Review – Harrisons Balham – Cocktails and Indian Food

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.

Harrisons Indian Menu - Main Courses

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.

Harrisons Indian menu - lentil soup

We started with spiced lentil soup with tomato and green beans which was thick, delicious and lightly spiced.

Harrisons Indian Menu chicken

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.

Harrisons Indian Menu selection

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.

Harrisons Rick Stein Indian Menu Beef Vindaloo

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.

Chickpea curry - Harrisons Balham - Rick Stein

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.

Harrisons Indian Menu Rick Stein Fish Stew and prawns

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.

Rick Stein Indian Menu - Dessert - Harrisons Balham

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.

The Hedonist with Hedonista at Harrisons Balham

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!

Harrisons Cocktail bar - Copyright Harrisons

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.


Harrison’s Balham
15 – 19 Bedford Hill,
London SW12 9EX

4 / 5 stars     
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  1. says

    Agree: ultimately, it’s all about the food and whether it’s tasty or not. Judging from your photos, this is definitely some Indian food I’d take a go at! That lentil soup…YUM.

  2. says

    Just wondered where this came from.
    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.

    • says

      There were some rather negative reviews in the Nationals – ‘Stein chose to make his own versions of their recipes. So rather than serve up anything authentically Indian, Stein delivered food that had been adjusted for western tastes and which might be found at an Indian theme night at one of his Cornwall restaurants’.

      And, I have a few food blogging friends who specialise in Indian food and who were really questioning what Rick was doing during the TV shows.

      For me, I wanted to actually see if I enjoyed the food – which I did! With regards to authenticity I am definitely NOT an Indian food expert, but I do respect the opinions of a few Londoners who I believe are.

  3. says

    It seems that the food is customized to local tastes as I can not see any Tandoori Rotis or Indian Bread in the photographs.
    The use of chickpeas makes foo more Turkish than Indian, but all in all it does look very tasty.

  4. says

    Beautiful presentation of dishes Fiona – Redcurrant Creme Brulee – how delicious!
    I only saw one episode of Rick Stein’s India – I’m not an expert on Indian cuisine either but it was the overall tone of last week’s episode that made me feel very uncomfortable. Not for everyone I guess.

    • says

      I think the question of authenticity is an interesting one. I keep in my head May taking me into Chinatown to an authentic chinese and ordering from the ‘chinese’ menu (as opposed to the crispy duck and lemon chicken one we are used to seeing). I absolutely hated what we ate! It was (for me) really really fatty meat floating in a weird noodle soup and I struggled to get through it. May by comparison was raving about it. The truth is, we don’t always want authentic, but we do want to believe that it is!

  5. Pamela Morse says

    This variety is well presented in a cozy place. The Hedonist was on the right track..his all looked amazing. Another great find, Fiona.

    • says

      Harrisons is a great place to hang out, whether or not you eat the Indian menu! It’s not just down the road for me, which is probably just as well for my waistline!

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