Three top BYOB restaurants in north west London that will give your wallet a break

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- Credit: Archant

Tired of 500 per cent mark ups on wine? Well bring your own, says food blogger and cafe owner Maria Kuehn.

January. Skies are grey, moods are blue and the bank account is red.

So, with frugality in mind, I visited some BYO restaurants to pick out three I’d return to in a heartbeat.

I’m often depressed at the heart-stopping cost of decent wine in many establishments and whilst I realise London rents and rates are extortionate, I find it irksome that owners feel justified in making five or six hundred percent on a bottle of uninspiring plonk.

I have also become increasingly depressed at the lack of imagination, sloppy service, upselling and the inability to excite my taste buds unless I’m willing to cough up an obscene amount of money.


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Fortunately I’m here to report on lovely places which delivered the freshest ingredients, perfectly timed dishes, food that isn’t mucked about with or lost in a sea of unrecognizable and pointless ingredients where you feel welcome and looked after.

Pomegranate

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On the advice of a discerning customer, I took along my business partner and a bottle of Mirabeau, an excellent Provencal rose (produced by an English couple and sold in Waitrose) to this charming, small but stylish Thai café a stone’s throw from Willesden Green tube.

The menu is small and fairly traditional. A lover of fish, I headed straight for the steamed sea bass in ginger, spring onion and lemon (£12.50), whilst my companion chose the Thai green chicken curry (£7) with egg fried rice (£3.50).

Our waitress was quiet and gentle, very welcoming and had the glasses and opener ready almost as soon as we’d sat down.

What followed was a sheer delight. The sea bass, beautifully presented was faultless. It was an example of exceptional skill, both in the execution and the wonderful broth it bathed in. The chicken was moist and tender, served in a hot, coconut sauce that was quite delicious the rice was fluffy and fragrant. This is a seriously good find; family cooking at its best at a price that’s affordable and NO corkage fee to boot.

Pomegranate 35e Walm Lane, Willesden Green, NW2 5SH. 0208 830 2111 Monday to Sunday 17 – 22.30pm

Ariana II

It’s hard to understand how this Time Out award winning Afghani restaurant can make any money when they don’t sell alcohol but one thing I know is they are enviably rammed and I think it comes down to this simple factor; they are true to their cuisine, the food is fresh, plentiful and varied.

My main course was a skewer each of chicken and lamb cooked on a charcoal grill served with a generous salad and brown basmati rice. (£11.00) Both were deeply succulent and lightly spiced, the fragrant rice adding a superb complimentary nuttiness to the dish. My companion had the Bamiya Chalow, sautéed okra with pieces of lamb served with white rice and salad. (£8.00). It was a lovely dish bursting with juicy meat and okra.

Sides of aubergine and chickpeas, both served in a rich and satisfying tomato sauce (£7.00 each), the juices mopped up with a bottomless supply of freshly baked Afghan bread.

I would have sold my grandmother for the recipe of the dip, into which we dunked our meat. After fruitless begging, however, (the recipe is a family secret) I was told I could buy a bottle. It came in an old lemonade bottle, which I found rather charming. Talking of which, so were the staff. Impeccable service combined with a lovely atmosphere. The Tricycle theatre is just down the road. Take in a play or a film and have a civilised meal and a bottle (no corkage fee either).

Ariana II

241 Kilburn High Road

NW6 7JN

0203 490 6709

ariana2.uk

La Petite Coreee

Opened for about a year this is a rather elegant place. Its owner/chef has a good pedigree having worked all over London in prestigious restaurants and hotels including The Connaught and Nobu.

This is his first solo venture, a fusion of traditional Korean flavours and modern European dishes so at firs sight the menu looked a little strange; burrata and Korean? I’ve only ever seen this creamy mozzarella creation in serious Italian restaurants.

I must point out there’s a corkage charge of £10 per bottle, but the cost of wine is so excessive these days, you’d still save money by bringing your own.

My friend and I decided to share the burrata (£5.50) served with beets and truffled honey, the yazu (a citrus fruit) marinated gravadlax (£6.50), served with plum jelly, wasabi cream cheese and melba toast, a portion of kimchi (£5) (a pickled cabbage becoming very popular in London) and the Mandu (£6), steamed pork and glass noodle dumplings served with rocket and a balsamic glaze.

Food is very visual and I have nothing but serious admiration for the chef. The dumplings were nothing short of stunning and the gravadlax looked almost too good to eat. I was taken aback at the generosity of the portion size of the burrata and the Kimchi.

The gravadlax was a total triumph. The texture perfect; it melted in the mouth, the accompaniments were just genius. I was skeptical there’d be too much going on but somehow it worked beautifully.

The noodles tasted as good as they looked. Delicate, translucent skins encased a soft, tender filling of pork and spices and the glaze lifted the whole dish. The Kimchi was a buttery heaven but if I had to find fault, it was the slightly overpowering flavor of truffle with the burrata.

Deals from Tuesday to Thursday will knock around £5 pounds from your bill.

The staff are welcoming and a delight, the interior elegant and the menu eclectic and exciting.

La Petite Coree

98 West End Lane,

West Hampstead

NW6 2LU

0207 624 9209

lapetitecoree.com

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