Sunday, 29 December 2013

East & West - Review

Oh, well. And if this ISN'T a Christmas miracle then I don't know what is. I found this old review in my drafts and while some of you may have read it before, some of you definitely won't have! Wow, oh wow.

Anyway, this was the last review I ever did as the official Food Reviewer for this lil newspaper. The end came thanks to what SOME people would regard as "a series of fuck ups". Actually, these fuck ups have ended up making 2013 one of the most fulfilling and fantastic years I've had as an adult on this planet.

So, RIP food column but hello to becoming a better, happier human.

Love and best wishes from the meanest muncher in town xxx

Food Review: East & West
Address: 227 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield S7 1FJ

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Nothing is new; it’s all been done before. The Rolling Stones were the best rock ‘n’ roll band, the 1920s/50s/60s had the best fashion and Nokia phones are basically as good as technology is ever going to get. Sadly, the same can be said for the world of food: an Indian restaurant usually means a pickle tray to start, some curry and a side; an Italian means a thin-crust pizza or lasagne and a Chinese means chicken coloured in with a luminous orange highlighter.

So, when you come across something a bit different, something that you don’t quite understand, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. East and West is a tiny, inconspicuous South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurant squeezed onto Abbeydale Road and is exactly that: a cuisine that until now, I was virtually unaware of.

The neon sign à la ‘local takeaway’, the no-frills interior spotted with wonky tables, the toilet located outside, down an alleyway, and the metal school-dinner trays that each course is served upon might cause the typical restaurant-seeker to do a Dionne Warwick (walk on by, for the uncultured). However, if you’re feeling a little adventurous then East and West is just the ticket.

I still don’t fully understand the menu – what is a starter and what is a main? Do these things even exist? Why do we eat three times a day? I don’t know! Stop asking me questions! To ‘start’ I had the Chilli Paneer (£4.25), which was a total dream and highly, utterly recommended: chunky peppers, onions, and this un-meltable cheese all smothered in the greatest sharp, zingy sauce.

We then moved onto a Dosa, which is basically a large crepe, filled with whatever you like. It’s not quite a main and it’s not quite a starter – reflected in the price (£3.50 - £5.95) but it’s worth a try. We tried grated paneer and masala dosa, both of which were nice and tasty but could have done with a bit more filling to warrant the Sahara-esque expanse of pancake.

The brilliantly-titled Chicken Devilled (£5.50) for me, at least, conjures up terrific images of a world taken over by chickens, all led by a possessed rooster despot. Back in Sheffield though, this translates into chilli chicken and is a joy.

I must point out that East and West is no longer a BYOB establishment and they enforce this new licensing very strictly (a woman left the restaurant because she was not permitted to drink her bottle of red onsite). Alcohol is for sale though and the bottle of wine we shared did the job nicely, so much so that my recollection of how the food tasted from this point onwards is slightly hazy.

To finish, I ordered the Mixed Veg Uttappam (£4.95), which is described as a thick crepe. For me, it felt more like a solid omelette, full of chunky tomato slices and a few peppers but garnished superbly with herbs and a choice of three sauces to dip into.

The gratification of eating out and being able to pick something like an Uttappam, in complete ignorance, is something I miss. This new world of guessing and road-testing unfamiliar dishes and liking them or not liking them is something that we so rarely see now. This owes to the authenticity of the food at East and West, marking it on the map as a must for any food lover.

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