FtLion Awards 2017: Best Starter of the Year?

After the #FtLionAwards2017 Best Beverage of the Year (sponsored by Smoky Boys BBQ & Grill Haus), we continue with our second of 10 categories: Best Starter of the Year.

After much debate and dialogue, we’ve shortlisted the following six nominees.

And while you salivate over these incredible starters, remember that not only can you also vote for your favourite on our Instagram and Facebook pages, but in doing so you’ll automatically be entered in our prize draw with the chance of winning a £30 voucher to be spent at any of Smoky Boys three locations – Watford, Amersham and Hounslow.

SHORTLIST – Best Starters of the Year

We want you to either: 1) vote for the following nominees, or 2) let us know both your favourite drink and the place you had it, all on our Facebook and/or Instagram pages.

CHAI NAASTO

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Chai Naasto scallops

51. Tawa King Scallops – Pan-fried scallops served with spicy cauliflower purée & herb dressing, £8.50

We’d be damned if Chai Naasto didn’t succeed in presenting the perfectly cooked scallops here. These were unbelievably tender and soft, and worked really well with the ultra-smooth almost mousse-like cauliflower base, which was sufficiently spiced to ensure some background heat. And the green herb sauce streaked over the top was clever in countering said heat.

CHAI WU

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Chai Wu Chicken

Chicken Coconut (not on the menu; served on request), £28

There’s a story behind this particular dish from Chai Wu in iconic Harrods which was recommended by the manager. Whilst not officially on the menu, this Chicken Coconut is a variation of their Chicken Prawn signature, and is extremely popular among Arab shoppers who can, we were told, order this by the plate fulls. Although this might come across as somewhat strange to some, and wouldn’t exactly qualify as traditional, we certainly came away appreciating both its popularity and its unique taste and texture. What we had here were unbelievably soft, almost candy-like, chicken pieces marinated in a sweet and fleshy coconut wet paste, with a hint of heat running through the background. We’d go back just for this dish!

It’s also worth mentioning the suggestion of one Lion regarding how this would taste with plain rice!

DRUNCH

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Drunch Salad Salmon

Herb Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad with Lemon & Mustard Dressing £13.95

Contrary to this seemingly disparate-looking menagerie of ingredients presented by Drunch, this turned out to be, surprisingly for us anyway, one of the stars of the evening. Practically everything on the plate had its clever part to play in creating a harmonious and balanced dish, helped, of course, by a perfectly cooked, soft and succulent, sweet salmon with, quite literally, crunchy skin. But, when had with sharp, tangy cherry tomatoes, red chicory with its mild bitterness, the familiar taste of a semi-boiled egg, and a dressing that lent a level of sournesss, you’ll be left thoroughly impressed. RECOMMENDED ALL THE WAY!

GRAND TRUNK ROAD

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Chai Naasto kebab

These were unlike any Chapli Kebabs we’ve ever had or seen. An elegant dish defined by a complexity of spices that came through in harmonious waves, layer upon distinct layer, to leave us mesmerised. The addition of the fresh mint chutney helped to dissipate some of the heat of the spices, which eventually gave way to a soothingly gentle aftertaste that lingered on the palate for a while thereafter. The kebab itself was crispy on the outside, with a soft almost meaty-like interior, and had an attractive swirl of cream cheese on top that worked to improve its smoothness of texture. A very well conceived and executed dish, and one which we all agreed was up there with some of the best starters we’ve ever had. Thank you Rawalpindi!

MAMOUNIA LOUNGE

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Mamounia Lounge Truffle Houmus Hummus

Truffle Hommus (vegan) – Creamy pureed Chickpeas whipped with Tahini, Truffle Oil and Lemon Juice. Served with fresh Truffles, wild Mushrooms, crispy Chickpeas and warm Lebanese Bread, £12.00

And the Chef at Mamounia Lounge should certainly be proud of this one. Truffle hommus heaven here! Not only was the hommus once again ultra smooth, but it had the distinct fragrant taste of truffle running through it. Add to that the sweetness of the dried carrot and beetroot crisps, which provided that much needed textural contrast, along with the light pepperiness of the watercress leaves, the earthiness of the mushrooms, and fresh muskiness of the fresh truffles, and what you had here was an earth-shatterinly addictive dish that positively held our interest right to the end. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

ZHENG

FtLion Awards 2017 Smoky Boys Starters Zheng Seaweed Salad

Fresh Seaweed Salad £6.90

First up, and the best of the starters had at Zheng, was this Fresh Seaweed Salad, which was uniquely different as a salad. Dressed in a mild tasting fish sauce, the chewy textures of the seaweed interspersed by the thin crunchy slithers of a vibrantly orange carrot, and topped with broad beans, were addictively good. Just wish there was more of it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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