Great Wall of Indian

1. Reviews (London)

Ladywell Tandoori, Ladywell, SE13
Review by @Benb111 

photo

Mural by Gill Golding

Sometimes fate can be a right bitch. Other times she can be Emma Stone-mixed-with-Mila Kunis-and-a-twist-of-Helen-Mirren. So it proved when I had a flat tyre on a Saturday night in Ladywell, near Lewisham.

I cursed my bad luck. But then celebrated it. Ladywell is definitely a ‘go through’ place… you go through it to get somewhere else. Nobody stops in Ladywell apart from those who live there, 284 and 122 bus drivers, and deflated unfortunates. Dad’s Taxi Service was operating that fateful night – the last Saturday of February – and I had just dropped my son off at a friend’s house somewhere in SatNav Land.

Heading back to Greenwich, I felt a slight pulling to the right of the steering before hearing the grating sound of the right front metal wheel rim screaming out: “You have a flat tyre, i-d-i-o-t!”

The car rolled to a halt just metres from… the unremarkable-looking Ladywell Tandoori, next to the bus stop and opposite Ladywell Mayil Food & Wine. So guess where I headed?

Opening the door, I was stunned to see the most beautiful murals depicting Indian scenes on the two walls flanking the narrow restaurant, which was packed. I managed to get a table and was equally stunned by the sweet service from husband and wife team Habib and Khalida, who have owned the restaurant since 1982. The food, very reasonably priced, was delicious, by the way.

Subsequently, I have been back twice, most recently with SheWhoMustBeObeyed on a Saturday night in March. The welcome was equally warm, with Habib, who is from Bangladesh, wearing his trademark cap, and a tie neatly tucked into a pullover.

There are four booths on the right as you enter, and tables opposite, with a little bar by the kitchen entrance. For a starter we shared a Sonahara Samosa (£2.95, minced chicken and sweetcorn), which was lovely, with the pastry nice and flaky. We also has a couple of popadoms (50p each), which came with some chutneys.

By now, after this three visits, Habib knows I love my food spicy, so he recommended a Murg Achari (£6.95, and according to the menu, “marinated grilled fillet of chicken cooked in a spicy, tangy sauce of fresh garlic, ginger, green chilli and fresh coriander”).

This chicken immediately passed my Good Curry Test with flying colours, as it was soft and succulent. So many restaurants get it wrong with pieces of overcooked dry chicken just smothered in a sauce. Not the Ladywell Tandoori.

The wife was equally happy with her  Chicken Korma (£4.50) and we shared a  cauliflower bhaji (£2.50) with a couple of portions of boiled rice (£1.60 each). Unusually, the restaurant also serves game, with pheasant and venison on the menu.

The food was all very moreish, and clearly Habib and Khaleda know the secret of how to run a successful restaurant – it has been around for 31 years, don’t forget. I’m just disappointed I didn’t discover it earlier.

And that tyre? The AA came round and fixed it. And the murals? They are by a brilliant artist called Gill Golding, who has taught Fine Art at Middlesex University. Fine art, fine restaurant… don’t wait for a flat tyre to give it a go.

• Meal for two (inc non alcoholic drinks, and without service) £31.60.

Ladywell Tandoori, 81 Ladywell Rd, London SE13 7JA. Tel: 0208 690 1047. Open daily: 5pm-11.30pm

Scores on the Tandoors

Food  9⃣

Decor (murals) 🔟

Value 9⃣

Atmosphere 7⃣

Service and friendliness 🔟

Ladywell Tandoori on Urbanspoon

In need of more Cobra

1. Reviews (London)

Panas Gurkha, Lewisham, SE13
(review by KD)

It was a cold Friday evening when a friend and me went out to eat at Panas Gurkha on Lee High Road. Although it was seven o’clock there was no one else in the small restaurant, although it did fill up while we ate there. The décor in the restaurant has a slightly old-fashioned feel to it and there were quirky pieces of artwork (to say the least) dotted on the walls around the restaurant.

Dinner started by ordering Cobras and a couple of popadoms, the way all of my curries begin. We were going all out so decided to order starters as well as main courses. The two dishes that came first were the Momo (£4.25), lamb dumplings which the menu described as one of the most popular dishes in Nepal, and Sadeko Kukhura, shredded chicken on salad, a signature dish of Panas. Both dishes were pleasant enough, although the salad was very salty, which ruined the chicken a little bit when eaten together.

Interestingly, the main courses were pre-plated, which is not the norm but our waiter had no qualms when we asked for some extra plates so that we could share our dishes. We choose our mains from the chef’s specials and there wasn’t a curry sauce with either, which wasn’t a massive problem, but again unusual. The dishes were Choyola Chicken (£8.95) and Jhaneko Masu Lamb (£9.95), and although the ‘spice rating’ of both was two chillies (out of three) on the menu  but were extremely spicy, so much so that we had to order two more beers. I am a fan of spicy food but would hate to try a dish with three chilies at Panas.

The lamb had a sea-salt crunch to it, which meant, again, it was a bit too was a bit salty for our tastes. This came with a perfectly fine garlic naan and a new dish on the menu: green rice. However, this appeared to only be rice with some coriander in it, so it wasn’t exactly special. The one thing we found faultless at Panas was the service, as all the waiters were very observant throughout the evening. Well done to the front of house staff…

Overall, Panas’ food was perfectly edible, although a bit too salty, and not horribly expensive as our meal was under £60, including the drinks. I won’t be rushing there anytime soon, but if I do go back I would be inclined to try the more well-known curries.

Panas Gurkha, 318 Lee High Road, Lewisham, SE13 5PJ. Tel: 020 8852 9891 or 020 8297 8794.

Panas Gurkha snapshot

Food 5⃣

Decor 5⃣

Value 6⃣

Atmosphere (Friday night) 7⃣

Service and friendliness 9⃣

Panas Gurkha on Urbanspoon

Old school what?

1. Reviews (London)

Babur, Forest Hill, SE23 

Two of the diners sitting at our table said the same thing.
“My wife doesn’t normally like Indian food, but she is happy to come here and eat.”

There are two ways to take that comment. The first is that Babur serves excellent food (which is does). It has received many plaudits since it opened in 1985, including being named London’s best Indian restaurant in the Zagat 2013 guide. The second is to why wonder you’d come to an Indian restaurant if you don’t like Indian food.

Pot-Roasted Rabbit

Pot-roasted Mustard Rabbit, a broth with ginger and mustard, served with garlic roti

But like all contemporary Indian restaurants, you’re going to get more than the usual list of old-school favourites at Babur. So you can order Buffalo Lal Maas with steamed rice (£15.25), a dish where the meat is clove smoked and served in a dark Rajasthani sauce. Or you can go for Pickling Spiced Duck Breast (£14.95), which comes with a sweet and sour plum sauce and carrot mash. We are, of course, told the where our food is sourced – Laverstoke Park farm and Gressingham respectively, names sure to bring excited organic squeals from some quarters. We aren’t told where the rabbits come from but the pot-roasted Mustard Rabbit (£14.25) is a broth with delicate tastes of ginger and mustard. It comes with a garlic roti.

Chicken Biryani (£13.95), Chicken Lababdor (£12.95) and Chicken Chettinad (£13.75), the later with a fool’s cap dosa as a quirky lid, are there for those who prefer their ‘curry’ dishes to be more than meat with a sprinkling of spice.

Mixed starter of Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka, BeetrootCutlet and Mackrel

Mixed starter of Chicken Tikka, Lamb Tikka, Beetroot Cutlet and mackerel

The starters (as recommended by the waiter ‘for large groups’) was a nice tasting mix of Chicken Tikka (£6.95), Lamb Tikka (£7.95), Beetroot Cutlet (£6.75) and pan-seared mackerel (£7.25), all of which get the thumbs up. And it was the right amount. Unfortunately, buoyed by our large table accepting his offer to choose the starters, the waiter hoisted way too many side and rice dishes on us when it came to the mains. The creamy Dal Makhani (£5.25) was the favourite side dish our up-seller came up with.

Service overall was friendly but a bit casual, which we didn’t expect from a restaurant of this calibre. One of the mains was wrong (“sorry, I can’t read my own writing,” we were told by the same waiter who could clearly read his own writing when it came to the extra sides), although in fairness this problem was fixed pretty quickly. And then the wait for the desserts was sooooo long that the chatty end of the table ended up asking for the bill and ordering taxis because they assumed the few sorbet lovers has eaten already. Your wife might like it but she will clearly have to be patient whether she is a fan of Indian food or not.

Babur, 119 Brockley Rise, Forest Hill, SE23 1JP. Tel: 020 8291 2400. E-mail: mail@babur.info. Open: daily noon-2.30pm (Sun noon-4pm), 6pm-11.30pm.

Babur snapshot

Food 7⃣

Decor 8⃣

Value 5⃣

Atmosphere (Monday night) 6⃣

Service and friendliness 5⃣

Babur Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Load up the table

1. Reviews (London)

The Viceroy, Charlton, SE7

Monday nights are always good nights to go out for a curry. There’s nothing much else to do, it gives you something to look forward to during the Monday Blues at work, and best of all you often have the restaurant to yourself. The Greenwich Curry Club has often turned up mob handed at a restaurant on a Monday and enjoyed what’s felt like a private dinner.

Not so in Charlton’s Viceroy where Monday night is banquet night. And half of Charlton seems to know it because the place was bursting at the seams, especially once 17 of us from the GCC turned up. It felt more like a Saturday night than a sleepy Monday.

And here’s why. It costs just £10.95. And for that you get a starter, a main, a side, a rice, a nan bread, ice cream and coffee. You got it, make sure you go hungry.

The Viceroy, 10 The Village, Charlton, SE7 8UD. Tel: 020 8319 3436.

The Viceroy snapshot

Food 7⃣

Decor 5⃣

Value 8⃣

Atmosphere (Monday banquet night) 9⃣

Service and friendliness 7⃣


Viceroy on Urbanspoon

So far, yet so near

1. Reviews (London)

Gaylord, London, E14

The foot tunnel linking Greenwich with the Isle of Dogs was opened on 4 August 1902. Prior to that there was a ferry service. On 3 December 1999 the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) line linked the two places. The foot tunnel is free and takes about 10 minutes, while the DLR takes a couple of minutes (one stop from Curry Sark) and costs a bit more than a pound.

My friend tells me his grandad from Deptford never went north of the river in his whole life. And when it comes to curries the people of the south haven’t moved on much.

The Gaylord is a superb restaurant on the Isle of Dogs. Granted, it’s not in the most salubrious of locations but this place consistently delivers great food with friendly service and in a decent setting.

There is a large menu with all the old favourites (Murgh Madras, Murgh Korma, Murgh Dhansak, all £5.50), some even older favourites that have dropped off many other menus (Gosht Ceylon and Murgh Malaya, both £5.50), as well as specialities such as Bakhara (£6.95) with a heavily spiced herb flavour, or Shahi Jhinga Pakeezah (£10.95) charcoal-grilled prawns with diced onions.

It’s worth noting some interesting dishes. Fish lovers rejoice because the Tandoori Fish (£7.25), mildly spiced trout cooked in the tandoor offers a deep fish taste perfectly offset with some salad a bit of mint sauce. Mach Bortha (£5.25) is tagged as ‘exclusive’ and offers mashed mackerel (no bones), fairly hot (in spice terms) which can be served either hot or cold.

Bangladeshi telapia is well represented: Fish Tikka starter (£3.50) is a variation on a favourite, a classic Fish Curry (£7.95), or try Fish Massalla (£7.95) for fillets cooked in a massalla sauce.

But, why oh why is Aloo Bhortha (£3.15), a traditional Bengali dish, not on more menus? It’s worth a visit just to try this mashed potato with mustard, green chilli, fresh coriander and onions (would go well with the Greenwich Curry Club’s specially created curry sausages actually). Remember, people of south London, there is a foot tunnel and the DLR…

The Gaylord, 141 Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, London, E14 3DN. Tel: 020 7538 0393. Open: daily noon-2.30pm, 6pm-midnight.

Gaylord snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④

Decor ① ② ③ ④

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Friday night) ① ② ③

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④

Gaylord on Urbanspoon

The elephant’s ear and Prince William

1. Reviews (London)

Sartaj, London WC2

I’m not sure how big your family is but chances are the Sartaj in London’s West End is used to welcoming very large ones. Its family nan (£4.95 plus £1 if you want it stuffed with garlic, onion, cheese, coriander or mince meat) is ridiculously large at something like 60cm long by 40cm wide but it’s worth ordering just for the experience.

At first glance it looks like a giant pizza and next time I shall order one and pile three or four different curries on it, so maybe it could develop into one eventually. Either way, the elephant ear – as it was dubbed – was certainly enjoyed by the Greenwich Curry Club’s special guest, Prince William, who made an appearance to confer royal status to the curry club.

"I hope you don't think I'm eating all that on my own."

In terms of value, when you consider a normal-sized nan is £2.50, the family nan is exceptional value. But there is good value to be found on all parts of the menu at Sartaj.

The Tandoori Mix for two (£5.95) has sizzling portions of chicken tikka, sheek kebab, king prawn and fried onions, which sends a delicious aroma around this smallish curry house, while the Tandoori Lamb Chops (£3.95) was nice and meaty (although it lacked that deep tandoori taste so it could have benefited from a longer period of marinating). One twist was that puree starters – Chicken Chat Puree and Kebab Bashiri (both £3.95) – were served rolled up in the fried bread, rather than being placed flat on the bread as in most other restaurants.

All mains were served in beautiful deep dishes – ideal, in fact, for dipping in chunks of the family nan (which never seems to get any smaller no matter how many bits are torn off it). Thumbs up go to the Bengal Crab and King Prawn Curry (£10.50), its sauce thickened nicely by a generous amount of shredded crab and good amount of fair-sized prawns, and Nawabi Lamb Massala (£10.50) with its soft meat falling off a shank into a thick and dark bhuna sauce. Both meals are fit for a Prince.

Sartaj, 26 Earlham Street, London, WC2 H9LN. Tel: 020 7831 1413. Open: Mon–Wed noon–2pm and 5.30pm–midnight, Thur–Sun noon–midnight.

Sartaj snapshot

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Decor ① ② ③

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Atmosphere (Tuesday night) ① ② ③

Service and friendliness ① ② ③

Sartaj on Urbanspoon

Spice beyond the 472 bus

1. Reviews (London)

Curry Asia, Woolwich, SE18
(Review by @TOWI Woolwich) 

Curry Asia in Woolwich is a modest off-Broadway place that doesn’t give much away to passersby. It hides behind ’80s-style vertical blinds that are always at least half-closed, shielding the diner from the shivering gaze of the crowd waiting for the 472 bus.

Inside, however, it’s warm, friendly, and aromatic. An Indian television channel hums quietly away in the corner and the Curry Asia delivery lads scuttle to and fro with takeaway orders. The lighting is mellow — the sort of illumination a lady appreciates after sunset. Comfortably padded timber chairs signal that this is a place for settling in with a few mates, and being on first-name terms with the waiter well before the end of the evening.

You will be asked if you want poppadoms. Say yes, but be warned—these are almost a meal in themselves. They come with four generous accompaniments, which, if you’re only human and as greedy as me, you’ll hoover up with reckless abandon while you watch the tide go down on your first bottle of 2008 Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet.

The menu offers more than enough choice for some serious dish-envy and fear-of-missing-out angst. To kick off, my partner and I settled on Onion Bhajees (£2.75) and Tandoori King Prawns (£4.95). The latter tantalised our taste buds like a troupe of well-rehearsed showgirls. Think plump and juicy morsels of prawn coated lavishly in a fragrant and smoky tandoori paste, carrying just a hint of citrus tang and served with a crisp, palate-cooling salad. The bhajees were light and crunchy on the outside, enveloping a ball of moist and fragrant oniony goodness. If you were a larger party you could add some tikka (salmon, duck, chicken, or lamb, £2.95 to £4.50) or garlic mushrooms, and really share the love.

For mains, Curry Asia offers a good range of curries with the usual choices of protein. Our King Prawn Dupiaza (£9.95) was well-rounded, aromatic, and mildly spiced, packed with fat king prawns and thick slices of onion and fresh green pepper. The Chicken Jalfrezi (£6.50) boasted more attitude in the heat department, while pulling up short of inducing a full sweat. We spooned raita over the soft pillows of chicken and let the spices mingle with the cooling yogurt. We talked so much we let both dishes go cold, and they were still good.

Little touches complete the experience in this 1962 established restaurant. There’s the Singapore Airlines moment at the end of the meal when the plastic-wrapped freshly-nuked face flannels comes out: perfect for wiping away any post-vindaloo perspiration or, indeed, actual vindaloo. If you become even a semi-regular, the owner will likely offer you a nightcap on the house, and will see you to the door and shake your hand when you leave. It’s that kind of place.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was £43.40.

Curry Asia, 40 Thomas Street, Woolwich Arsenal, SE18 6HT. Tel: 020 8855 2941/0144. E-mail: info@curry-asia.com. Open: Sun–Thurs noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm–11.30pm (midnight Fri–Sat).

Curry of Asia snapshot

Food ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Decor ① ②

Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Thursday night) ① ② ③

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

A good curry (like this) is so hard to find

1. Reviews (London)

Khan’s, Blackheath
(Review by @Benb111) 

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.

Khan’s snapshot

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Value ① ② ③ ④

Atmosphere (Friday night) ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④ ⑤

Khans Indian Nepalese on Urbanspoon

Colourful curries

1. Reviews (London)

Curry Garden, Blackheath, SE3

There’s a decent buzz in Curry Garden despite the doors just opening up on this smallish Indian on  a weekday night. In a village that has a glut of Indian and Nepalese restaurants you need an angle to stand out. And the Curry Garden’s angle is to offer a series of colour coded meal deals offering popadoms, chutneys, main meal (your choice of chicken, lamb or prawns), veg side dish, rice and nan.

There are 16 of these meal deals, using colours to make things simple for us poor customers befuddled by too many choices. So all you have to do is cast your eye over the options and choose the Red deal, the Blue deal, the Pink deal and so on. The idea, I am told, is to not only to keep things simple but also to offer good value to customers who have less in their pockets these days (please insert your favourite thing to blame here: banks, Brown, Cameron, the ultra rich, unions, the hole in your pocket).

Luckily £12.95 was still in my pocket so I could go for the Prawn Jalfrezi, Sag Paneer, Mushroom Pillau and Chilli nan. This is the Beguni meal deal. Now, you might be thinking, that’s not a colour. Ah, but it is (it’s Bengali for purple). With so many meal deals I just assume the creators of the idea ran out of colours?

The deals start at £10.95 (eg. Lamb Madras, Bombay Aloo, Pillau rice, plain nan) and is cheaper than if you order the same items separately. Swapping of items, within reason, is allowed. But what’s the point of that? At these prices just play Curry Roulette and call out a colour without even looking at the menu I say.

Curry Garden, 72 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BN. Tel: 020 8852 3267/1401. Open: Mon–Sat 5.30pm-midnight, Sun noon-midnight.

Curry Garden snapshot

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Atmosphere (early on Wednesday night) ① ② ③

Service and friendliness ① ② ③

Curry Garden Tandoori on Urbanspoon

Quick and easy

1. Reviews (London)

Mehak, Greenwich

Is it me or is up selling in Indian restaurants getting worse?

“Popadoms sir?”
“Not really.”
“Starter sir?”
“No, I’m not that hungry.”
“Vegetable side dish sir?”
“No, I’m okay thanks.”
“Dessert sir?”
“Just the bill thanks.”

How many times have you been in that position in a curry house (often with dirty looks from the waiter)? Or worse still, how many times have you been pushed into ordering an extra dish you probably don’t even want? Sadly it happens, and while I have sympathy with the restaurants who have to make a living, what’s wrong with letting customers pop in for quick and easy curry sometimes (assuming we don’t hog the best table on a Saturday night of course).

So a round of applause to one of Greenwich’s less mentioned curry houses: Mehak. There’s a time and a place for a feast, but one Friday night I just fancied a quick curry. Chicken Vindaloo (£4.40), Pilau Rice (£1.80), Chapati (£1.10) and a large bottle of Cobra (£4.40). No problem. I get my curry fix and I’m in and out of this smart restaurant pretty quickly with a cost of just £12.30 (the other 60p was for the lime pickle).

I was impressed with the food (it’s hard to impress with a basic dish but the Vindy was hot with a thick, dark sauce) and I was impressed with the service. So I’ll be back when it’s time for a feast, probably to taste the sweet and spicy Rista Masalla (£6.50) which is chicken breasts stuffed with mince.

Mehak, 160 Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, Se10 9TZ. Tel: 020 8858 0227 or 020 8293 4752. Open: Mon–Sat 6pm-11.30pm, Sun noon-11pm

Mehak snapshot

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Atmosphere (early on Friday night) ① ② ③

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Mehak on Urbanspoon

In search of a gem

1. Reviews (London)

Shampan 3, Welling
(review by @Benb111)

Get your Sat Nav primed and ready if you want to visit Welling’s award-winning Shampan 3 Indian restaurant.This hard-to-find success was rated Best in London Suburbs in the prestigious British Curry Awards this year, and will have curryholics flocking there to see what the fuss is about.

The restaurant – which opened in 2006 and is part of a small group – is situated in a dense residential backwater somewhere between the A207 into Welling and the A2. Believe me, it’s a pig of a place to find!My expedition party from Greenwich consisted of my wife and I, plus our two teenage children.

The restaurant itself is situated in a small parade of shop and the welcome we received on a cold December Wednesday wasn’t the greatest, even though we had booked. It was hurried rather than warm. With a bar by the entrance, the decor is smart, understated and relaxing, with pretty murals.

The menu is extensive with all the usual staples, but also with plenty of ‘recommendations’ as well. Starters range from £3.90 to £5.90 and for the main course you can have your traditional chicken favourites for £6.90. The priciest items on the menu are sea bass and ginger king prawns, both at £13.90.

I chose Chicken Vindaloo (£6.90), She Who Must be Obeyed (SWMBO) the Barbecued Lamb Achari (£8.50), with the lamb cutlets cooked in the tandoor. My son went for the Chicken Tikka Masala (£7.90), and my daughter Chicken Tikka (£7.50).

SWMBO loved her lamb, my son rated the CTM up there with the his favourite at Charlton’s Viceroy and my daughter enjoyed her tikka. We also had Bindi Bhajee (£3.90), plain rice (£2.50), coconut rice (£3.90), nan (£2.50), and peshwari nan (£2.90).

I was disappointed with my vindaloo. Maybe I was expecting too much because of the recent award, but I have had better at two Greenwich favourites: Chutney and Gurkha’s Inn. The bindi wasn’t the tastiest either, although the coconut rice was fragrant and delicious.

The friendliness of the place did warm up when the restaurant manager came to take our order and realised straight away that we weren’t regulars. He was happy to chat (even he uses a Sat Nav).But enough about food; loos tell a lot about a restaurant and the ones at Shampan are outstanding with five-star luxury. Curiously though, I had to ask for a soap dispenser because there wasn’t one – maybe it had been nicked?

One or two minor quibbles (they’re award-winners – they can take it). Shampan uses oversized plates and bowls so our table felt very cramped, so much so that a salad – part of the lamb dish – had to be put on an adjoining table. I also felt the waiters were a little too quick to pounce to sell more drinks. I had to stop my daughter, 13, ordering a third pineapple juice from a waiter who had asked her directly as soon as her empty glass hit the table.

So, would I go back? Yes, I would, although I do think you are hard pressed to beat the food and friendliness of our Greenwich favourites. Still, don’t take my word for it. Go for yourself… just don’t forget the Sat Nav.

The meal for four came to £66.80 (including non-alcoholic drinks but excluding service).

Shampan 3 Restaurant & Bar, 8 Falconwood Parade, The Green, Welling, Kent, DA16 2PL. Tel: 020 8304 9569. E-mail: info@shampangroup.com. Open: Mon–Sat noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (11pm Fri and Sat), Sun noon–10pm.

Shampan 3 snapshot

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Hurray! Back to the ’90s

1. Reviews (London)

Darjeeling, London, SE13

You could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported back to the 1990s when you visit Darjeeling in Lewisham. Not because the decor is tired, because once past the garish pink sign that announces the place it’s pretty smart and contemporary.

But, joy oh joy, you’ll be transported back by the prices. Eyes were popping out and gasps were heard from around the table as the menus were opened.  “This is the place to order king prawn,” was a good shout. And when the usual, “we’ve ordered too much,” was heard it was decided that this was the place to pile high the table and taste new dishes, even if we had over-ordered (does anyone ever under-order in an Indian?)

And so the dishes came… Malai Lamb Chops (£2.85) marinated in cream cheese and spices, so tasty you’ll be sucking on the bone long after the meat has gone, the favourites Chicken Chat (£2.05), Sheek Kebab and Shami Kebab (both £1.95) and a more unusual Spicy Calamari (£2.85) that was stir-fried with onions, peppers and chilli.

It’s becoming popular for restaurant to have an Old Favourites section in a grid and Darjeeling’s, which starts at just £3.15 for a Chicken Curry, was raided for a Chicken Madras (£3.45). But most in the party opted for something a bit different, including Lamb Randaam (£6.85) a very hot and very red dish cooked with tart tamarind, Chicken Morisa (£6.85) another hot dish with fresh green chillies, Lemon Chana Chicken (£5.35) with chick peas, an ideal order for people who find Achari dishes a bit too tart. Meat lovers should look no further than the main version of the Malai Lamb Chops (£5.60).

But come on, let’s over-order. Add Tarka Dall, Mushroom Bhaji and Bombay Aloo (all £2.05 as side dishes or £2.95 as mains), a good selection of rice (Plain at £1.65, Sabzi and Special at £2.25), nans (Plain at £1.55 and garlic at £1.65) and wrap up with a couple of Chapatis (£1.15).

Is it any wonder the place was buzzing midweek?

Darjeeling, 134 Lee High Road, Lewisham, SE13 5PR. Tel: 020 8473 8222 or 020 8852 5566. Open: daily 5.30pm–11.30pm, Sat and Sun noon–2.30pm.

Darjeeling snapshot

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Smile, you’re in Chutney

1. Reviews (London)

Chutney, Greenwich

You’ll have to go a long way to find a friendlier Indian restaurant than Chutney. The small, unassuming place (my friend says it always looks shut) is along Greenwich’s Little India strip, one of a few curry places (mostly takeaways) in just a few hundred metres of each other. But every time I’ve visited the greeting is warm and the chit chat over the choice of dishes with the waiter interesting. But this time Chutney surpassed itself by giving us a lift home because ‘the driver is available’. Now that really is service.

Chutney also serves exceptionally good food and has built a reputation for retaining customers who have moved out of the area. The chutney tray, as you’d expect from a restaurant with this name, offers something different: a dry cocunut chutney, made red with colouring and red wine. Tasty indeed, especially with a bit of sweet mango pickle.

Of the main dishes the new Napali Chicken (£6.45) a hottish dish, cooked with onions and green peppers, is to be recommended. But the menu offers so many interesting options: Boal Fish Massala (£6.45) a freshwater fish from Bangladesh, Pistachio Chicken (£5.95) for nut lovers, a Meat Thali (£10.95) with tasters of Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, Lamb Bhuna, Tandoori Chicken, Sheek Kebab, rice and nan, and a good range of Chutney’s very own Tapeli set menus such as Tapeli Bengal or Tapeli Joypuri (both £10.95).

It’s not difficult to see that value features highly here, so it is no surprise that Chutney was named runner-up in the category of Best Value in the Greenwich Curry Club Awards. Should you need further persuading, old-school favourites such as Madras and Bhuna come in at £3.95 for vegetable and £4.45 for chicken, which is better than some of the takeaway neighbours.

Chutney, 11 Blackheath Road, London, SE10 8PE. Tel: 020 8692 1924 or 07947 120 989. Open: Sun–Thur 5.30pm–11.30pm, Fri–Sat 5.30pm–midnight.

Chutney snapshot

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All bar wonderful

1. Reviews (London)

The Coriander, Westcombe Park, London SE3

Anyone who has to get off at Westcombe Park each day must run the curry gauntlet. On the left is the Royal Nepalese (the Greenwich Phantom’s favourite I hear) and on the right is Coriander. It must be nearly impossible to pass the fantastic spice smells without popping in on the way home. I’d never make it home, I know that.

The Corinader has a great little bar and a nice sized waiting area for anyone who does get sucked in to the right hand side to pick up a takeaway. You can’t blame other restaurants for maximising their seating space but most waiting areas are bit naff to say the least, usually consisting of the table where the boss does his accounts in the day. As for a bar, well, that’s an absolute bonus.

Try to get your hands on a takeaway menu before you go because there are discount vouchers on the front (£3 off for orders over £30 and £5 off for orders over £40) and these apply for eat in (reserve your table first) or takeaways. What a great idea.

A great way to get going is with the vegetarian starter Hara Kebab (£3.50), a lovely combination of spinach, potatoes, cottage cheese and cashew nuts. Think Onion Bhaji but nicer.

Classic dishes come in at around £5.50 (Lamb Madras, Chicken Vindaloo) and £6.50 (Lamb Balti, Chicken Dansak). But the chef’s recommendations offer some interesting alternatives, many of which you may not have tried before. For a touch of heat try Adha Diya (£7.50), chicken or lamb cooked with plenty of ginger and garlic in a cream and coconut sauce. It’s milder cousin Aam Diya comes with mango and sultanas.

Then back to the bar methinks.

The Coriander, 1A-3 Station Crescent, Westcombe Park, Blackheath SE3 &EQ. Tel: 020 8858 6818/7878. Open: Mon-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun 1pm-10.30pm.

The Coriander snapshot

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Sylhet there be spice

1. Reviews (London), 3. Reviews (International)

India Palace, Toronto, Canada

I knew I’d find one in Canada sooner or later. As soon as I tasted the food in India Palace I knew it. The Sylhet area in Bangladesh provides to bulk of chefs in British ‘Indian’ restaurants, and here in the heart of Toronto, the waiter confirms, is another one of the excellent chefs.

Canadian diners and vistors will be only too aware that being a curry lover is an expensive affair here, so the lunchtime buffet, offering a couple of main meat dishes, dhal, vegetables, chicken tikka, rice and bread, is excellent value at $11.95 (plus 13% tax). Eat later off the a la carte menu and you’ll pay just that for one of the main cheicken dishes.

Grab a window seat and watch Tornto pass by on the busy Queen Street West, chat to the waiter about your favourite dishes, but best of all tuck into good value food from a classic Sylheti chef.

India Palace, 257 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5V 1Z4, Canada. Tel: +1 416 593 7272. Open: daily 11.30am–11pm. email: info@indiapalacequeen.ca

India Palace snapshot

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Tale of East

1. Reviews (London)

The Tale of India, London E14

West India Dock Road is hardly the most salubrious place for a meal but the Tale of India is great little neighbourhood curry house and judging but the numbers in there the neighbourhood knows it too.

Interestingly there are four Assamese (East Indian) dishes on the menu. Assam is one of the seven Indian states tucked away far to the east and is only joined to the rest of the country by a thin strip of land in West Bengal. Assam itself borders Bhutan and Bangladesh and is pretty close to Myanmar (Burma) and China although Assam often refers to a group of people as well as the place. So now you know. Plus I get to slip a map into the blog.

Assam, tucked away far to the east

Right, history lesson over. The four Assamese dishes on offer (Salaam, Shorisha Batta, Baluchory and Shashli Khana) are all hot, with chick peas, green chillis and spring onion featuring prominently. Salaam (£6.95) is excellent and comes with spinach and lime skin plus a thick sauce of tomato, onion, garlic, ginger, cariander and capsicum. Chicken or lamb, take your pick.

Away from the east, old-school classics like Madras and Dhansak are priced at £6.50-£6.95 and the chef must be very special because he has an extensive list of specialities. The lamb in the Garlic Chilli (£6.95) was melt in the mouth but should be tried if for no other reason than to acknowledge the refreshing humour in the menu, which warns that the garlic is not suitable for vampires. Good stuff.

The Tale of India, 53 West India Dock Road, London, E14 8HN. Tel: 020 7537 2546. Open: Sun–Wed noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–11.30pm (midnight on Thurs–Sat).

The Tale of India snapshot

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Gone fishin’

1. Reviews (London)

Zeen, NW1 London

A group of curry lovers which meets once a month is in search of a regular venue. They’ve got the meeting each other every month down to a tee, found a pub they like to start off the evening with and now just need the curry house they like. It’s safe to say it won’t be Zeen.

Order a prawn dish if you like fishing. As one of the group said, ‘I went in for a prawn and was delighted to fish one out!’. Not that Zeen holds back that much on the quantity (to be fair there were a decent amount of prawns in the Prawn Karwari, £8) but the deep bowls of ‘curry’ are extremely watery.

And so it was with all the other dishes. One of the great joys of eating in a curry house – as anyone who has tried to replicate the dishes at home – is their ability to create thick, rich sauces. Without it the dishes are more like soup. And so it is with Zeen. The Chicken Madras (£7) was the same, so were the, er, other soups.

It has to be noted that the contemporary decor does make this a very stylish place to fish through your spicy soup though.

Zeen, 130 Drummond Street, London, NW1 2PA. Tel: 020 7387 0606. Open: Mon–Fri: noon–3pm and 5:30pm–11:30pm, Sat: noon–3pm and 6pm–11:30pm.

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1926 and counting

1. Reviews (London)

Veeraswamy, Regent Street, London

 

Veeraswamy's décor aims to capture the atmosphere of a Maharaja's palace in the 1920s

 

It’s not often (make that never) the GCC has to book a table for its monthly curry. But, hey, it’s Christmas (almost), so a month’s notice was in order (and even then we had to change nights). But it was worth it to try the oldest curry house in the country.

Veeraswamy has been around since 1926 and they don’t mind reminding you of the fact on everything you see in the place, from menus to wine lists and more, so much so you’d think the place is actually called Veeraswamy 1926. But who can blame them? Because although this wasn’t the first Indian to open in England (that’s said to be the Hindoostane Coffee House, 1810), it’s the oldest surviving one, and that’s some achievement.

‘Not exactly the _ _ _ _  [insert name of any local curry house] is it?’ exclaimed the GCC members at first sight of the décor, with the array of turbans lining the walls, the gold screens and the mellow lighting (no flash photography in here please).

 

Bet it didn't look like this in 1926

 

 

Prices are double a decent curry elsewhere and treble a cheap and cheerful one down your local, but you don’t come to Veeraswamy to save money.

Crab kebab (£11.50), Duck kebab (£10), both served on banana leaf, and very plump Scallop Moilee (£11.50) got the ball rolling for starters along with a round of Cobras (£5.85 each).

But the best was yet to come. Huge portions of Raan Akbari (lamb shanks) and Hyderbad Lamb Biryani (both at £23) set the tone with super soft and tasty lamb, spiced to perfection, clearly with delicious and fresh whole spices. The latter is said to have been on the menu back when they kicked off in 1926 so they’ve clearly had some time to perfect it. Which they have.

The Chingri Malai (£23) also didn’t disappoint when it came to huge plump prawns in its creamy sauce. No fiddling around looking for shrimps in this dish. Ideal for dipping the Tandoori Roti (£6.70) into. Heaven knows, the GCC knows a few things about Indian food, but it’s not often they rave about a roti like they did here.

Gosht Hara Salan (£23) and soft, soft Saag (£7) cooked with tasty, tiny chunks of crunchy onion, ensured there was plenty of green on the table, while a Murgh Makhani (£17) delivered a sense of normality to proceedings.

The Nectarine Tandoori (£6.75) soon put paid to any thoughts of normal though. Whoever thought up this slightly caramelised dish, well done to you. Tandoori Nectarine indeed.

But like the place, it has to be tried by every curry lover.

Veeraswamy, Victory House, 99 Regent Street, London, W1B 4RS (entrance on Swallow Street). Tel: 020 7734 1401.

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Eating on the dock of the bay

1. Reviews (London)

Memsaheb on Thames, Docklands

Let’s be honest, the walk from Crossharbour Station to the river is unlikely to feature in ‘Beautiful Walks of London Volume I’. And the fly tipper who happily reversed down the alleyway and dumped his rubbish in front of us without a care in the world has hardly helped.

But there, right on the Thames is a gem of an Indian, with comfortable decor (love the big blue seats), friendly staff and good food. So good in fact that the Bangladeshi Caterers Association recently named the restaurant as one of its 11 regional winners in its annual Caterer of the Year Award. It was named as best restaurant in Greater London (East).

Ian declares he has cycled past many times and been meaning to try it out. Well, now you’re here, what are you going to order?

Tandoori Lamb Chops (£8.95) it is, sizzling away with tasty onions and green peppers. A plate of this lamb was devoured on a previous visit and it lives up to expectations again. Top notch.

 

Tandoori Lamb Chops

 

Meanwhile the newest (and our second French) member of the GCC plumps for a King Prawn Biryani (£10.95) although from the size of the prawns the king must be from a really small country. You know, one of those countries you can never remember the name of and is wedged in the mountains between two bigger countries.

But it’s a decent biryani and a welcome choice because it’s a dish that’s often overlooked in restaurants. I suppose because it’s rice based and because rice doesn’t have the sexiest of reputations it usually gets shoved out in favour of something hot or something tikka masala-ish.

I was converted to biryani years ago on a trip to Mumbai, when just hours after landing and while still coming to terms with the time difference, tiredness and the attack on the senses that is India, our host brought out a huge biryani. It was three in the morning and it was one of the best things I had ever tasted.

The key to a good biryani is when you know all the different tastes from the rice, the vegetables, meat and spices have been fused together in the cooking process. Too many restaurants, for speed, seem to just mix the ingredients together at the end. But the Biryani Inspectors will get them in the end.

And hang on, is that broccoli (£3.25) on the table again? Only last month we were surprised to see it on a menu and here it is again. Have the chefs just discovered it or haven’t I been paying attention at the back of class?

The Crab Puri (£4.50) and Tuna Kebab (£4.50), the latter served as plump fish cakes, were interesting and unusual starters, while the Garlic Chilli Chicken (£7.95) is a must for garlic lovers.

Sadly the Kitchen Curry, which is something the chef cooks for the staff and is ‘usually hot’ was sold out. But that’s fine as it gives us an excuse to come again.

Memsaheb, 65-67 Amsterdam Road, Docklands, E14 3UU. Tel: 020 7538 3008.

Memsaheb snapshot

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A Lamb Dubby and other new dishes

1. Reviews (London)

Taste of Raj, Blackheath

It’s a sleepy late summer Tuesday and we’re in the middle of the recession. Blackheath’s Taste of Raj, sitting in the shadow of the village’s iconic All Saints’ Church on the heath, is packed. And this in a village (please, please, always refer to SE3 as a ‘village’ or you’ll upset the genteel locals) where there are “17 other restaurants” I am told by a man in the know. There have been good advance reports. “Best curry place in the area,” curry lover Tina announces when she hears we are off for a visit. She could just be right.

The menu’s a cracker, with a selection of special dishes including Lamb Dubby (£7.50) which uses plenty of Kashmiri chilli and petals from the cockscomb flower and Chicken Dhandar (£7.50) a sort of creamy dhansak with a late spice kick. There are also rarities like the super fresh tasting Tandoori Scallops (£5.95), Courgettes (£4.50) stuffed with potato, onion and coriander and vegetable side dish Broccoli Bhajee (£3.50).

Tandoori Scallops

They may all look the same but they certainly don't taste the same. Lamb Dubby far left, Chicken Dhandar second from right

Unusually all the main dishes appear looking exactly the same colour (although they certainly don’t taste the same) so I think it’s safe to say there’s none of the usual colouring used to electrify the look of the dishes here. And hip hip hooray, here’s an Indian chef who knows to keep his chicken moist and tender rather than relying on the sauces to cover up his over-cooking.

The restaurant layout is two sections joined by a little pinch point where you’ll find the bar and one table (where we sit) and this design successfully creates a good buzz while keeping the intimate feel of a small restaurant.

And as always, it’s the little extras. A complimentary soup and ‘magic mushroom’ (that’s a tasty fungi not something you’ll find in Amsterdam) to start, as well as the increasingly common ‘drink on the house’ as we pay the bill, following the less-than-usual orange slices after the main meals.

There’s a little sign in the window declaring ‘Open all Day’. This place would probably even be busy at 4.30.

• Taste of Raj, 9 Royal Parade, Blackheath Village, London, SE3 0TL. Tel: 020 8244 2823 or 020 8244 2822. Open: Daily noon – midnight.

Taste of Raj snapshot

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