Farzi Café in St James’s: Traditional Indian recipes transformed into delightful modern dishes
Indian cuisine caters to London palates in exquisite fashion at the new British culinary venture by Zorawar Kalra. Farzi Café is an elegant bistro on Haymarket, located five minutes from the major theatres of the West End. Dimly lit, the interior is designed to offer an intimate setting, marked by curvilinear shapes and metallic units, and dominated by brass colours.
The restaurant spans two floors, with the bar at the heart of the first level. Here, Farzi’s team prepares a good range of drinks. We pick a couple of excellent whiskies – a 21-year-old Glenfiddich and a 12-year-old Dalmore. The highlights were definitely the Zodiac cocktails: inspired by Ayurveda and Vedic astrology, these are 12 concoctions linked to the star signs, each made from the best ingredients from their corresponding time of year. We put ours to the test. Mesh – for Aries – mixes saffron gin, citrus, hemp shrub and coconut kombucha. The result was a drink of strong character, fresh and zesty. Of a rather different tone was Kanya in the West – for Virgo – which combines frankincense ice-cream, honey, Terroir gin and prosecco. This thicker cocktail was dominated by sweet notes, but well-balanced in its elements.
The dining concept at Farzi is rooted in Indian customs: portions made for sharing, a great variety to choose from and house specialities clearly labelled. Above the high volume of the music, the staff are ready to offer advice on the best combinations from the menu. Traditional recipes are transformed into delicious modern dishes, tasty and with as little grease as possible.
We started with the smooth Hass Avocado Chaat and a selection of the small plates. The Dal Chawal Arancini are a must. Crispy outside and soft inside, these small balls are the perfect starters, if only to give an initial flavour of the bistro’s creativity. The Pan-tossed Shrooms play on the blending of mild spices and the mushy texture of the dish, finished with a delicate sprinkle of black truffle. Far from the spicy food expected, the Braised Lamb Chops proved themselves among the best examples of Indian cuisine made for Western taste buds, the meat fully seasoned with a sauce of maple and kokum.
Onto the mains, and the grainy Mustard Salmon Tikka didn’t really meet the expectations laid out by its beautiful presentation. The fish, enhanced by drops of kasundi mint cream, was lacking some consistency. Among the cuts served at Farzi, there are also some from animals not easily available in India like the Veal Osso Bucco Ishtu, which proved a superb dish, the tender meat finely enriched by the sauce.
The dinner wouldn’t have been complete without trying one of the offerings from the Biryani section. We went for the Bok Choy and Asparagus Biryani, a gratifying blend of spices with strong notes of saffron. To accompany the rice, we were served a basket of warm bread, which didn’t leave a single oily trace, either on the fingers or the paper.
The desserts were less experimental than the rest of the meal, but we found the winning element here was the exaltation of one ingredient. The Chocolate Forest, although extremely pleasing to the eyes, was missing that extra cocoa factor, but the creamy filling found its crunchy companion in the chocolate shavings. The Shrikhand Air Cheesecake was the pudding to fall in love with. Prepared with mango coulis, this dish was an intense and pleasurable celebration of cream – soft, but not heavy – permeated by the juice of the fruit.
If there’s something London is really good at, it’s bringing together the old and the new in marvellous combinations that please the masses. Farzi Café remarkably fits within this culinary panorama, thanks to its innovative take on the Indian food tradition already well-established in the city. With cutting-edge techniques and authenticity at its core, the bistro is set to surprise and delight.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Maria Dolores Barrios
To book a table at Farzi Cafe, 8 Haymarket London SW1Y 4BP, call 020 3981 0090 or visit their website here.