There was no Audi Quattro being fired up outside Khan’s and DCI Gene Hunt was certainly not tucking into a ruby when we visited this Blackheath old-timer.
But an outing to this local favourite is like going back to the ’80s with the Ashes to Ashes crew. The restaurant, on Montpelier Vale, opened in 1985 and proudly declares itself to be “the first and the best Indian and Nepalese cuisine in the heart of Blackheath for over 25 years.”
Quirkily, the restaurant is currently celebrating its silver jubilee this year – all the decorations and balloons are up – because it didn’t get round to it in 2010.
When we walked in on a heaving Friday service it was like stepping back in time. I’m pretty certain its first customers through the doors 27 years ago would have seen a similar scene to us: burgundy-coloured velvety wall paper, terracotta-coloured floor tiles, photographs of Nepal, gilt-framed mirrors, and eight old-fashioned chandelier-like ‘thingys’, each with three bulbs and little shades (you know the kind: your nan used to have a dusty one in the hall).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of retro (or a lot in this case) if the food is good, and at Khan’s, it’s great! I always reckon you can go a long way to identifying a good Indian by the texture of its chicken. Here it was beautifully succulent and moist, not dry and stringy like at lesser places.
Despite the restaurant being packed – Khan’s also had a staff party for 17 in from a local sixth-form college (A- for behaviour), the welcome was warm and sincere.
Top marks then for suited manager and co-owner, Krish, who was charming and pleasant throughout. I don’t usually ask for recommendations (I’m a boring vindaloo man) but I did ask Krish, who steered me to a £8.95 Gurkhali Chicken, one of 14 Chef’s Specials, and billed as “boneless chicken with Nepalese herbs, cooked with yoghurt and green chilli.” It was delicious, with just the right kick.
My wife (She Who Must Be Obeyed), and son, 15, also accompanied me. My daughter, 14, was at a sleepover with her latest BFF (Best Friend Forever).
The Boy, a Chicken Tikka Masala aficionado, grunted that Khan’s effort (£7.95) was up there with the best, in equal first place with Charlton’s Viceroy.
SWMBO went for the Chicken Tikka Pasanda (£7.95), and loved it, probably because of the large splash of red wine in it.
I also had a moreish Bhindi (£3.95), which tasted so fresh I wouldn’t have been surprised if the chef had told me he’d grown the okra in a greenhouse behind the restaurant. We all shared a yummy peshwari nan (£2.95).
Not so successful were the popadoms (75p each), flat Onion Bhaji (£3.45) and two portions of pricey coconut rice (£7.90). I’ve had more fragrant and tastier rice elsewhere.
Because of the large party of teachers and the place being rammed we had to wait for about an hour for the food, but Krish was so friendly we hardly noticed. He was happy to chat, proudly telling us his chefs had worked there for decades.
If you read my previous review of Welling’s Shampan 3 on this site, you will know I love a peek at the loos, as they often tell a lot about a restaurant. Here, you couldn’t swing a cat in the male lav – a kitten maybe – and the decor was dated like the front of house, but so what? It was clean, with a powerful air hand dryer above a tiny sink.
But it’s the food that really matters. Regrettably, too many Indian restaurants today think they can get away with poor food and service if they blind customers with silly oversized plates, sexy lighting and faux leather seats.
At Khan’s, thankfully, it’s all about the food and the service.
And guess what? The first song on the car radio as we drove home across the heath was A Good Heart by Feargal Sharkey… 1985 & All That indeed!
The bill for three (inc. non-alcoholic drinks and 10 per cent service) came to £61.71.
Khan’s Restaurant, 28 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, London SE3 0TA. Tel: 0208 852 7091. Open: daily noon-2.30pm, and 5.30pm-11.30pm.