Thumbs up! Chutneys

23 12 2007

– No dogs are allowed in here
– He’s a Hearing Dog for Deaf People
– A Hearing Dog! Ooohhh! That’s fine then!

We hit a vegetarian Indian for lunch, but once we got past the access issue, we sat at a table in the small crowded restaurant and tied Smudge’s lead to a chair leg. For the entire meal, he stayed quietly under the table (good boy). Chutneys provides an all-you-can-eat buffet for about £6 and it is great value. A notice on the wall made me laugh – “One plate each please”. The food was good, very filling, and there was lots to choose from. There were about six different curries and chutneys – they even had apple chutney and lemon chutney which was delightful. For pudding I had Gulaab Jamun (very sweet dough balls, like mini doughnuts) with rice pudding and fruit. We had Tikka beer and Kingfisher beer – the Tikka had quite a striking taste to it but the Kingfisher was more mellow. They sell organic red wine at only £8.95 a bottle. The atmosphere is busy, informal, and cheerful, the staff are friendly but stay out of your face. Top marks for friendly service, great food, and a low bill. The only downside was that afterwards I was so full that I felt ill.

Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street NW1 2HL
TEL 020 7388 0604

Tube stations : Euston Square Tube (2 minutes), Euston Tube (3 minutes)
Railway Stations : Euston (3 minutes), St Pancras and Eurostar Terminal (12 minutes)

Deaf review : Friendly staff, Hearing Dogs are welcome. It’s way too noisy so forget the chit-chat (or use sign language if you can) and just come here to eat!

Thumbs up! Busaba Eathai

16 12 2007

I was really looking forward to our christmas party as we had booked a room in a Thai restaurant and Thai is one of my favourite cuisines. Busaba Eathai is a chain created by Alan Yau, they guy behind Wagamama’s, the fantastic Japanese ramen noodle resaurants. There are usually long queues outside and you’re not able to make reservations. So we booked their private room for our christmas party. The ambience is nice, dark and moody with dim lighting and dark woods. They have Wagamama-style communal benches and tables, so it’s not intimate-dinner-for-two style, you can’t lean back in your chair, it’s busy, it’s more like a factory, and you’re sharing your table with strangers. This means it’s hard to have a decent conversation without distraction and people seem to be shouting at each other, so the private room suited me much better as it was quieter, with just one long table which seated up to 25.

I saw the floors were slate, and the walls and furnishings were wood, and straight away I knew the acoustics would be hell. Sounds echo off hard surfaces and makes it a much noisier environment for me. But eating in the small private room brought the noise level right down and I was able to relax. I didn’t have any access problems with bringing a Hearing Dog into the restaurant, which made a nice change. I put my fleece coat on the floor for Smudge and he settled down happily. The waiters didn’t trip over him and they even asked me if Smudge was ok.

The wait service was straight off the mark, we didn’t have to hang around for our food. The efficient and friendly waiters brought a constant stream of plates to us from our chosen set menu –

* Prawn pomelo with peanut served on betal leaf
* Thai calamari with ginger and peppercorn
* Fishcakes with cucumber and peanut relish
* Po pea jay vegetable spring rolls
* Pandan chicken marinated in garlic and coriander root

* Green chicken curry with pea aubergine and corn
* Muslim beef curry with banana capsicum
* Aromatic butternut pumpkin curry with cucumber relish
* Som tam green papaya salad
* Steamed jasmine rice
* Steamed coconut rice
* Phad thai rice noodle with prawn, dried shrimp, tofu and peanut
* French bean and mange tout with baby corn, coconut hurt and pine nut
* Chicken butternut with cashew nuts and chilli
* Ginger beef with thai pepper, chilli and spring onion
* Chilli prawn stir fry with sweet basil
* Tofu and spinach with shallot, chilli and yellow bean

The food was good and I highly recommend the Thai calamari, pumpkin curry, and green chicken curry which bounced out of their bowls with their zingy flavours. Laura had a jasmine smoothie and it was just mmmmmmm. Laura doesn’t eat meat so there wasn’t much choice for her, there’s certainly room for improvement on the vegetarian side of the menu. The wine and Thai beer were both good. They don’t do dessert so I had lemongrass tea with honey which was just divine.

Luckily the toilet signs aren’t in Thai. However, they use symbols which can be a bit confusing, not being the standard ISO 7001:2007 symbols.

There are often people queuing outside, especially if they have had a few beers, trying to work out what the symbols mean, and waiting to see who comes out of which door. The symbols represent the different ways that men and women use the facilities: standing up and sitting down.

My only quibble was that I felt we were rushed out as the private room had another booking, and they came in before we had vacated the room.

The verdict? A thumbs up!

Busaba Eathai, 22 Store St WC1E 7DF
T 020 7299 7900
F 020 7299 7909

Mon – Thurs 12pm – 11pm / Fri – Sat 12 noon – 11.30pm / Sun 12 noon – 10pm
Station: Tottenham Court Road
Average price: £24 and Under

Thumbs up! ASK

15 12 2007

This restaurant has a varied menu which boasts tasty Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza with toppings of your choice. This branch of ASK also offers a takeaway service.

We had trouble the moment we walked in.

– No dogs!
– He’s an assistance dog.
– No sorry, we can’t allow dogs in here.
– Can I speak to the manager please.

The manager came out and he was perfectly happy to let us come in and eat. Oh, the embarrassment, though! We were shown to a table right at the back, away from all the other customers, which suited me fine as it was a little quieter there. Things got better as the waiter asked if Smudge would like some water and brought over a bowl, and gave him a few pats on the head throughout our meal.

The selection of food wasn’t great – just pizza and pasta, without any main meat or fish dishes and a single choice of beer. We had garlic bread to start which was ok, just like those in Poppadom Express. The mains were OK but just like “best-of” range supermarket filled pasta. I know, I’m too fussy, but then I am a good cook and tend to make home-made meals rather than bring home shop-bought stuff. The wine was fine, so was the coffee.

Even thought the food wasn’t great, the service was attentive, friendly and polite, and the location facing the river is very good. The restaurant is spotless and well lit. It wasn’t too busy so it wasn’t too noisy. There is outside seating which would make it a nice spot to eat in the summer.

ASK, Spice Quay, 34 Shad Thames, Butlers Wharf, London SE1 2YE
T (020) 7403 4545
Tube: Tower Hill
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12:00-23:30 / Sun 12:00-23:00
Cuisine: Italian, Pizzeria
Booking not necessary

Thumbs up! Lorenzo Restaurant

8 12 2007

A group of us and two Hearing Dogs (Smudge and Harry) descended upon Lorenzo in Crystal Palace for a home cooked Italian meal. This restaurant is on the High Street and close to the tube station, so it’s easy to get to.

This restaurant looks really small from the outside but there are three floors. It looked good n busy! I was wondering how noisy this place is going to be … am I going to enjoy this night out as none of my friends in this group can sign. I can’t relax if I am struggling to lip read people against a constant din, it’s really hard work. We were shown to a large table in the corner downstairs and were promptly attended to by a polite and efficient waiter, who brought us wine. The place began to fill up with families and couples, it had a friendly bustle and the waiting staff were attentive.

The starters and main course arrived quickly, we didn’t feel we were left waiting long for each course. For a starter I had Hot Spinach Bake – a huge slab of goats cheese, lots of spinach and roasted peppers. For my main I had Tortellini Al Prosciutto – fresh pasta filled with cured ham and cheese in a creamy tomato and nutmeg sauce topped with cured ham. It looked good, tasted good, and was a decent sized portion. Everyone else was equally happy with their food.

When we wanted more wine, I looked around for a waiter and he noticed immediately, he was in fact already opening a bottle before I managed to voice my request. Blimey, that’s what I call good service! The dogs were lying quietly under the table, no one seemed to notice they were there and the staff certainly didn’t have a problem with them. One of the waiters charmed us all by bringing over bowls of water for the dogs.

As the wine flowed, the good service and friendly atmosphere combined to relax me almost into a stupor. By this time I didn’t really care about lip reading, and asked for the pudding menu – there was ice cream, and lots of it! I asked for Coppa Lorenzo which was a confection of caramelita, chocolate and vanilla ice creams topped with cream, hazelnuts and a biscuit. It didn’t disappoint but it certainly disappointed Smudge who was hoping for a taste!

At this point I was ready to fall off my chair and roll over. We were brought coffees and offered drinks on the house. Oh, my. We left very very satisfied and happy customers – we’ll definitely be back!

Lorenzo run a takeaway service although they don’t do home delivery.

Lorenzo, 73 Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, London SE19 1TX / Tel. 020 8761 7485 / email / Open Monday to Saturday 12-11 pm, Sunday 12-10.30 pm

They also have a café on Crystal Palace Parade, Café St Germain, which has a covered heated terrace for al fresco face-stuffing dining. Open 8am – 7.30pm.

Binned! Patisserie Valerie

5 12 2007

After spending hours in the Victoria and Albert museum, we desperately needed coffee and cake. Off we went to Patisserie Valerie nearby at 215 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge.

In this London branch of the fashionable Patisserie Valerie chain, salads, pasta and fresh fish are on the menu, but calorific hits are what Patisserie Valerie’s really about. Pretty pastries, intricate chocolate confections, and cakes offer every reason to indulge. It was certainly a busy cafe so it must be fashionable. But at what cost? Must we have fashion at the cost of disability rights, manners and common decency?

My friend and I walked in and waited to be seated. We were told by not one, but FOUR, waiters that we could not bring a dog into the cafe.

PV – Dogs aren’t allowed in here
Me – He’s a Hearing Dog

PV – No dogs are allowed
Me – He’s an assistance dog, a Hearing Dog

PV – You can’t bring a dog in here for hygiene reasons
Me – He is allowed, it’s the law, he’s an assistance dog

PV – You will have to leave the dog outside, you can’t bring pets in here
Me – He’s not a pet. Go and get the manager!

The manager came out and I spoke to him –

Me – I’ve got a Hearing Dog, an assistance dog here. Your waiters keep asking me to leave. He’s an assistance dog, not a pet.
PV – We can’t have a dog in here.
Me – Do you allow Guide Dogs for the Blind in here?
PV – Yes.
Me – So why is this any different? There are six different kind of assistance dogs in the UK and they all have the Assistance Dogs UK logo on their coat. By law, assistance dogs are allowed into all public places including food shops and restaurants.

I told him to look at the coat Smudge is wearing and pointed out the logo.

PV – Our customers around here don’t like dogs.
Jane – You’re breaking the law!

The manager then agreed we could bring my Hearing Dog inside BUT… he told us where to sit (which is discriminatory). We were shown a table away from all the other customers, at the back, next to the toilets and an open door. It was freezing. I was not amused and after a few minutes we moved to a table further away from the door.

The coffee was lukewarm and the cake nothing special, it was more cream than cake. Ugh.

I don’t recommend PV. I didn’t even get an apology from the manager or any of the staff for their offensiveness. I haven’t been treated so shabbily in years and am extremely pissed off. How dare they!

When I got home, I looked at PV’s website and came across this – it makes for interesting reading!

Pâtisserie Valérie review :

We ordered our wedding cake from PV, 215 Brompton Road branch, and they couldn’t do enough for us at the time. However, on our wedding day, the cake arrived 3.5 hours late. As it was an evening wedding, most of our guests had left and missed out on an important part of the day. It was also the wrong style, and the wrong colour cake. After our honeymoon the MD said that we were lucky to have got a cake in the first place, made no apology whatsoever and said that we should have returned the cake!! Beware! these people just want to take your money and don’t care about the customer.

review by nafisa, 19 Sep 2007

Thumbs up! Deaf aware pub – True Lovers Knot

4 12 2007

A pub in the Tarrant Valley, Dorset, get a round of applause from me and a virtual medal for being deaf aware.

True Lovers Knot offers a bar and food, accommodation and a child-friendly garden. They have a hearing loop system at the bar, so you can easily order food or drinks. If you are deaf and you book a table, they will set the table different to normal, so there is less ‘visual noise’. To cap it all, their staff are trained in deaf awareness.

They are currently working towards being the first pub in history to be awarded the RNID Louder than Words charter mark. Nationally recognised, the Louder than Words charter mark shows that the awarded organisation offers a fully deaf aware service to employees and customers, and that their needs are taken seriously.

Clap clap clap. More like this please!