Vivre at the Sofitel Heathrow – My First Chicken Tikka Pizza

Airport hotels are known for their incredibly delicious food. 
Hopefully, you can hear the sarcasm jumping out at you from across the interwebs. 
The exception to the rule of mushy pasta, boxed mashed potatoes and overcooked hamburgers is Vivre Restaurant at the Sofitel Hotel at London’s Heathrow Airport
This hotel is actually connected to the airport’s Terminal 5 – you don’t even have to walk outside to get to the hotel. It is connected to the airport via a walkway, and you don’t even have to step outside to get there from your gate. This is a GREAT thing when you have only a few hours to sleep after a long flight. 
Vivre is a large, well laid out restaurant with plenty of tables and a large open air kitchen.
The kitchen features a wood burning oven, an open grill and several other stations in which to cook the International specialties the restaurant includes. International doesn’t tend to be a buzzword for me with restaurants. 
Once again – exception. 
Lentil Soup
This was a light and aromatic soup with cumin, coriander and potatoes. It tasted like daal, but was much lighter than that dish, which can be creamy, rich and deep tasting. This was earthy but not deep or heavy – it tasted warming and hearty, but in no way greasy. The roasted tomatoes on top added a burst of acid and sweetness to the soup. This was delicate and lightly Indian flavored – not a wham bam of curry flavor. It was a delicious way to start the meal. 
Chicken Tikka Pizza with Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Tandoori Chicken, Red Onion, Raita
This was a revelation. Not because of the pizza itself – which was more of a crackerlike flatbread than a pizza, with too much gloppy mozzarella and a sugary sweet tomato sauce – but because of the toppings and the possibilities. Tender, aromatic tandoori chicken was juicy with charred edges. The raita was creamy and tangy, filled with diced cucumbers and tomatoes. The red onion, sweet and pungent at once, added a sharp edge to the dish. This pizza is genius. How have I not tried to make a chicken tikka pizza before? I would use a sharper, more Indian style tomato sauce with cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and other Indian spices. I would add cilantro to the dish, and use very little, high quality shredded mozzerella, if I used any cheese at all. The execution of the pizza was middling – great toppings, so-so foundation – but the creativity it inspired wins it many points. 
Chicken Jalfrezi with Jasmine Rice, Poppadums, Naan and Mango Chutney
I have never had chicken Jalfrezi before, and let me say that I am a fan. This dish was much sweeter and more floral than many Indian chicken dishes that I have had. It was redolent of cinnamon, nutmeg and I think fenugreek, which gave it a pleasantly bitter edge. There was a very slight heat to it, but it was more of a spiciness than a lip burning sear. This almost tasted Moroccan or Turkish to me – sweet and sour as much as it was zesty and deep, as I find much Indian food to be. 
The chicken was incredibly tender and infused with these aromatic spices, the thick sauce coating it and the onions and bell peppers stewed along with the chicken. Served with fluffy, pistachio dotted jasmine rice, freshly fried poppadoms, naan that was a bit too doughy and mango chutney that was so deliciously sweet and sour that we had to order 2 extra orders of it, this was a fantastic meal. It could easily have served 2 people. Of course, in our family, it barely served one of us. 
What a great airport meal! Of course it was overpriced, but, you know…it’s airport hotel food. They have a monopoly. They know that it’s 9 pm and you are starving. In that regard, the food was WAY better than it had to be. The lentil soup and chicken Jalfrezi were really delicious. The service was excellent – fast and competent. 
And this restaurant actually disproves my belief that you can’t have great food in an airport hotel.  

Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Let's have a girls' night making chicken tikki pizza! And have tons of wine, of course.

  2. JustinM says:

    I went through a phase where I every time I had leftovers I would try to determine how to make a pizza out of it. Sometimes it worked – tandoori chicken pizza, chicken tikka pizza, etc. – and sometimes it didn't. (There was a black pepper and snow pea Chinese-leftover pie that stands among the 10 worst things I have ever made.)

  3. JustinM says:

    Hey I was just doing you at the same time you were doing me. I mean… um… what I meant to say was… well, never mind.

  4. Sippity Sup says:

    Actually I heard irony because you came through in the end. GREG

  5. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Sarah – yes, of course!
    @Justin-too bad, because that Chinese pizza sounds kind of awesome! And yes…it's now awkward…
    @Greg – and now it's NOT awkward again! Touche, my friend…touche!

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