Forget electric cars and self-driving vehicles, the ‘Resto-Mod’ is the coolest thing on more than two wheels these days.
The coolest of the lot is something called the ‘Singer Porsche 911’ – a quarter-of-a-million pound carbon-fibre dream made by a small company in California which takes design inspiration from one of the most iconic sports cars of all time and puts it altogether in a package so achingly beautiful and emotive that it makes grown men question their bladder control.
It’s precisely the kind of package one gets at Bombay Brasserie – one of the oldest and most widely-regarded Indian eateries in London that’s enjoying a renaissance among those who find the likes of ‘Dishoom’ and ‘Masala Zone’ a bit too gentrified and who are going weak at the knees for old world charm and cookery that is still innovative.
Locked away in a particularly posh part of London SW7, the restaurant is something of an institution among those who have watched the evolution of Indian food in London over the past quarter century. In recent years it’s undergone a renovation courtesy of owners Taj Hotels.
Fans have included everyone from Wimbledon champions to Elton John, Michael Jackson and the Prince of Wales.
That afore-mentioned old world charm is immediately apparent when you walk in and you’re transported in the wonderfully warm and inviting lounge, complete with log fire, dark wood panelling and well-stocked bar.
The entire space is also covered with vintage photographs from the Raj – a great prowl while you work up an appetite.
Whilst the surrounds are distinctly “Gentlemen’s Club”, the cocktail list is most definitely not.
We enjoyed a lovely Bombay Breeze and a Tamarind cocktail that cleared up the palette in time for the food assault that was to come.
And what an assault it is.
Compared with the warm and cozy lounge, the restaurant proper is an expansive space with tables set wide apart – enough to maintain a high enough tone to discuss the nuances of the food.
And nuanced is a good word to describe the myriad flavours offered up by long-term chef Prahlad Hegde.
Starters included a zingy fresh Palak Patta Chaat – baby spinach fried in the gentlest of batter, light as air with a date and tamarind chutney. But the best part was the warmth of the chart was beautifully enhanced by a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds which were like little starbursts in your mouth.
Then there was the Khada Masala Scallop – perfectly cooked and gently spiced with coarse spices and the Dick Shikampuri “cakes” wallowing in yoghurt, red onions and mint.
Then there was of course the ubiquitous lamb chop, which gave the scallop a hell of a run for its money in terms of tenderness.
My partner ordered the King Prawns which were the size of small nuclear submarines.
A lovely touch was a mixed berry sorbet to get the starters settled before the main course arrived.
I ordered the Masala Sea Bass which came reclining on a bed of lightly cooked spinach and mushrooms. It was exquisite.
My partner chose the Salli Boti Lamb which is accompanied by apricot, jaggery, tomato, vinegar and straw potatoes – little shavings that add a delightful crunch to the beautifully cooked lamb. It is a dish of great complexity but the myriad flavours never overwhelms the lamb but merely enhances it.
All the dishes were accompanied by gloriously thick tomato and basil naan.
After a run at the stomach like that, it would have been pure gluttony to have desert – so we settled for a refreshing Mango and Fig Kulfis.
As an aside my partner recommends the fantastic Innis & Gunn lager – described as the “perfect” accompaniment to any Indian dish.
The lager, aged in whisky barrels, is not cheap – nor are prices at the restaurant overall – but it is a welcome change and move upmarket. A venue that marries an old world charm with food that is thoughtful, authentic and innovative.
A rare treat to be savoured.