Bombay Brasserie in Kensington
Indian cuisine may be a long-held British favourite, but your average Brit wouldn’t find much familiar at Kensington’s Bombay Brasserie. A world away from the local curry house Korma, this elegant restaurant offers uniquely inventive dishes inspired by traditional Mumbai recipes, incorporating influences from Goa, Bengal and Portugal. The restaurant first opened in 1982, but a recent refurbishment has swapped Bombay Brasserie’s brightly coloured decor for a muted, elegant palette of white and gold, accompanied by a newly embellished menu crafted by chefs Prahlad Hegde and Sriram Aylur.
The entrance opens straight into the bar, where a mixture of framed colonial and traditional Indian scenes and portraits populate the walls. The grand backlit bar, complete with a ladder to reach the uppermost shelves, offers a range of cocktails, rare whiskies and Indian beers for pre-meal supping. The cocktail list evolves each season, but two drinks currently on offer are French Rennaissance and Pure Passion. The first is a heady mixture of Cognac, Cointreau and Grand Marnier that warms the cockles, the latter a deeply fruity affair, full to the brim with luscious passion fruit pulp.
The delicate scent of spices pervades as we are taken to our seats. The restaurant comprises two vast, spacious rooms of understated opulence. In the conservatory greenery hangs from the ceiling while hand-drawn wallpaper, featuring illustrations of animals, seems to tell a story. In the main room huge elliptical chandeliers, key features from before the renovation, radiate luxury.
We order the Tasting Menu and tuck into some miniature Poppadom appetisers. They crumble in the mouth rather than snap and come with a tangy chutney. Our meal begins with Seekh Kebab and Teen mirch ka Prawn. The lamb kebab, made in a traditional clay oven, has a lingering spicy and smoky aftertaste, while the prawn, served in its shell, is meaty and substantial, with a crunchy pepper crust. One of the highlights of the starters is Palak Patta Chaat, an old favourite that has been welcomed back to the menu. Its crispy fried spinach offers a satisfying crunch, while creamy yogurt and little pomegranate jewels provide moisture and sweetness. Each mouthful simultaneously crumbles and oozes. Pumpkin Soup is next to arrive. Served in an espresso-sized cup, it is rich golden-amber in colour and glistens with truffle oil. It slips down smoothly and its subtle spices complement, but never interfere with, the dominance of the pumpkin.
The mains arrive together: an array of vivid colours. Now seems the time to crack open our bottle of impossibly silky Fat Bastard Pinot Noir, recommended by our waiter. Tucking into the Halibut Curry, we find the fish a meaty mouthful. This Goan dish is traditionally made with vinegar, but here tamarind is used to counter the red chillies. The taste is like nothing I’ve tried before, distinctive and pleasantly sour. It goes well with the Saffron Pulao rice, whose sweet fragrance and taste is like marzipan. Another dish from the clay oven, Adraki Lamb Chops, is moist, boldly spiced with ginger and smoky round the edges. The Mint and Coriander Chutney provides a refreshing contrast.
One of the accompaniments is Bhindi Amchuri, which immediately recalls my trip to Kerala several years ago and is not something I’ve not come across since. Made with Okra and dried mango powder, it is a simple version of a dish commonly cooked in Mumbai. Its texture strikes the perfect balance between moist and crunchy. Another side dish, Corn Kernels and Spinach, consists of creamy spinach hiding yellow corn, which pops in the mouth. Besides all this there is tasty Cauliflower with Ginger and buttery, flaky Naan to soak it all up with.
This is food that champions the earthy and wholesome flavours of vegetables, using spice sparingly to amplify rather than to dominate.
Dessert is presented on a triangular plate with a sweep of milk chocolate and the Bombay Brasserie initials spelled out in white chocolate. Kesar Pista Phirni began as a simple rice and sugar dessert made in poor villages but has gradually evolved into something much richer. This rendition is subtle, creamy and infused with pistachios. With it sits a moist and spongy square of Carrot Cake, dusted with dried mango powder.
The brightly coloured sauces and intense flavours recall the Indian cuisine we know well here in the UK, but the exotic ingredients, such as okra and tamarind, and unexpected compositions make this a new and exciting gastronomic experience. Arrange your private VIP party here for a special occasion; come for live piano music between Tuesday and Saturday; join in the weekend Buffet Brunch or simply sit in the beautiful Bombay Bar with a glass of fine whisky in hand.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
To book a table at Bombay Brasserie, Courtfield Road, SW7 4QH, call 020 7370 4040 or visit here.