Dinner For Two Munching

Casta Nostra, Surrey

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Wednesday night I met my best friend for dinner in her favourite Thai restaurant in Wimbledon. Before we got shown to our seats, the waitress instantly recognised her, and the chit chat began; ‘How are you?’ ‘It’s such a sunny evening’ ‘Glad to see you’ve bought a new friend’. There was even a back and forth tennis match of compliments, ‘Your smile is so beautiful’, ‘Your food is to DIE for’.

It suddenly hit me that we’d got to that point in life where we actually, genuinely know the waiters at our favourite restaurant; their names, their parents, the ins and outs of the family drama. Haunted by my mum and dad’s old favourite restaurant, where I have engraved memories of my mum giving the chef what I can only describe as a large, phallic courgette, I had a sudden realisation that I was quickly turning into my parents. (Which is frightening considering my dad it bald and my mum’s about 1 inch taller than a midget)

So with that in mind, I thought what better dedication to growing old gracefully, than reviewing my mum and dad’s favourite place to eat; Cast Nostra. Tucked away from the main streets on Sutton High Street in Surrey, this little Italy is lit in scattered fairy lights and hanging baskets of the richest pink and purple flowers. Ever so slightly packed in like sardines, you find yourself with an instant feeling of being ‘at home’ here. Owned by the young Portuguese chap who used to waiter at the rent’s old favourite, The Spaghetti Tree, Casta Nostra instantly welcomes you, with an offering of Italian bread sticks and garlic stuffed olives. Before you even look at the menu you’re stuffing your face with these little favours as you debate what wine to pick.

Now this restaurant isn’t fine dining. It’s not the best Italian food either. But it IS proper, tasty, home cooked grub, and sometimes that makes for a perfect evening. There’s not one dish I could pick out, they are all pretty tasty, and you’ll find yourselves unbuttoning your jeans during the last mouthful and taking a sigh of relief. Having said that, something bizarre always happens at this place – you ALWAYS make room for desert, so be prepared to dive into a serious food coma on your way home.

The restaurant always has a great buzz; full of the dating youngsters, to the happily married. I’d certainly recommend this restaurant, especially as a weekday treat on a cold, dark winter’s eve.

Visit their website here

Busaba Eathai, London

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Busaba Eathai is one of my favourite Thai restaurants in London. With 10 or 11 restaurants scattered across the capital, you shouldn’t find it too hard to stumble across your nearest one. Having recently been to Malaysia and Indonesia, I’ve experienced the ‘real deal’ so to speak when it comes to southern eastern cuisine, and I must admit, Basaba still kicks ass.

Upon entering, you’re greeted with the scent of essence and dark mahogony wood, creating an instant feeling of relaxation yet anxiety. Much like our well-known Wagamama’s, Basaba is set out with gigantic tables, where you sit umong strangers; however there’s something intimate about the Basaba structure, and you often feel closer and more enagaged with your dinner partner than you’d expect. I’ve often been sat in there alone, waiting for my friend (yes I do have them) to arrive, and accidentally you become engrosed in conversation with a complete random on your table. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I hate small talk with people I don’t know, but every now and then it pleasantly suprises you.

When ordering drinks, I recommend their house white wine. I don’t know why some people frown at the suggestion of a house, but 99% of the time they turn out to be great. House wines are sold and suggested by the restaurant for their value but more importantly their taste in-line with their menu. So don’t be embarressed, just ask for the house and I’m sure you’ll be suitably content. If you don’t drink i’d go for the lemongrass tea or mango lassi.

Now, I’m a sucker for one dish at Basaba, and that’s their Tom Kha Gai Chicken Noodle Soup – if like me you love lemongrass, coconut, chilli and chicken, then this one’s a winner. And pretty filling too. Other dishes to try are Green, Yellow and Red curries, all of their stir fry’s and you MUST get their calamari – seriously, it’s completely different to what your local Whetherspoons gives you!

You can spend hours in Basaba; often my boyfriend and I will be the only ones left on the table doing shots of grappa, and telling eachother how great we are before stumbling out into the cold streets of London shouting for a cab.

I highly recommend this restaurant for date night, catching up with friends, or even a first date.  Visit the site now www.busaba.com

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