A decent takeaway is easy to find in London, but if you’re after finer Indian cuisine it is difficult to know where to look and what to look for.
Bombay Brasserie is blissfully close to my office in South Kensington, located opposite Gloucester Road station. I had heard good things about this eatery – opened in 1982, it has aimed to provide London with authentic Indian, specifically Bombay, cuisine. The stylish restaurant attracts a crowd of celebrities and politians.
“Bombay (now known as Mumbai) brought Indians from all over the country together, making the cuisine unique to the city. The menu at Bombay Brasserie reflects the cultural diversity of Bombay, with influences from Parsi, Goan, Bengali, Gujerati, as well as the Portuguese and Raj. The dishes on the menu today have been served on the tables of past Mughal Emperors and the spice traders of Goa. Like the city itself, Bombay Brasserie has grown. 30 years since it first opened its doors, the mission is the same – to bring authentic Bombay Cuisine not only to London and Londoners, but its guest from all corners of the globe.”
For both starter and main, the knowledgeable waiter chose us a selection of the most popular dishes to try. This ensured the meal was well balanced with a choice of vegetarian, meat and fish dishes, showing off the restaurant’s versatility. We were offered wine and were keen to taste a bottle of an Indian variety. The Sula Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 was absolutely divine, a light and dry white which accompanied both courses well. Perhaps now I will try Indian wine a little more often, though I can’t remember ever seeing the choice on a wine list before.
Our favourite member of staff was the characterful barman who prepared us bespoke cocktails. My friend was losing his voice so received a particularly delicious warm and smooth short drink. The secretive waiter eventually succumbed to our begging and disclosed the crucial ingredients: Brandy, sweetening and fresh lime. I opted for a sweet and tropical tasting lychee martini. Accompanying the cocktails were dangerously moreish crunchy, salty snacks… the type of thing you don’t intend to eat but end up polishing off very quickly.
The star dish for me was, without a doubt, the Palak Patta Chaat (Crispy fried baby spinach, yoghurt, and date chutney). It was insanely yummy and creatively made, unlike anything I have ever tried before. The spinach leaves are battered and dipped briefly in extra hot oil so although fried are left light and unoily. The Chicken Tikka Kalimiri, cooked in the ‘Tandoor’ was very tender and seasoned with cracked black pepper and the Batter fried spicy Prawn Tokri, though a scary shade of luminous orange, tasted delicious.
For mains, a series of small bowls arrived… I still can’t believe we managed to finish it all. Miraculously, unlike cheaper Indian food, BB’s offerings are light and lean, with much less fat. Classic curries, Chicken Tikka Makhani and Lamb Rogan Josh were full of flavour and beautifully seasoned to taste. I especially liked the Tikka Makhani which was similar to butter chicken but with a richer slightly spicier essence. I was surprised to find I liked the Lasooni Palak (Sauteed spinach with golden fried garlic) – this dish looked like the very worst kind of baby grub but had a magically sensual flavour and smelt wonderful too. Aloo Katliyan spiced potatoes and fluffy basmati rice were lovely accompaniments to the creamy meat curries. Most people have a regular favourite dish (mine is currently Lamb Rogan Josh… though I must admit I like Korma too) at Bombay Brasserie it is easy to get distracted… the dishes are all unique and interested and I was tempted to choose something completely new.
Before dessert I had time to enjoy the end of the wine and observe the restaurant around me. The space is huge and spacious, quite palatial with an attractive sunset mural on one wall. The diners seemed to be mostly regulars, enthusiastic eaters relaxing and reminiscing while tucking into their favourite Indian dishes.
We were baffled by the variety of desserts, our kind waiter brought us a selection to save us from attempting to choose just two! Needless to say, the table was filled with colourful pretty puddings. The raspberry chocolate torte was rether too dense and rich to enjoy after curry which was a shame as it looked amazing. Mango Fig Ice-cream was homemade and tangy, more of a sorbet alternative to the fresh fruit. I thought the Masala Tea Brulee with sesame tuile ginger honey cream and pineapple sorbet was the best of the desserts we tried – it was very unusual with a hint of masala tea but actually worked quite well. The brulee was a good consistency, creamy and sweet with a thin layer of caramelised sugar on top.
No Indian meal would be complete without the customary tea, we tried the Masala Chai and the Black Chinese Ginger and Peach Tea.
The courteous and accommodating service at Bombay Brasserie made our experience enjoyable from start to finish. If you like Indian food, but are fed up with takeaways, this is the restaurant for you. I will definitely be revisiting.
Visit the Bombay Brasserie website here for more information.