Chilli Burgers at Habaneros

I’ve seen a huge rise of the gourmet burger restaurant in the past couple of years, and I’m sure that the fact that there are a lot of halal restaurants make them even popular. I’ve been to quite a few halal (and vegetarian!) gourmet burger places, and am starting to get the hang of what makes a decent ‘gourmet’ burger, as well as what separates them from the standard ones you get in a normal chicken-and-chips shop down the road.

Hubby and I recently went to Habaneros, a gourmet burger chain in West London, which was a little out of our way, but having heard it was one to go to, we decided to give it a shot.

One of the things which makes a restaurant memorable for me is not just the food, but the atmosphere and the care taken in in the decor – it makes the place something more attractive for me to come back to. The decor in the place was pretty funky, lots of wall art, subtle lighting spaces for sit. Although the diner isn’t huge, there’s space to sit and eat and it gets pretty busy at lunch-times and after work!

This is what I ordered, a classic Habanero burger with cheesy fries, while my husband went for a spicy Samurai burger and fries. I liked that both burgers were big enough to be filling, but not too massive. As much as I like getting my money’s worth when it comes to food, I prefer quality and not overloading – I have been to some gourmet burger joints in the past where I’ve had to cut up my burger to eat it in portions!

The Habanero burger isn’t particularly spicy but is very juicy, the meat is tender enough to taste great but has a nice grilled taste to it, and blends well with the sauces and salad. I was slightly disappointed with the cheesy fries as I thought the cheese would be melted cheese on top of the chips, and this was more of a cheesy sauce, but they tasted okay and we did eat them all!

Hubby’s Samurai burger was surprisingly more chilli than mine – I think this was mainly due ot the sauce in the burger, but it was a lovely sweet-and-chilli taste which I liked.

I liked that this is a very reasonably priced place to go – burgers cost about £5.95 each and they are made pretty quickly – perfect for any rush-hours too. I’ve already been back to this place to get another burger, although I will admit, as an east-Londoner it is a little far!

Evaluation:
Halal : yes
Vegetarian options available: Yes
Price : £5.95 upwards, depending on whether it’s just a burger or a meal
Rating out of 10: 6.5
Location: 3A Walm Lane Willesden Green London NW2 5SJ

Happy Mother’s Day!

“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”
―Kristin Hannah, Summer Island

We Are London

I have written before on my thoughts on the senselessness of violence against innocent citizens, and it’s pretty upsetting that nothing seems to have changed since then – the horrible attacks on people in London has led to an emotional couple of days – anger, worry, heartbreak and fear. I really hate that as soon as something like this happens, so many of my friends, family and I all brace for the inevitable backlash against Muslims, the same fear that we will be grouped with this tragic violence and that we tarred with same the same brush that puts us with something that we don’t believe in.

So this is me, saying this is not my faith. We have said this before and we’ll say it again. Islam doesn’t work like this and we don’t believe or condone any form of terror attacks like this. We are with London, and will remain strong, united and unafraid. London is our home. This is the city where I have had the honour to meet the most diverse and vibrant people from all walks of life and communities, and have found that unity is always better despite coming from different backgrounds.

So I say it is  now, more than every that it’s the time to stand up and speak out against the hate, ignorance and violence perpetuated by some groups, and that to isolate ourselves is not the answer. It is only this which will get us through bad times and remain strong – standing together as friends, a people and as a beautiful nation.

My prayers are with all those who have lost their loved ones: may Allah (SWT) give them the strength to bear what he has tested them with, shower them with his mercy and let their hearts find peace. May Allah (SWT) bring peace and safety to us all.

“…if any one killed a soul, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32).

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King

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Lazy Sundays

I’ve had a pretty busy week this week, so I’m finally settled in this Sunday and multi-tasking with some yummy home-made chocolate cake, blogging catch-up and getting on with that (digital) stack of books I’ve been waiting to read.

I’m hoping to do a few book reviews for this week, so watch this space! In the meantime, here’s my view today : )

Happy weekendings, all x

The Beautiful Colours of Istanbul

Hubby and I have been reminiscing over the beautiful things we saw in Istanbul (a sign that we need a new holiday), and it made me think that there’s so much of the countries and cities I have been to which have so many hidden, beautiful parts. There’s a lot of iconic landmarks like the Haga Sofia and Blue Mosque, the Basicilica Cisterns and Topkapi Palace which are of course, a must-visit. But there’s hundreds of other things you can find when you take yourself off the beaten tourist track. One of my favourite memories is walking through winding alleys, past blocks of flats with clothes-lines stretched across the street above us, and bridges and stairs until we found some beautiful rainbow stairs. It was the fact that along the way we saw a lot of beautiful places, which felt so much more real than the tourist spots – grafitti supporting Palestine, the ordinary public on their way to the markets, street-sellers selling cheap handbag replicas and lots of beautiful flowers, buildings and decor.

So here are my top 9 favourite, most colourful photos, each with an accompanying colourful memory. There’s a story behind each photo so make sure you hover over each square to read it!

 

Mother Tongue

We are
wildflowers
with roots
still growing
in our
motherland.
-Women of Colour
by Mehrin Poetry

 

As I grow  older, the importance of my mother tongue comes more clearly into focus – although at times it feels like I have a lot to learn yet. As someone who was born and grew up in England, I have always considered English as my ‘mother tongue’ simultaneously and alongside with Punjabi, which is were I feel my roots also are. During my childhood and my teen years, I spent so much time exploring the wonders of English, the literature, and studying the words that I felt a little like I lost some of the the words of Punjabi. I have always had a passion for English, whether it was the literature, or just the pure study of words, and it’s a little embarrassing to me now that Punjabi doesn’t always come as naturally as English does.

It puts me to mind a poem I studied as a teen – Search for My Tongue by Sujata Bhatt – which I didn’t fully understand at the time, but which makes so much more sense to me now. The poem symbolises the author’s fear of losing her cultural identity and her ‘mother tongue’, and of the idea that assimilating in a ‘foreign’ country comes at the cost of losing your roots. While I can understand the fear, I think it is a little different for me as well as I didn’t emigrate to the country like the author did, but was born here.

Growing up, I was one of the only Asian girls in my school and often felt a little left out – being among mostly white children made me feel like I had to strive more to fit in, from dress, tastes, clothes and culture, and I remember at the time that I divorced myself from my culture a little – my home life and my school life were always kept separately. Don’t get me wrong – I still had chicken curries at home cooked by my mum, still spoke in half-English-half-Punjabi to my parents and relatives, and made the most of Eid celebrations and glitzy salwar kameezes sewn by my mum. But I have always felt that the culture I was educated in did not understand Pakistani culture or language in a way that I could embrace it.

One of my earliest memories is my mum taking me to nursery on my half day, holding my hand and slowly teaching me words in English – colours, numbers and letters as we swung our hands and stopped at Sainsbury’s for our weekly shopping. My dad taught us Urdu as best as he could alongside our Quran lessons after school – although I’ll admit I wasn’t very interested in learning at all (and couldn’t wait til we could run off and watch TV!) It’s always felt a little ironic to me that these days I meet so many immigrants who are slowly learning English, while I am on the other side of the coin and trying to learn Urdu and Punjabi a little better.

As I entered my late teens, my school environment changed – suddenly there was an influx of Indian, Bengali and Pakistani students at the school who had transferred in, while a lot of the white students in my class left, preferring to stop their classes and go into work. I felt incredibly out of place – here were Asian kids who were comfortable in their skins, knew in jokes in Urdu and made it normal to talk about the things we had at home. Fast-forwarding into university this was even more the case – I found myself surrounded by mostly Asians, and would sometimes self-deprecatingly describe myself as the ‘coconut’ – looks brown on the outside but white on the inside. While my friends were into British-Asian music, Bollywood and Indian restaurants, I was a self-described goth; into soft rock music, heavy black eyeliner and desserts at The Cheesecake Factory.

Over the next few years, my friends, my family and my husband have all played a part in making me comfortable with my words – I can be English and Pakistani and speak both languages without one being more important than the other. I’ve learned a lot more Urdu over the years – mostly from Bollywood films, online websites, and even an Urdu course I went to once (it was terrible, we spend six classes going over the same basic phrases because everyone kept forgetting the previous lessons). These days, whenever I need to know a word, or the meaning of a word, I’ll ask my sister or mum, and my husband is a walking dictionary for this too. I also get a lot more practice – I work with a lot of clients whose first language isn’t English and often have to translate – we all acknowledge my Urdu and Punjabi are terrible but passable, and I’m a lot less embarassed than I used to be.

This isn’t a sad story – as much as I wish my Urdu and Punjabi were more fluent than it is now, I feel like I’ll get there. I have found my own way to embrace my roots, language and culture, and I’m happy with that. I know that I’m not the only one with this issue – I’ve come across a lot of British Asians who can barely understand their parent’s language, and don’t speak a word of it, preferring to stick to English. I can also see this in second-and-third generation parents when speaking to their children in English. When I think of myself, I would love to teach my future children my mother tongue. Urdu is a beautiful language and it is my husband’s language, but Punjabi is where I feel my home and my roots are, so would always want to pass this on too. Having said that, I don’t think there is anything wrong in being fluent in, and choose to speak in English. I grew up devouring books, studying English (and blogging in English), and I think it really is an amazing language with so much depth.

My advice to others who are struggling with re-learning their mother tongue is don’t give up, and don’t feel embarrassed. When I first started learning Urdu properly, I was told by a lot of people that I was terrible at it, and that I was barely understandable. I used to feel embarassed and immediately stop trying to speak it in front of them, and feel a little unsure of myself. These days I laugh and agree with them, but I don’t stop learning. Language, culture and words will always evolve over time (which is why ‘fleek’ is now an acceptable world, when a few years ago it was a non-existent one), and there are so many opportunities to learn with the internet, media and courses.

Who knows, maybe I’ll learn to speak French properly next?

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Bright Lights at Dalloway’s Terrace

My friends and I managed to get a table at the constantly-booked Dalloway’s Terrace restaurant, which took us about a month to get, but was worth it for the visual experience and the ambience. The restaurant is known for it’s pretty decor and looks lovely at night – which was the first thing my friends and I noticed as soon as we got to the restaurant.

The decor which was up was mainly lights and lanterns, painted pine-cones and white trees and rushes, which made for a very intimate feel to the restaurant. The seating is centred around the trees and the lights and it feels pretty surreal to sit in the middle of it because it feels a little like being in a fairy-like enchanted woods (without the cold, there were heaters everywhere!)

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The food itself is a little limited in terms of halal, but we were re-assured that the chicken in this restaurant is halal. There is a mix of cuisine, with mainly English and a dash of Meditarranean and Asian. We all opted for some fondues and also chose a meal each as well – I picked a miso cod on a bed of quinoa, with spinach leaves in cream (and we also got chips for everyone to share, becuase why not!)

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My friends also picked a mix of food – one went for a mixed sea-grill, another went for bruschetta, while my other friend was in the mood for dessert and went for fruit-tarts and a hot chocolate! The food was presented quite nicely, and I personally liked the dish I picked – it was tender, juicy and had a good mix of sweet and savoury. I think our favourite thing was the fondues though – we ordered a cheese one with fruit, and another white chocolate fondue with strawberry which really completed the night (not to mention fighting over and stealing each other’s fruit from the fondue pot!)

The bright lights have been taken down from Dalloway’s Terrace now (which will be back at the end of the year at Christmas time) but it’s still worth a visit when the restaurant re-opens in May with their springy green decor. I really enjoyed myself at this restaurant and would love to try afternoon tea in the summer at this place – I’m sure it will be just as fun an experience!

Have you been to this restaurant? What dish did you like best?