Reinvigorated by refurbishment, this long-established, good-but-pricey Indian looks set to hold its own in a corner of Soho that’s becoming ever more trendy.
he rather lugubrious start to 2010 for new restaurant openings has been partially offset by a number of top-end relaunches. We’ve recently reviewed The Capital (new chef), and Benares (refitted after a fire).
And now the Red Fort in Soho has also re-opened after a prolonged post-fire refit. This was possibly London’s original upmarket new-wave Indian (even pre-dating the establishment of Harden’s in 1991!). Now the old place fortuitously finds itself relaunched on a strip that – while is was ‘away’ – has had a major rush of trendiness. Quo Vadis, opposite, has been reinvigorated by the Hart brothers, and Richard Caring has unveiled his mega-‘in’ Dean Street Townhouse, just a few yards away.
The Fort’s new interior, while not looking that different from the old days, has a comfortable-contemporary feeling which seems rather more inviting than we remember. It wasn’t succeeding in dragging in the punters on our lunchtime visit, but the agreeable and efficient staff told us they were very busy at night.
We assume that it's only a matter of time before lunchtime trade picks up, but in some senses the restaurant doesn't really help itself. There are £12 set lunch menus – one carnivorous, one veggie – but they don’t really seem to push them (and you may have to ask for either/both).
We tried one of each menu, on the basis of which we can confirm that the standard of the food is never less than good, and sometimes impressive. Tandoori starters kicked the meal off superbly, but there was just a slight feeling as it progressed that momentum was not quite being maintained.
We ended with a pudding sampler plate from the à la carte menu, which was enjoyable, but certainly not exceptional. We suspect that the story is similar with the broad-ranging carte (which includes some exotic meat dishes) – achieved to a good and consistent standard, but at prices that give nothing away.
Looking for a smart Indian dinner in Soho, though? Well, where else you gonna go?