Gunpowder Tower Bridge: A tantalising tour of Indian flavours that is both fresh and familiar
When it comes to Gunpowder, it would be all too easy to lunge for the obvious metaphor, citing explosive combinations and dishes that ignite your tastebuds like a lit fuse. But on a Sunday afternoon visit, the Tower Bridge terrace serves up something far more leisurely: a slow-burning yet beguiling celebration of spices.
Opened back in 2015 by Kolkata-born Harneet Baweja, the home-style Indian kitchen’s original iteration in Spitalfields caught the attention of critics right away, earning the Michelin Bib Gourmand before sending its well-guarded family secrets to new territory across the Thames. This second site inhabits a sleek, glassy corridor in dramatic surroundings – not only in terms of historic landmarks but also its proximity to the soon-to-reopen Bridge Theatre (making it perfect for a pre-show menu this summer).
Today, the meal is something of a play in itself. We set the scene with the sunny Bow Barracks Gimlet, a lemon and honey-based gin tipple that drains so fast that I wonder if somehow the glasses might be leaking. Then the small plates enter the stage, commanding admirable respect despite their starter status. The Kashmiri Ghee-roasted Lamb Chop stands proud against vibrant pink ribbons of pickled horseradish and refreshing mint and coriander chutney. It tumbles all too quickly after the first mouthful. The Spicy Venison Doughnut, on the other hand, is the type of snack that could start a war if shared: it’s unlikely anyone would willingly give up a single bite of exquisitely marinated mince encased in crispy golden vermicelli noodles. Luckily we are a meat-eater and a vegetarian, so the table remains civil.
Besides, we are in herbivore heaven when the Mustard Malai Broccoli – one of the dishes that turned heads at the red guide – joins the fray. This is a must-try, its appearance resembling a tiny tree in full spring bloom, bejewelled with red beetroot blossoms. The tender florets float in a velvety sauce enlivened by a slight acidic tang. The Egg Curry Masala threatens with a hefty heat but is pleasingly balanced with a recommended side of cool raita.
Then comes the mammoth main course, a trusty saag paneer and a Whole Beef Rib in Keralan Pepper Sauce. The former serves up generous slabs of tandoor-grilled cheese on a bed of amicably deferential (but well-seasoned) spinach, while the latter melts off the bone to release layer upon layer of fatty, fulsome flavour.
The desserts provide a fitting third act to this perfectly paced performance. Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, Passionfruit Shrikhand offers a nice modern take on the classic dish, pairing the tart fruity yoghurt with a silky set ganache. The Old Monk Rum Bread and Butter Pudding offers not a final bang but a wonderfully comforting resolution: served up with both ice-cream and custard, it takes the difficult choice out of the equation, rolling all your favourite indulgent childhood treats into one.
This spongy hug of a dessert nicely sums up our visit, which gently subverts expectations to surprise in welcome ways. Like an old family recipe that has subtly evolved through the generations, Gunpowder brings contemporary touches to traditional Indian cuisine in a way that is both fresh and familiar.
Photos: Azhul Mohamed
To book a table at Gunpowder Tower Bridge, 4 Duchess Walk London SE1 2SD, call 020 3598 7946 or visit their website here.