Classic Indian Food at Bombay Brasserie, Kensington:
When I first started work in London, I didn’t have a great deal of money. And, I seem to remember spending a disproportionate amount on eating out. I did work for a restaurant group so I could indulge myself at restaurant launches and staff training sessions. And, some of my friends who was rather better paid than me, used to treat me.
It was on one such occasion that I was taken to Bombay Brasserie in Kensington for the first time. I was just a littl little sniffy when the idea was mooted. And I recall being told that it wasn’t like going out for a curry! Of course it wasn’t. As one of the first high quality Indian restaurants in London, Bombay Brasserie was ground breaking and really very special. I can remember eating tandoori quail…perfect tender spicy birds. And that was at least twenty five years ago.
I haven’t been back for quite a while. So an invitation to review was very welcome. And I’m pleased to say it HAS changed but in a way that is an evolution rather than a revolution. Gone is the wicker furniture, replaced with much comfier elegant padded chairs. There’s a great demonstration kitchen area in the centre of one of the dining rooms. But it still has the same unhurried tranquillity and feeling of a time gone by that I remember from my first visit.
First cocktails in the bar. Mine, a refreshing Melon Margarita, with Tequila, Cointreau, Lime Juice, Melon liqeur and fresh melon juice, my companion a vanilla and passion fruit Martini made with absolut vanilla. Now, I’ve never been to India, but, this place is just how I imagine a top hotel bar there might be. Apparently Bombay is the melting pot for Indian food – with the cuisines of all the different regions well represented there. So, the idea of Bombay Brasserie is to present us with fine Indian dining but not limited to one region. And, the food is traditional but upmarket, both in terms of ingredients and presentation.
We started the meal with a tiny amuse bouche pastry, then a trio of dishes. Palak Patta Chaat are tiny baby spinach leaves in a light batter, deep fried and serve with yoghurt and chutney. A really pretty dish and lovely to eat.
The star of the trio for me was the scallop on peppered crab. It’s hot, a real kick…but somehow the spice doesn’t overwhelm the very delicate scallop at all. And, chicken tickka kalimiri was so different to the take-away version – tiny portions of succulent chicken breast with a peppery coating.
Next some Goan halibut curry in a vivid red spicy sauce of coconut and red chilli and a melting dish of slow cooked lamb shanks in saffron curry.
By this stage I was quite full and could only eat a tiny mouthful of the lamb, rich and fragrant in the saffron curry sauce. We were served alloo katliyan – spicy slices of potato, lasooni palak (sautéed spinach with golden nuggets of fried garlic) and dal masala, along with plain boiled rice and pilau rice and two types of bread (naan and a richer fried bread called laccha paratha.
Desserts – I chose a mango and fig icecream – a lovely and unusual flavour combination served in a crisp biscuit basket. My dining partner picked the masala tea brulee, which came with a sesame Tuille Ginger Honey Cream Pineapple Sorbet.
Throughout the meal we drank Indian wines. First a Sula Sauvignon Blanc which was light and refreshing, then a rather more complex 2008 Ritu Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, while I am used to Indian Beer I’d never come across Indian wines. These were both very good – the Cabernet Sauvignon in particular, once given a chance to breathe was an excellent complement to the spicy food.
This isn’t a cheap curry night, nor is it leading edge modern Indian cuisine. But, it’s very special. The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere with high ceilings white table linen and greenery transporting you to India in the days of the Raj. Service is immaculate and yet friendly. And, the food is adventurous and beautifully executed.