I like chocolate, and I like chai, but together?!“, please trust me on this one. I thought the same but I love it lots – they very skillfully navigate and carve out a perfect middle route between the flavours.

Chocolate chai

Chocolate chai (from my dinner visit)

To eat, all three of us ordered the  Bacan Naan Roll (£3.70) which comes with chilli tomato jam, cream cheese and coriander. I met this with some scepticism –  I firmly believe bacon is one of those things that doesn’t need any extra flavours because I want to enjoy all of its salty goodness without interruption. However, Dishoom have really pulled this one off. The chilli jam isn’t too sweet, the coriander provides a tantalising contrast and…well, it’s just awesome.

Bacon naan roll with chilli jam (£3.70)

Bacon naan roll with chilli tomato jam (£3.70)

There was one small problem – my friends and I were less than impressed with its size. Please Dishoom – I think you could fit another rasher of bacon into that naan roll. At £3.70, one could just order two, but I’m going to resent paying £7.40 for bacon and bread, even in London.

Overall though, Dishoom makes for an unsual – and delicious – breakfast.

Dishoom Covent Garden

Where: 12 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9FB
When: Monday – Thursday 8am – 11pm; Friday 8am – 12am Saturday 10am – 12am Sunday 10am – 10pm

Also in Shoreditch:

Review: Dinner at Dishoom (Covent Garden)



Multicultural. The buzz word for policies, companies, employment opportunities and that sort of thing. It’s also a fairly apt description of human life in London. I’m currently studying a Master’s at LSE and, out of the 200+ in the department, I’ve so far encountered three Brits. We are rare specimens.

German, Taiwanese, Chinese, Puerto Rican, American, Thai. These were my companions and I found myself in a karaoke booth at the back of a Japanese second-hand manga store, wailing down a microphone and murdering every song I attempted.

Afterwards, it was time to eat and time to give poor India some representation: we’d reserved a table at Dishoom, self-described as a Bombay Café.

Things didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start. We were twenty minutes early so we were given a buzzer to wait at the bar whilst our table was prepared. However, we could clearly see our table, beautifully laid, across the gigantic and completely empty restaurant. We pointed this out and were very reluctantly seated, but the incident left a bad feeling like they were just trying to push drinks at the bar. To make matters worse, when our waitress for the evening arrived, she’d apparently been instructed to inform us – in a very friendly manner – that it was their policy not to seat parties until everyone had arrived, but it was OK today because the restaurant was empty. Which made no sense, because a reserved table is a reserved table – or so one would hope.

Rant over! We didn’t stay disgruntled for long and had a really good evening all round. In fact, Dishoom is the kind of place where it’s impossible not to have fun. Its décor is bright but not loud, and apparently it doesn’t stay empty for long. We were seated in an alcove table, which is perfect for groups of 6 to 10 people, and it made dish-sharing wonderfully easy. It’s the kind of place which encourages relaxed munching and much laughter with friends.

I found the menu a little strange. It focuses on Bombay snack food, grilled meat and naan bread, and includes very few vegetable side dish options. There are only three wet curries on the menu, which is bizarre given that naan bread, in my opinion,  needs to be eaten with some kind of sauce or relish! However, I’ve not been to Bombay or a Bombay café so I can’t comment on how usual it is.

Chocolate chai

Chocolate chai

First off, we ordered a range of exciting drinks. I chose a chocolate chai (£2.70), which I absolutely loved. I wasn’t sure how the combination would work, but the flavour balance was perfect and they’d avoided the temptation to make it too sweet.

Rose and Cardamom Lassi

Rose and Cardamom Lassi

Also worth mentioning was the rose and cardamom lassi (£3.50). Subtle but delicious. Highly recommended.

Pau Bhaji

Pau Bhaji – Lick the bowl clean!

Next up, we tucked into a range of “small plates, to be taken lightly”. We tried Pau Bhaji (£.390) – “A bowl of mashed vegetables with hot buttered pau bun, Chowpatty Beach style” – which made me want to research flights to Bombay (or should I say Mumbai?) straight away. Thick, rich and delicious, we kept on scooping the vegetable mush after the slightly-sweet bun was finished.

Vada Pau

Vada Pau

We also tried Vada Pau (£3.90) – a potato patty in a bun. Pleasant but unmemorable.



However, do not fail to order Dishoom Calamari (£5.20). They’re light, crispy and so moreish. They’re served with a dubiously named “Dishoom drizzle” – I don’t know what it is, but it’s seriously good.

Spicy Lamb Chops - £11.50 really?

Spicy Lamb Chops – £11.50 really?

Next up, we tucked into our grilled dishes. The Spicy Lamb Chops (£11.50) were tender and tasty enough, but fell short of being spectacular because there needed to be more effort put into the seasoning.

Masala Prawns

Masala Prawns

Similarly, the Masala Prawns (£10.50) were more salty than anything else. I didn’t feel compelled to fight with my co-diners over the last one.

Chicken Ruby

Chicken Ruby

Because we felt we should have a wet curry, we ordered the Chicken Ruby (£7.90) – “a mellow curry in the South Indian Style” – which I remember to be tangy, and a little dull.

Cinnamon Ice Cream - feeding my cinnamon cravings...

Cinnamon Ice Cream – feeding my cinnamon cravings…

Compelled to finish the meal in style, I ended with Cinnamon Ice-Cream (£2.90), which was reasonably priced for the portion-size but it was a little salty and not as smooth as I like ice-cream to be.

Dishoom Covent Garden 3/5
12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9FB

An enjoyable experience and enjoyable food, but it could have been executed with greater skill. I hear the Shoreditch branch is the place to go.

Food 3.5/5 – All tasty! But we weren’t bowled over.
Service 2/5 – As well as the above-mentioned saga, we had to wait a really long time in between visits from our waitress.
Value 3/5 – I paid £20 for three-courses, a drink and service, and was satisfied. But the grilled meat is pricey for what it is.
Atmosphere 4/5 – It’s Dishoom and it’s Covent Garden. It’s lively and fun!

Eat Me Up

Rolling up the fish masala

Rolling up the fish masala

I was sitting on a picnic bench in a grotty yard in Shoreditch, surrounded by the smells, sights and sounds of street food, shovelling lunch into my mouth… when there was an announcement over a PA system.

“Thanks for coming today! In case you’ve missed it, we’re here to celebrate the launch of a new app, HitMeUp!”

I paused and wiped my fingers. Yes, I had missed that. I ran backwards through my memories and took in my surroundings. No, it wasn’t for want of publicity on their part; I was just far too food-obsessed. I was there for EatMeUp and had totally neglected its promotional purpose.

HitMeUp is a great concept – it allows users to find local businesses and events happening near them, right now. It was launched in Shoreditch (where else?) in November, and has now gone London-wide, undoubtedly with ambitions to conquer the world.

I would espouse all its virtues, except for the fact that I still live in the dark ages where a Nokia brick delivers me messages. And this is a food blog, so I’ll move on to that… 🙂

Horn OK Please

Horn OK Please

A variety of street food traders had squeezed their way into this yard to serve up all kinds of greasy and sticky delights. An informal burger competition was taking place so at least 5 different burgers were on offer.

Burger breakfast muffin from Original Fry Up

Burger breakfast muffin from Original Fry Up

My friend, enticed by the breakfast offerings from Original Fry Up, got an English muffin with burger, bacon and an egg.

Venison burger from the Wild Game Co.

Venison burger from the Wild Game Co.

Another friend, however, rejected beef and got a vennison burger from the Wild Game Company and wasn’t disappointed. Flavoursome and filling, he highly recommended it (“And he’s normally very crticial, so if he says it’s good, it’s good!” his girlfriend added). It’s a shame that the beef lard chips were a little too crispy to be enjoyable.

For me, the choice was fairly simple. I had seen this juicy lamb on the grill on my way in and hearts had popped out of my eyes.

"What are you adding to the cabbage?""Water."

“What are you adding to the cabbage?”

Lamb wrap in the making...

Raita and chilli :)

Raita and chilli 🙂

Lamb wrap from Bhangra Burger

Lamb wrap from Bhangra Burger

Then I realised it was served by Bhangra Burger and I had heard very good things about them indeed. The wrap is coated in a yoghurt sauce that is similar to raita, and then a chilli sauce is smeared on top. Salad and fried spiced cabbage is added, and this is topped off with mouthwateringly succulent lamb. My only criticism is that my wrap defnitely needed more lamb. And my only warning is “Beware! This is hot!” – as in, it’s going to burn your mouth off. But I asked nicely for extra yoghurt and the man kindly obliged.

Fish masala wrap from Bhangra BurgerPhoto: Mia Dhillon

Fish masala wrap from Bhangra Burger
Photo: Mia Dhillon

Also on offer was a fish masala wrap. (We did ask what fish it was but there was some kind of misunderstanding for we were told, “Masala fish.”)

Chickpeas from Horn OK PleasePhoto: Mia Dhillon

Chickpeas from Horn OK Please
Photo: Mia Dhillon

For any veggies, Horn OK Please were offering boxes veggie samosas and chickpea curry, garnished with pomegranate and coriander. My friend reported it was very tasty, but sadly it wasn’t properly heated, which was not terribly appealing in the foggy-breath temperatures of Saturday.


To add to our mains, we ordered some rosemary fries for £2.50 from Street Kitchen. These were addictive by virtue of their saltiness yet we were completely unable to detect even the faintest hint of rosemary, despite the visible small, green specks.

BBQ Chicken from the Joint

BBQ Chicken from the Joint

I actually spent most of the festival in a dilemma as to whether to visit the Joint, which were advertising 5hr slow roasted, pulled pork (£6) or a BBQ chicken and candied bacon burger (£6). In the end, I had to save myself for the Chocolate Festival at Southbank (post coming soon) but I’ve got my eye on this trader…

Peruse the pictures below.

Bhangra Burger - man making us yummy food

Bhangra Burger – man making us yummy food

Good and Proper

Shoreditch graffitiPhoto: Mia Dhillon

Shoreditch graffiti
Photo: Mia Dhillon









Street Kitchen





From Mediocrity to Motown, pt. 1

I live in East London, close to Brick Lane, and I am very happy that a lot of Indians/Pakistanis also live there because I get to eat delicious food. My stomach might not be so happy, but we have to compromise sometimes.

As my parents were delivering all the stuff I’d forgotten, I had to ensure that they were well-fed. The logical step was, therfore, to get some serious curry! On a friend of  friend’s recommendation, we went to Tayyabs, but sadly it didn’t work out. Apparently, customers of Tayyabs should consider themselves privileged to be served!

THE PLACE: Tayyabs
THE FOOD: Punjabi

Tandoori chicken and seekh kebab

On our arrival, we were ignored by two waiters before someone finally came to seat us.

“Will the VIP area be OK for you?”

“VIP area?” exclaimed my father, excitedly. “Well, that sounds very good, doesn’t it?”

Apparently the VIP area is just another room where you actually have to share a table. I don’t have a huge problem with that but could someone please tell me how that is VIP?!

We eyed up the food around us excitedly, ordering an obscene amount. Now I shan’t bore you with the details, but the food was mediocre and unmemorable to say the least.  To give them credit where credit it due, the seekh kebab was very tasty, but my favourite, tandoori chicken, was dry and tasteless. The curries aren’t worth mentioning.

The meal would have been passable, given the reasonable prices, if it weren’t for the service, which didn’t exist.

“Excuse me, could you please clear some of these plates away?”

*Waiter walks off pretending not to hear*

“Excuse me, we need some of these plates cleared. We don’t have enough room.”

*Different waiter mutters something in a surly manner, refuses to take our plates, and walks off*

Overall 2/5

Don’t go unless you want to eat average food whilst feeling like unwelcome guests. 

Food quality 2.5/5 – Quality wasn’t bad, but taste was lacking.

Value for money 3/5 – Prices were around £7 a curry.

Atmosphere  3/5 – Lively and popular, if you ignore the fact the waiters are trying their hardest to ignore you!

Service 1/5 – They get one point for wrapping up the leftovers in a doggy bag. Waste not, want not – I’m a student!