It's been years since I was last at the Bombay Brasserie, London go-to Indian cuisine spot for celebratory occasions & special dinners. In 1995, I remembered being served a tall glass of bubbly pink champagne during Sunday brunch - on-the-house - as Bombay Brasserie had just been chosen by Time Out as the best Indian restaurant in London then.
I was back there again for the Sunday lunch buffet, a get-together with UK-based Hounds limster, Howler & deansa. The newly-refurbished Bombay Brasserie replaced its previously dark, ornate main dining room with a lighter, brighter decor - sepia-toned old photos of Indian scenes on the walls, lavish chandeliers dripping from the airy ceilings. Nice.
The other part of the restaurant - bright, sun-lit conservatory (which I preferred) has got a more modern but boring make-over - gone were the Victorian feel and ornate grillwork - in were the large brown timber lines which made it look, well, normal in a minimalist way. I missed the old conservatory, which exuded a British Raj-like grandeur.
The food, though, was a revelation - it's improved by leaps and bounds, no doubt due to the efforts of its consultant chef - the extraodinarily talented Executive Chef of the Taj Group, Mumbai-based Hemant Oberoi. Personally, I'd rate Oberoi as the #1 Indian chef in the world today. Pre-terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, he was helming Masala Kraft & Zodiac Grill restaurants in that grand hotel.
As a matter of interest, other top Indian chefs whom I admired are:
#2 Ananda Solomon, Konkan Cafe, Taj President, Mumbai
#3 Imtiaz Qureshi, Dum Pukht ITC Sheraton Maurya Delhi
#4 Arvind Saraswat, Taj Group. Oversees Taj Delhi & Taj Bengal in Kolkata.
#5 Naren Thimmaiah, Karavalli, Taj Gateway Bangalore
#6 Satish Arora, was the youngest chef for Taj Bombay back in 1973 (he was 26 then!).
#7 Rahul Akerkar, Indigo (Continental), Mumbai.
#8 Ritu Dalmia, Diva (Italian), Delhi
Anyhow - back to our Sunday lunch at the Bombay Brasserie. Good choice of chaats:
- Pani puri: the tamarind-flavored liquid was served in a shot glass - to be poured yourself into the pastry shell before you pop the whole thing into your mouth;
- Sev batata puri, which went well with a dollop of sweet yoghurt on top.
- Bhel puri - nicely flavored, but the rice bubbles weren't crisp anymore.
Batter-fried spicy prawns (prawn toki) were daintily served in little boats woven from palm leaves.
The sole soup option was a very gingery pumpkin soup - I thought the overwhelming ginger component somehow made it taste too "Chinese" for me.
Vegetarian mains included very tasty cheese-cashew-raisin (kaju kismis) dumplings smothered in deliciously creamy spinach (palak) gravy - absolutely heavenly!
Another of my fave dishes was the piquant Hyderabadi Mirchi ka Salan (curried green peppers).
An assortment of curried potatoes, peas & cauliflower flowettes assure any vegetarian diner (and there are many of them at the restaurant) that they are certainly being taken care of.
Meat options included a rich lamb-and-potato curry; a creamy-nutty chicken curry thickened with crushed cashewnuts; moist chunks of chicken tikka (this was the most popular options amongst the diners & had to be regularly replenished) and a spicy Keralan fish curry.
Fluffy basmati rice and vegetarian pulao were available from the buffet counter, whilst hot naan breads were served directly to our table.
Desserts included Parsi-style sev - sweetened, spiced vermicelli; semolina pudding flavored with jaggery; and a rather lavish mango kulfi streaked through with figs, served on pink-and-white falooda noodles & drizzled with pink rose syrup.
Considering the variety of food and the top-notch quality of ingredients used the weekend lunch buffet was certainly a great bargain at GBP28.50 net per person. Thanks to Howler for the great suggestion, and limster for making the arrangements!
140 Courtfield Road, London SW7 4QH, GB