And the #FtLionAwards 2018 winners are…

And so it all comes down to this: The winners of the #FtLionAwards 2018 (sponsored by Chai Naasto and the newly opened Patri).

With 12 categories, some were easier to decide than others. But after much discussion and debate, here’s this year’s winners, runners-up, and readers’ choices.

BEST RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: KAHANI, London
Runner-up: ELVET STEAKHOUSE, London
Readers’ Choice: ELVET STEAKHOUSE, London

Elvet steakhouse Romford East London Halal Food Wagyu Burger steak restaurantHonestly; it was a close call. In spite of the fact that fine dining Indian establishment Kahani, in Chelsea, were up for two best mains, kebab, seafood, veggie and newcomer – eventually winning best main and veggie, while being runner-up for best newcomer – the only thing that separated them from Elvet Steakhouse in East London’s Forest Gate was the rating left by you guys.

While we rated them both 4.5/5 ROARS, it was Elvet’s 3.5 in comparison to Kahani’s perfect 5, that tipped the scales, despite the former preferred by our readers.

But congratulations to Chef Peter Joseph for putting together an awesome menu, with plenty for us to rave about.

As for Elvet, then they’ve put together an establishment that London’s Muslims have been seeking after for a long while – a top quality, fully Halal steakhouse that serves up premium steaks at very affordable prices.

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BEST NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: ISSHO-NI, London
Runner-up: KAHANI, London
Readers’ Choice: HANKIES, London

Again a very close call, but we decided on a Japanese restaurant Issho-Ni, simply because not only has it gone out of its way to cater for Halal while being meticulous with the issue of cross-contamination, but also for the modern menu put together by head chef Eduardo Aguiar, who’s worked at high profile restaurants Roka, Moshi Moshi and Chisou while having created menus for Kiri and Bone Daddies.

Hence, while Indian fine dining restaurant Kahani and Issho-Ni both achieved 4.5/5 ROARS, how many Halal-friendly Japanese restaurants are there in London (that too in the humble locale of Bethnel Green Road, Shoreditch)? Not many.

And we completely understand why everyone has gone for Hankies in Marble Arch. Again with a rating of 4.5, chef Anirudh Arora’s small plates of Indian fusion cooking are so good that his ‘Gosht’ 5 Oz Ribeye was again chosen by you guys as this year’s best steak, and his Gulukhand Kheer for best dessert. In addition, both his Khumb Kofta and Chilli Lamb Chop came second for best veggie and best main of the year – the latter only just missing out, if we’re being honest.

BEST CURRY HOUSE OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: INDIQUE, Manchester
Runner-up: ANOKHA, London
Readers’ Choice: CHAPATI CLUB, London

Chapati Club Indian Halal restaurant ActonIndique is the best curry house in West Didsbury, Manchester, which offers a great Indian experience, with a uniquely thought out dine that revolves around creativity and superb presentation. It was obvious that a lot of thought had been put into all the dishes we had, with each one being served to its utmost potential. What’s more, the service was outstanding with friendly, attentive staff.

Anokha also scored the same rating, and consistently delivered curry dishes of a high calibre in the heart of the insurance district of London. They’ve been established for a while and it certainly told. Again outstanding service with well regimented staff.

But the Chapati Club in Action, west London, which we also rated 4/5 ROARS, was by far and away your favourite. And we can understand why. There’s nothing pretentious about this place, and yet the dishes, by and large, kicked way above what we were expecting.

BEST BURGER OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: MR WHITE’S ENGLISH CHOPHOUSE Alex James
Runner-up: MAISON BAB Vada Pav
Readers’ Choice: MAISON BAB Vada Pav

Maison Bab Kebabs Covent Garden London

Maison Bab’s Vada Pav burger!

Always a popular category this. And this year, the big recognition goes to a burger served to us by Mr [Marco Pierre] White’s English Chophouse in Whitechapel, East London. They presented the uniquely named Alex James (he was a member of the 90’s rock band Blur, before becoming a farmer who produces the cheese used exclusively in this burger). With their 8oz beef burger turning out so juicy and meaty, while being beautifully covered in all that Alex’s Blue Monday Cheese.

Our runner-up, and your fave, was a peculiar burger invented by the good lot at newcomer Maison Bab in Covent Garden. This was the Indian-inspired Vada Pav, with all its booming flavours and delicate textures. What we had here was a sandwich filled with a cornocopia of Indian spices and ingredients, all coming together in unison. The star of the show was, undoubtedly, the potato cake, whose soft texture was the perfect foil against the crispy buns, and whose gentle masala flavour married well against the intensity of the outstandingly good mango chutni. A superb one!

BEST STEAK OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: ROCKIT STEAKHOUSE Wagyu
Runner-up: ELVET STEAKHOUSE Wagyu
Readers’ Choice: HANKIES ‘Gosht’ 5 Oz Ribeye

Hankies Restaurant Marble Arch Indian Curry Rib Eye Steak Halal

Hankies’ ‘Gosht’ 5 Oz Ribeye

Okay, so some of you may shirk at the £74.99 price tag, but who cares when you have a seriously impressive grade 7 Wagyu steak that’s this unbelievably good. Courtesy of RockIT Steakhouse in East London’s Whitechapel, this was meat heaven – an absolutely sublime piece of ultra-soft and tender cut, which, courtesy of the searing heat, was cooked in no time.

A close second was another wagyu (okay, so we have this thing for quality wagyu; sue us). This time by this year’s runner-up restaurant Elvet Steakhouse, which stunned us into a state of introspective silence as we collectively masticated, marvelled, savoured, and masticated some more with abandoned euphoria, giving ourselves over to it in totality.

For you guys, it was Hankies‘ ‘Gosht’ 5 Oz Ribeye. A tremendously cooked piece of glistening ribeye steak, that came with a large carving knife, a cute little mortar and pestle full of a garlic, paprika and masala rub. All that was required was a liberal sprinkle of said rub, before carving the meat up appropriately, and devouring it with unabandoned glee.

BEST KEBAB OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: CHAKRA Gilafi Sheek Kebab
Runner-up: KAHANI – Chargrilled Sirloin Kebab
Readers’ Choice: LE BAB Herdwick Lamb

Sirloin kebab Kahani London Indian Restaurant Halal Curry

Kahani’s Sirloin Kebab…not much in it!

Chakra in Kensington put up these Gilafi Sheek Kebab, which were earth-shatteringly good! What made these was the “aromatic garam masala”, which was strong, with solid heat offset by the clever crunch of the coriander seeds therein. The kebab itself was perfectly tandoored, with a touch of smokiness to it, and soft to the bite.

Kahani was so close to winning this category too with its fabulous chargrilled sirloin kebab. This was as near faultless as any kebab is ever going to get. The balance of spices in this mixture was wonderfully judged, and the chargrill achieved on the outside just right.

You guys opted for Le Bab’s Herdwick lamb roll – a breed that’s native to the Lake District of Cumbria. Yes; this superb kebab roll not only boasted a beautifully charred and attractively dark, glistening exterior, but was, contrary to appearance, wholly soft and juicy on the inside, and expertly spiced without being overpowering.

BEST SEAFOOD OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: MATSYA Lobster Thermidor
Runner-up: ROCKIT STEAKHOUSE – Salmon
Readers’ Choice: MATSYA Lobster Thermidor

Contemporary Indian fine dining restaurant Matsya in London’s upmarket district of Mayfair unearthed this show-stopping French-style Lobster Thermidor. Presented with elegance atop a glass plate, with edible flowers, vandyke wedges of lime, cherry tomatoes and an assortment of greens for garnish, this humongous crustacean made quite an entrance. The meat from the abdomen had been extracted and cooked with a creamy sauce before smartly being stuffed back into the shell. Unbelievable experience; and one that you also agreed with!

This might come as a surprise to some, but RockIT Steakhouse in East London’s Whitechapel presented this quality salmon steak which, when cooked on a hot rock, was unmatched. A quality piece made even better by the cooking process itself. Making certain to place it skin-down on a sizzling hot and pre-seasoned volcanic stone, will transform this gorgeous piece of fillet steak into something indescribably unique that’s unachievable via a grill or a pan.

BEST VEGGIE OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: KAHANI Marinated Tandoori Broccoli
Runner-up: HANKIES Khumb Kofta
Readers’ Choice: MR FALAFEL Falafel & Spicy Potatoes Wrap

Mr Falafel New Shepherd's Bush Market London Palestinian Halal Wraps Sandwich

Falafel & Spicy Potatoes Wrap – Mr Falafel

Yes, it’s a broccoli, but no broccoli dish we’ve ever had. What made Kahani’s incredibly tasty Marinated Tandoori Broccoli our veggie dish of the year, was the delicate interplay between the combination of sweet honey and the lightly spiced marination of the broccoli against the slight bitter edge of the nigella seeds was wonderfully achieved.

In second place, Hankies put forth this amazing Khumb Kofta – a huge, softly textured mushroom kofta and surrounded by plenty of smooth, creamy sauce that was deliciously sweet, courtesy of the cardamom, with a spicy undertone. Absolutely lovely!

This was the most surprising one for us. There’s no denying how good Mr Falafel in Shepherd’s Bush’s Falafel & Spicy Potatoes Wrap was, but to be considered as such by all of you, was quite something. Congrats to Mr Falafel.

BEST DESSERT OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: CHOKHI DHANI Rose Crème Brûlée
Runner-up: MATSYA Espresso Rasgulla
Readers’ Choice: HANKIES Gulukhand Kheer

Dessert Matsya Contemporary Fine Dining Mayfair Indian London Halal

Matsya’s Espresso Rasgulla

Chokhi Dhani served us this Rose Crème Brûlée that was delicately flavoured and went wonderfully with each accompanying element: crispy-cum-soft-centred sweet merigues and the crunchy honey comb, to the various palate-cleansing fruits of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and a piece of fig.

Matsya’s was a sweet one, but which came together into a satisfyingly harmonius whole with the smooth caramel ice cream, the crunchy peanut brittle, and the Espresso Rasgulla – a positively saturated porous ball of squishy goodness that released a satisfying amount of subtly flavoured coffee juice.

Hankies’ Gulukhand Kheer was a pot of delights, which relied on the natural sweetness of the caramelised, melt-in-your-mouth mango wedge. What we had here was a seemingly rose flavoured rice pudding, with bits of crunchy ginger honeycomb and pistachio crumb, all of which came together to utterly floor us.

BEST MAIN OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: KAHANI – Somerset Lamb Chops
Runner-up: HANKIES Chilli Lamb Chop
Readers’ Choice: MATSYA – Daab Chingri

Coconut Shrimp Seafood Matsya Contemporary Fine Dining Mayfair Indian London Halal

Matsya’s Daab Chingri

It was the battle of the chops with Kahani’s Somerset Lamb up against Hankies’ Chilli Lamb; and we promise you, there wasn’t much in it.

In the end, it came down to the former being just that touch better, with distinct parallel muscles fibres conspicuously visible, while being perfectly pink, utterly soft, tender and juicy, and as close to melt-in-the-mouth as you’re going to get.

As for Hankies’, then it was an incredible piece of meat. Expertly spiced in a chilli oil marination and perfectly barbecued to achieve a delicate crust, we were presented with a thick, juicy chop of epic proportions.

The wow factor of any traditional Daab Chingri is the coconut shell in which it’s cooked and presented. Matsya went the extra mile in presenting said Bengali shrimp curry not just in a dehusked coconut shell, but one that’s been properly extirpated of its fibrous exterior. This was just as spectacular in flavour as in its delivery, with a rich, deep sauce that exuded a tantalising smoky-mustardy aroma, courtesy of the Kasundi mustard.

BEST STARTER OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: LE COMPTOIR – Chicken Pastilla
Runner-up: CHOKHI DHANI Murgh Joshila
Readers’ Choice: LE COMPTOIR – Chicken Pastilla

Poussin Chicken Chokhi Dhani Indian Halal restaurant Battersea

Chokhi Dhani’s Murgh Joshila

Le Comptoir took us completely by surprise at the beginning of 2018 with the Chicken Pastilla (or Bastila). This was a super-miniaturised version of a ginormous dish that’s traditionally reserved for über special occasions, such as weddings. The delight we got from driving our knife through thin, über crunchy layers of pastry towards a generous chicken filling was immense. An undulating roller coaster ride, whose strong and subtle spicy peaks and troughs combined with a variety of sweet and savoury bends and turns to create a fully immersive taste and textural experience!

No amount of adjectives can sum up the cooking of this tandoori Murgh Joshila by Chokhi Dhani, which effortlessly combined poussin and chicken with red quinoa, and whose highlight was, without question, the Poussin.

In effect, as close to melt-in-your-mouth poultry as you’re ever likely to be served; and marinated in a soothingly spicy masala rub that perfectly complimented its delicate nature. Superb!

BEST BEVERAGE OF THE YEAR

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Winner: ELVET STEAKHOUSE Pina Colada
Runner-up: RAKE’S CAFE The Amuse Goose
Readers’ Choice: ELVET STEAKHOUSE Pina Colada

Elvet Steakhouse’s large non-alcoholic drinks bar pulled out the best Pina Colada we’ve ever had!

Dreamily creamy, with a candyesque combination of the sweet tangy pineapple coupled with the aromatic distinctness of coconut juice, all made for a dangerously addictive concoction. We’ve had enough pina colada mocktails ranging from attempted made by high-end establishments to streetfood aficionados to know how easy it is to mess this up. Elvet smashed it out of the park!

And kudos to the mixologist at Rake’s Cafe Bar! The Amuse Goose achieved a perfect balance between the sweetness of the lychee and the refreshing tanginess of the gooseberry. Delightfully zingy!


Finally, the winner of the Celebration Set Menu for 2 at Chai Naasto’s west London branch in Hammersmith is Saad Mohammad Waqas.

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