Design, Interiors & Lifestyle Blog
Design, Interiors & Lifestyle Blog

Sakonis restaurant Gujarati Indian fusion food at Sakonis in Hatch end, London.

I have just returned home from an amazing dinner at Sakonis, a family run vegetarian Indian restaurant.

I took my children with me, to sample the offerings at their newly opened Hatch end branch.  When I saw this image, I knew I had to try it.

Sakonis specialises in Gujarati cuisine, from East India, since the early 1980s. The dishes served also had Asian and East African influences. We were greeted with warm Chai tea and snacks on arrival. That spicy guacamole was so tantalisingly good, that we couldn’t wait for the rest of food to arrive. This was my favourite dish, the Daal Bhajiya.

They were hot and crispy on the outside, with a delicious spiced lentils filling.

The dip was a fiery salsa, which gave the required spicy kick to this savoury snack.  Here’s one of Sakonis’ signature dish, the Chilli Paneer.  It was also my son’s favourite dish of the night.

Sakonis described it as Chinese flavoured paneer (cheese), tossed in green chillies, peppers and spring onions. I always order a creamy Matar Paneer at Indian restaurants, so it was refreshing to try something totally new. These are miniature Masala dosas with a coconut dip. What can I say? We ate them all. Finally, for dessert, we had a Gujarati sweet dish called Shrikand, which comprised a creamy yoghurt laced with Saffron and Cardamom. I must admit it was a tad too sweet for me, however, it was fragrant.

We had such a fun evening sampling these Gujarati fusion dishes at Sakonis. I highly recommend a visit if you love Indian vegetarian dishes with a twist.

( All photography apart from image 2 are by Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. I was a guest.)

A review of Suiran Kyoto and what to do in the Arashiyama area.

Tokyo was quite an experience, it was a melting pot of quirkiness and character.

Consequently, after the buzz of Tokyo, I wasn’t sure what would await me following my 3 hour Shinkansen bullet train ride to Kyoto.

I was expecting to see an older, more traditional aspect of Japan, with quaint little streets, filled with kimono clad Geishas and temples.
Gion, near where this beautiful orange red shrine was located, was packed with tourists, numerous shops and restaurants. So, it wasn’t as quiet and traditional as I had envisaged.

However, I did experience that unique sense of tradition and history, when I strolled around the peaceful grounds of this Yasaka shrine. As you can see, I managed to capture images of kimono clad ladies. However, they weren’t Japanese ladies, but were Chinese tourists who have hired their outfits for the day.

This was apparently ‘the thing’ for tourists to do whilst visiting Kyoto.

Even our taxi driver tried to sell us a kimono hire and Japanese hair styling package. But hey, I’m not complaining, because it was such a privilege to see these beautiful kimono fabrics and capture the images in a historical setting. I was curious what all these Sake barrels were doing at the shrine, at a cordoned off area.

After some research, I found out that these were called Kazaridaru or “decoration barrels”.

They were empty barrels on display, a symbol of bringing the gods and people together.

I also found out that there was a symbiotic relationship between the shrines and brewers. The shrines would conduct rites for the brewers, praying for their prosperity, and in return, the brewers would provide the wine needed for ceremonies and festivals. Here’s another part of the Yasaka shrine. We were lucky to have been invited to stay at Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel .

The hotel was located in the Arashiyama district, to the West of Central Kyoto.

It was wonderful to be away from the crowd and noise of Central Kyoto, yet still have the city centre accessible, only a 30 minute train ride away.

The name Suiran came from the two Chinese characters: Sui “jade green” representing the area’s verdant hills and sparkling waters, and ‘ran’ was short for Arashiyama.

The land which Suiran stood on also had a rich and interesting history, dating back to the year 794.

It used to be the residence of an Emperor, then later designated as part of the historic Tenryu-ji temple complex and then became the Summer residence of Baron Shozo Kawasaki ( owner of the known Kawasaki motorcycle industry). It felt like a place we could properly unwind.

Suiran was located on the banks of river Hozu, with views of Mount Arashi and the famous Togetsu bridge. Here’s a view of the bridge at sunset. Suiran has 39 rooms, from Deluxe, to Premier, to Suites. 17 of their rooms had open air baths (Onsens) with natural warm spa water.

This is the Gyokuto Garden Terrace Japanese suite, with Tatami mats, a tea ceremony table and purple chairs.  I was in awe of the gold artwork on the sliding door. The painting represented the four seasons of Arashiyama. This cushion covers on the bed were made out of Nishijin textile, one of Japan’s oldest textile company. In the centre of the suite, was this Japanese tea ceremony table.

On its side was the hotel’s crest in gold, depicting the moon, a symbol of Arashiyama, encircling a dragon’s claw and Japanese maple leaves.

The dragon symbolised authority and the Maple leaves represented the trees, a dewy green in Summer, and brilliant red in Autumn, that greeted guests at the hotel gates. Let’s head outside. How cute are these Japanese clogs? This was the 90sqm Japanese private garden of the Gyokuto suite.  Adjacent to the garden, was this wonderful Japanese Onsen outdoor spa bath. We got to stay at the Kyo-Tsukikoto premier Japanese style room. It was noteworthy for being the only Japanese Ryokan style room in the hotel.

We slept on futon styled beds on the Tatami mats.

I was apprehensive about sleeping on the Tatami mat, but it was actually very comfortable. You can see the paper screens leading from our room towards a private wooden deck garden.

We also had our very own Japanese onsen bath filled with Arashiyama hot spring water. The Onsen bath was a huge highlight for the family. We really enjoyed it morning, noon and night. On our first day, we got to sample the Japanese afternoon tea at the hotel’s Cafe Hassui. We enjoyed our afternoon tea with a view of the mountains and also the river Hozu.

The cafe was in a 100 year old building erected for 19th century poets. Many of these poets’ original artwork remained, along with a collection of calligraphic poems that adorned the walls. I really enjoyed this eggplant and soy bean curd quiche.  This Japanese traditional dessert served with Cacao nibs tasted so good. This was the Beef, Burdock salad, Cheddar cheese sushi roll. It was delicious, all washed down with bottomless Champagne. We also sampled the hotel’s restaurant Kyo-Suiran for dinner.  I had a delicious steamed sea bream with Spring vegetables. If you fancy wandering out of the hotel for a meal, then I highly recommend Arashiyama Yoshimura. They did the most amazing hot and cold buckwheat soba noodles that came in a set with Tempura and soup. Finally, if you love Tofu, then you have to try out Yodofu Sagano for their specialist tofu menu.

I never knew there was so many ways to eat tofu. We ate whilst sitting on Tatami mats and a low table.

The restaurant was only a few minutes walk from Suiran hotel.

If you are visiting Kyoto, I highly recommend staying in Arashiyama for its beauty.

You should visit the Buddhist Tenryuji Temple, now a World Heritage site too, with its beautiful gardens.  Alternatively, head out to the very Instagram worthy Bamboo groves, just a 10 minute walk away from the hotel.

It’s advisable to get there before 8am, to capture the image before the area becomes flooded with tourists.

If you have a chance, you should visit the Golden temple and Fushimi Inari shrine too.
Finally, I hope you have enjoyed the glimpse into Kyoto, and most of all, found out what you could do in Arashiyama.

I highly recommend staying at the Suiran Kyoto for the luxury and unparalleled service you get.

I would definitely love to revisit Suiran again during the Spring Cherry blossom season. ( All photography are by Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. I was a guest of Suiran Kyoto . All opinions are my own).

Claska hotel

Claska hotel in Tokyo Meguro and Gakugei-Daigaku.

I have always wanted to go to Tokyo, and it was wonderful to have finally gone last week.

We got to explore many of the districts of Tokyo, each bursting with their own personality. I will be writing about them soon in further posts.

We stayed at CLASKA, one of Tokyo’s design hotels, on Meguro Dori. It’s a quiet district in between Meguro and Gakugei-Daigaku.

The area reminded me a little bit of Shoreditch in London, only less busy, but definitely with an emerging hip vibe.

If you love mid century modern furniture, then this is the place to be, as peppered around the area, were beautifully curated second hand furniture stores.

Check out the external design of the CLASKA. Its architecture and style is very 1970s. To me, it looks iconic for that era, almost like the Trellick tower is to London. CLASKA has 20 rooms, categorised into 4 design themes, designed by Japanese architects and designers.

We stayed in 2 rooms on the 6th floor. Our first room was the Tatami room, designed by Kaname Okajima. It has been described as a room of East meet West.

There were the traditional tatami mats, but rather than sleeping directly on the floor, we got comfortable low beds.
Doesn’t this space feel so Zen? There were wooden window screens, paper lantern lights, and low pebble shaped cushions. Our second room was the newly designed Un-Colored room, and it was covered in cedar wood, which felt and smelt divine.

There was also a coloured version of this bedroom on the same floor, painted in pastel hues, and unsurprisingly called the Colored room.

I loved the minimal and  pared down simplicity of this space. It felt very serene. Here’s our bathroom, designed with a similar aesthetic to the bedroom. Even the toiletries looked minimal and stylish, all made of natural ingredients.
You can really tell that CLASKA has a passion for design, just look at all those cool magazines they subscribe to, found in the lobby.

Kioku, the hotel’s restaurant, also seen in the photo above, served both Contemporary European and Japanese food.

In the morning, you could have a tasty English breakfast with all the trimmings, or a traditional Japanese one, with grilled fish, white rice, miso soup, soft boiled egg, tofu and pickles. One of the highlights of my stay at CLASKA, was exploring their design store DO. I have taken a few photos to give you a feel of the shop. Everything was so beautifully curated. I could have shopped there all day.

There was also a gallery space nearby, showcasing artwork by emerging talents. If you fancy wandering out of the hotel to eat or drink, I highly recommend Factory and Labo, 2 doors down, for their on site freshly roasted artisan coffee. If you fancy something sweet, I recommend their custard cream puff pastry. Gakugei-Daigaku is a cute little district, about 15 minutes walk from CLASKA. There was an underground train station there too.

There were numerous independent food stores and restaurants there, buzzing with locals, away from the packed streets of central Tokyo.

I have tried and tested a few of the eateries at Gakugei-Daigaku. Here are a few of my recommendations:

1.The Tonkatsu ramen was delicious at Ichiryu.

2.The best Thai food I have tasted at Thai Cafe Piimai. ( You really have to try the food here, totally authentic Thai, and we ate everything we ordered).

3.Breakfast at Bakery Cafe Antendo. The freshly baked savoury goods were so light, fluffy and delicious.

Last, but not least, you have to sample the cute donuts from Floresta. All donuts have been handmade using natural ingredients.

Hope you have enjoyed my review of CLASKA, with their beautifully designed rooms. I will be back soon with more posts on Japan. If you fancy seeing more, then do keep an eye on my Instagram account and insta-stories.

Have a lovely day all.

( All photography are by me, Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. I stayed at the Claska hotel as press. My opinions and views here are my own).

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