Harrison’s Balham – A Rick Stein inspired Indian menu:
The latest celebrity chef foray into World Cuisine, Rick Stein’s India, has met with mixed reactions. Authenticity questioned and understanding of the cuisine doubted. But, for me, at least one measure of success is whether the food is good. And, as a somewhat lazy cookery book follower (e.g. I probably won’t get round to cooking anything from the book for months!), I was rather pleased to be invited along to Harrison’s in Balham to review the Rick Stein inspired set menu that they are running throughout July.
Now, Harrison’s is the baby of Sam Harrison, who also owns Sam’s Bar in Chiswick. But, only connect for a moment; the other investors are Rick Stein himself and Rebecca Mascarenhas (who is also involved in Sonny’s Kitchen and Kitchen W8). I’m always fascinated by the ‘family trees’ of the restaurant world.
Of course Rick Stein’s empire in Padstow isn’t somewhere to showcase the Indian food he’s been presenting on TV and in his book. Instead, both Harrison’s and Sam’s have been running a set menu that picks up some of the recipes from the book and Harrison’s will continue to include a number of the Indian inspired dishes in their regular menu. We were given the opportunity to try pretty much everything on the menu, although my fellow reviewer, The Hedonist, couldn’t indulge in the beef and chicken dishes. Instead he polished off rather larger helpings of the fish and veggie dishes.
We started with spiced lentil soup with tomato and green beans which was thick, delicious and lightly spiced.
Chicken skewers came with a side dish of spiced yoghurt and feta which perhaps didn’t work quite as well as intended – the feta was just a bit too chunky to work as a dressing for the chicken. But the chicken itself was very good, with a nice char but without being dried out.
Much the best of the starters for me was the fragrant curried squid with chickpea fritter. The turmeric and mustard seed spicing was delicate and the chickpea fritter beautifully light and crispy.
Of course with the main dishes I got the entire slow cooked beef vindaloo, which was perfectly tender, though perhaps rather milder than I’d anticipated.
The other two set menu items of chickpea curry and prawn curry were delicious too and Sam brought us a rather unnecessary but very good fish curry. He told us that even though the set menu was due to finish at the end of July most of the dishes would migrate to the main a la carte.
By now I was pretty full and could only manage tastes of the Red Currant crème brulee and cinnamon and coconut rice pudding, though I seem to remember eating rather more of the fresh mango and enjoying my coffee with some home-made shortbread biscuits.
The set menu has replaced the normal set lunch and early evening menu and is available for £13.50 for two courses of £16.50 for three, which is something of a steal for a substantial, well cooked and well presented meal.
We went on to take a look at the new cocktail bar, which is only open in the evening. Elegantly furnished, with comfortable seats and a smart bar area, you can enjoy a whole range of cocktails for £8-£10 and there’s a good selection of bar food too, including a lamb and chorizo burger and a wild boar scotch egg. There’s also a bottle of something that has clearly borrowed the Hedonist’s name behind the bar!
The overall impression is of a good quality, friendly and well priced local restaurant. There’s nothing too challenging, but it’s still just different enough to stand out. It is a great example of that trend for cautious food exploring that pervades at the moment. And, as Sam told us, it’s very much the sort of place he’d like to hang out himself.
15 – 19 Bedford Hill,
London SW12 9EX