Appetisers
5 May 2003 by JR
  • The combination of Indian restaurateur Nur Monie and chef Rajenda Balmiki first excited curry lovers at Le Tagore in Paris then at The Tagore in Welling, Kent. Now they are back together again at Kasturi, 57 Aldgate High Street, London EC3 (tel 020 7480 7402, web www.kasturi-restaurant.co.uk) again specialising in the cooking of Pakhtoon food from the North-West Frontier which minimises the uses of ghee and butter.

  • Spring is in the thoughts of many a restaurant chef at the moment as the quality of produce changes for the better and none more so than Henry Harris, the talented chef at Racine, London SW3 (tel 020 7584 4477). Harris takes wild sea trout, currently available at all good fishmongers, and cures them like salmon for gravad lax but with a 50/50 salt and sugar cure rather than 70/30. Absolutely delicious and because sea trout are rarely longer than a metre, one fish will serve eight as a first course with enough left for a few rounds of sandwiches.

  • Spring tides also bring a fresh harvest to the shrimp fishermen of north Lancashire, Cumbria and south-west Scotland who supply Bob Baxter, king of that great British delicacy, Morecambe Bay potted shrimps. His latest newsletter, proudly displaying his two Royal Warrants in a typeface unchanged for 30 years, bears witness to an unswerving commitment to quality. Telephone 01524 410910 for orders which can then be successfully frozen.

  • Baker & Spice's long-heralded move from Walton Street has finally happened. Devotees of their great bread, food and desserts should now head for 41 Denyer Street, London SW3 (tel 020 7589 4734, web www.bakerandspice.co.uk). Open seven days.

  • Any letter from Philip or Mary Contini, the couple behind Edinburgh's spectacular Valvona & Crolla Italian food and wine shop, is invariably interesting not least for revealing that such has been their family's passion for all things Italian that when the shop opened in 1934 their telegram address was Chianti Edinburgh!

    Their latest missive details almost 40 'At Home' events during the coming year ranging from cookery displays by the Clarks of Moro restaurant fame to Pol Roger champagne and Barbaresco wine tastings as well as mushroom forays along the Scottish coast, spring and autumn, with ace mycologist Professor Roy Watling.

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    Restaurant Of The Week

    Initials are seemingly as good a solution as any to the tricky problem of naming a restaurant. RSJ, named for obvious structural reasons, has pleased National Theatre goers and Loire wine lovers for the past 22 years (tel 020 7928 4554) on London's South Bank; EAT has been Eli Zabar's exhortation to those on Manhattan's Upper East Side to enjoy his good food whilst an unrelated chain, EAT (Excellence and Taste) has prospered across London.

    When Jacob Saul Watkins' parents named their talented son it was probably the furthest thing from their minds that after an itinerant apprenticeship he would settle with Riekie, his South African wife, in a small restaurant on the borders of Hampshire and West Sussex where the twelve tables give ample scope to his skills as a chef and washer up (there are only two in the smaller than domestic kitchen) and the walls ample room for the paintings of his seemingly equally talented sisters.

    JSW is brazenly open, principally because there is absolutely nowhere to hide. The large windows light up the diningroom; en route to the outside lavatories you walk past the dry store whilst the small front counter is big enough to display a large format bottle of claret, the restaurant's business card and that of its major fish supplier, based nearby in Havant.

    Openness and lightness permeate the cooking and are reflected in the crisp white linen and white crockery. Thin rectangular plates bear a first course of roasted scallops, black pudding and creamed cabbage and then reappear carrying a citrus dessert that comprised a lime sorbet, lemon parfait, a pink grapefruit jelly and a mini crême brulée. Best of all in terms of flavour and colour was the combination of silky white cod in a brilliant saffron broth surrounded by plump mussels.

    Watkins takes his commitment to his cellar equally seriously and his wine list, whose bins must outnumber the total number of covers in the restaurant by at least thirty to one, is packed with gems from Alsace, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa at very fair prices.

    This holistic approach is obviously effective. One elderly female customer came in leaning heavily on her walking stick but, after an excellent lunch, briskly walked out of the door unaided and was only reunited with the stick by a helpful waitress. Watkins' menu sensibly offers no such guarantee, however.

    JSW
    1 Heath Road, Petersfield, Hampshire GU31 4JE (tel 01730 262030)
    Two-course lunch £17.50; two-course dinner £27.50. Closed Sunday and Monday.