We review Assado, the fusion restaurant by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala…
Cyrus Todiwala is one of my favourite chefs in London. Not only does he talk about the food from his Parsee heritage with passion, he’s also a really charming person to meet.
So when I found out that he was Chef Patron of Assado – the restaurant at the Hampton by Hilton Waterloo hotel, I was eager to try the menu.
I’d not forgotten the delicious curries at Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen – his signature restaurant at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 – when I first met him many years ago. But when I chatted to him at the Hampton by Hilton hotel’s first anniversary celebrations this year, he described the food at Assado as a beguiling fusion of Portuguese, Brazilian, Indian and Goan cuisine. If his reputation for delivering some of London’s best curries at Café Spice Namaste was anything to go by, Assado was something I just had to try.
The restaurant itself is a fabulous echo of the Hampton by Hilton’s bright, open plan ‘scandi-style’ simplicity. So think plenty of light bulbs and domed metal lampshades, thick light wooden benches and bright wall art.
Had it been a weekday, I’ve no doubt that the informal dining area complete with an open kitchen, high dining benches and a ‘food on the go’ menu would have been busy.
But tonight, the guests were contained within the low level dining tables and striking booths surrounded by attractive tiling. Your eyes are drawn to all sorts of Cyrus cookbooks, glass jars and colourful ornaments on the shelves. Guests don’t have to leave the hotel to find the restaurant (there’s a side entrance for everyone else) but there’s just enough attention to detail to make you feel like you’ve ‘left’ the hotel and arrived at an independent eatery.
We were very happy to get the last booth and our starter, the chef’s platter, was a fantastic way to start.
On this wooden board, we were served a Goan curried chickpea on mini brioche (otherwise known as a chickpea xacutti in pao), some chicken tikka piece and curried beef croquettes. All proved to be really delicious but the standout thing for me was the ‘Assado pork puff’. These dinky minced pork parcels in flaky pastry are probably not good on the waistline, but they’re fantastic on the taste buds. The sharing platter as a whole was varied, surprising, had provided plenty of sustenance and was packed with flavour. Absolutely worth ordering.
The variety and level of detail provided for the mains at Assado seemed initially impressive. Fourteen dishes span across masala marinaded meats and fish, Indian-style curries and vegetarian options such as grilled paneer (cheese). For the less adventurous, a ‘Bombay-style beef burger’, sirloin steak and even fish and chips seasoned with mild spices aim to please.
Our appetites were piqued by the sound of the Goan prawn curry and Belly of Pork Assado. Mr C ordered a bottle of Heinekin and I had a lovely chilled glass of sauvignon blanc.
Belly of pork can go either way when it’s so fatty. If cooked in the right way the fat can be the very delectable thing about the dish. Get it wrong and it can create an unpleasant slimy experience. This one, Mr C thought, was veering towards the latter and the sauce, unfortunately, had that gloopy consistency you often find from a jar of supermarket bought sweet and sour sauce. It was saved a little, by the chili and garlic risotto on the side and tasty side of garlic naan.
As for the Goan curry, the prawns were nicely plump and juicy, however it had the same gloopy consistency of curries that I do everything to swerve. The presentation was nice and the waitress kindly warned us to remove the giant chili that was placed on top to avoid us completely numbing our mouths. It’s a shame though that they didn’t finely chop this up and combine it with the curry as it definitely needed a bit more seasoning and kick.
The staff were also really charming and efficient. So much so, the food arrived a little too quickly for our liking. But we hoped some of Cyrus’ desserts would allow us to end on a high.
The Bebinca – a Goan-styled layered pancake – would have definitely benefited from a more generous grate of nutmeg to make it a little less bland. It was nice to try the cardamom and coconut ice cream it was served with though, which proved to be a refreshing way to end the meal.
The saffron and cardamom crème brûlée was excellent – hooray! Had we known the portion was going to be so huge we’d have probably skipped the Bebinca and ordered this alone with two spoons.
It was sugary and crisp on top, and had a more-ishly sweet and flavour-packed custard underneath. It was hands down one of the best crème brûlées I’ve tasted. I would highly recommend you order this.
If you want to go really traditional, Assado also have Kulfi (Indian style ice cream), Portuguese Pasteis de Nata, mango and coconut cheese cake and various ice creams.
You’ve got to applaud Cyrus and the team behind Assado for attempting such an ambitious fusion of four cuisines. I did wonder whether they’ve been too ambitious, and that’s why some dishes were sadly quite forgettable while other dishes were more of a hit.
I think a visit to Café Spice Namaste – where the food is true to Cyrus’ Parsee roots – is calling. And given a bit of time, perhaps Assado will evolve into a type of restaurant that the other Todiwala establishments have become.
But for now, I predict his signature Café Spice will blow Assado out of the water.
Until next time x
Thank you to Assado for hosting Oh So London for a complimentary meal. All views are my own. For more information on Assado, go to Assado.co.uk. Have you eaten at Assado? If so, what did you think? Do leave your comments below.
Assado, 157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8XA