A table for one, please’ – hardly had these words had time to echo around this almost totally empty restaurant, that I was shown to the very worst seat in the house, bang opposite the open kitchen entrance. So today, we review plate-stacking technology.
Just kidding: the theme is nouvelle Indian’s this week. And after I had been moved to a better perch, it became clear that this is the sort of smart ‘contemporary environment’ (complete with de rigueur hard seats and pendant lamps) – that lots of chaps with funny spectacles must have spent months dreaming up. The ambient beats must have been mixed by Hoxton’s most recherché ‘music curators’. And, to add that final gloss, teams of graphic designers must have sweated late into the night to turn what is essentially a standard Indian menu into the sort or masterwork the staff feel obliged to ‘introduce’ you to.
So is this just a hip curry house with pretensions? Surprisingly, no. Once you’ve fought through all the guff, the food and service are in fact at least as good as at the much-hyped Imli (reviewed yesterday). You couldn’t have had a much more down-to-earth Indian lunch that I did – popadoms with chutney, rogan josh, rice and nan – and there was nothing to reproach at all. It wasn’t expensive, either, given the undoubtedly high-class surroundings.
There was even a nice novelty on the drink front: a refreshing Indian Zinfandel rosé. But a pudding’? No way. And – as this is apparently a chai (tea) house – no espresso either. I am well aware that puddings and espresso are not ‘authentic’, but if I had a new restaurant with three tables occupied at lunchtime, I’d frankly be giving people whatever they were asking for.