Following last week’s edible introduction to Spring’s most incredible Indian eats, I very much hope you’ve been feasting, not fasting. And now, I’m imploring you to get your skates on and explore all the new residencies, pop-ups, markets and restaurants bringing subcontinental sparkle to the Britain’s burgeoning food scene. Here’s an overview to help you build a healthy appetite…
Hit the streets
There’s a spring in the step of anyone with a penchant for a pop-up. New markets and events are bursting forth all over the shop; much like the blossom currently bursting out all over Britain. Darjeeling Express‘ Asma Khan got the ball rolling early with her mammoth stint at the The Sun & 13 Cantons, where she’s been busy introducing Soho to the delights of true Calcutta khana.
Traditionally, there’s not been much true Indian khana to be found around Brick Lane, despite the area being the historic homeland of the classic curryhouse. But now Baba G and his Bhangra Burgers have rocked up for a residency at Apples & Pears, the number of innovative Indian edibles is on the increase. With classic wry humour, he’s telling customers to #eattweetbogof – offering two-for-one deals for those who share snaps of snacks on social media. The #3chillichallenge, meanwhile, is only for the foolhardy.
For those preferring a rather less-lethal dabble with the cuisine of India’s dhabas, new start-ups Arti and Upma of Dhaba Lane have embarked on a packed programme of markets, pop-up suppers and Bollywood theme nights. Brighton’s Curry Leaf Cafe will pop along to the city’s Craft Beer Co. for a monthly pop-up. Back in East London, France & Noonan are becoming pretty ubiquitous; enjoying a resoundingly riotous reception for Rotli Crew (see pic) – a menu packed with Indian-inspired funked-up flavours.
There will be plenty of funked-up Indian flavours on the Southbank as we march into May, with the arrival of the Mayor’s Vaisakhi celebrations in Trafalgar Square on 4th May, plus the Flavours of India market that makes up the foodie arm of the annual Alchemy festival. Past years have seen Vivek Singh doing some thrilling grilling at his Joho Soho grill, the temporary installation of Roti Chai’s Chaat Shack, and the likes of Dosa Deli and Horn Please just plain pleasing the masses with their fine food. Even with a full ten days to tuck in, the greediest gannet would be hard-pressed to try it all.
In the meantime, you’ll find The Cheeky Indian chappies making both mischief and very tasty tucker all over the show, including the new Badric’s Bazaar in Battersea and Brixton Night Market. Out of London, Loiners and those who care to join them will find rola wala’s residency at Leeds’ much-hyped Trinity Kitchen, where punters can try the equally-hyped #WorldsHottestIceCream created with Indie Ices.
Noted Indophile Katy Perry would no doubt serenade her serving with the words, ‘it’s hot then it’s cold’….
Meanwhile, down the river and off the streets, a smart new restaurant has opened its doors to feed the need for fine Indian food to be found in Chelsea Harbour. Amani Chelsea Harbour is the latest opening in Azad Miah’s portfolio – and, with chef Rajiv Kumar having both Oberoi training and a stint at the Cinnamon Club under his apron, you know the kind of refined Indo-French dining you’ll find.
Fellow Oberoi alum Cyrus Todiwala has been as busy as the bumblebees that keep finding their way into my bathroom and catching me quite unawares. For those who aren’t aware, the chef launched Assado last month – the Goa Portuguese place ticking boxes for a hat-trick of food trends tipped for the top in McCormick’s ‘Flavour Forecast’; ‘Modern Masala’, ‘chillies’ and ‘Brazilian Influence’.
The notion that the chef wields widespread influence is simply not up for contest; and with his latest contest, Zest Quest Asia, Cyrus is aiming to use his gravitas to influence and inspire a whole new generation of talented chefs to aim for the upper eschelons of the Asian restaurant industry.
Historically, the sector has allured all-too infrequently – passed over, perhaps, in favour of studying classical European cuisines. But there are plenty of positions for Asian-trained chefs at the top-end; as The Ambrette’s Dev Biswal will prove as he expands his restaurant empire across Southeast England later this year.
Up north and over the border in Scotland, May will herald the arrival of Glasgow’s first ever pure vegetarian Indian restaurant. The Glaswegians have always had a brilliantly bonny relationship with the classic curryhouse, owing primarily to a sizeable Punjabi population – but Usha’s will offer something a little more authentic.
That authenticity is surprising, perhaps, when you learn that Usha’s comes from the same stable as a dude-foody American diner in the same city. Not so, perhaps, when you learn that owner Amanda James fell so hard for her mother in laws’ khana that she felt the need to unleash it on the locals by opening a restaurant named for the lady who fed her so well.
It certainly sounds like a recipe for success. A perfectly-pedigreed international chef is adeptly adapting Usha’s own dishes to better suit restaurant service, planning plating to suit a ‘small plate/sharing’ concept. With a mixture of firm family favourites and festive foods making up the menu, Usha’s could well convert a gaggle of Glasweigan gourmets to the joys of Indian veggie food.
The British love for Indian food has been ingrained for so long now that a savour for its flavour is practically imprinted on our DNA. But the rest of Europe has been rather slower on the uptake. At Spice Monkey’s cookery class, a fellow classmate revealed that our new found skills with spice would make her hot property in her native Austria; where she said Indian food is both exotic and esoteric.
So the news that Indian cuisine is currently conquering Vienna came as a happy surprise. It appears that since 2006 – quietly, covertly- vendors have been luring sweet-toothed Austrians away from fancy gateaux towards their marvellous mithai. Once customers are sucked in by the sweetmeats, the spicy, savoury Indian dishes also on sale at over 50 establishments are currying just as much favour with locals.
A shift in dietary preference away from the traditional carnivorous fare of the country means that vegetarian items sell particularly well; popularly washed down with Indian beer rather than the wine Austrians usually find so fine. The convivial, communal style of eating has also won Austrian hearts; even the President has found his own culinary Nirvana at an Indian restaurant of that very name.
You might not expect to find anything even nearing nirvana in East London. Yet in the heart of Victoria Park, you’ll find Jamsheed Todiwala introducing India to this English country garden at The Park Cafe. Under the stewardship of the sparky young chap, regulars have come to relish chutney in their bacon butty, masala in their chai, and a hearty helping of spice alongside classic caff staples.
And of course, Jam’s equivalent of the ‘Full English’ isn’t exactly fully English. But, then, neither is it incredibly Indian. The base of The Park Cafe’s best-of –both-worlds brunch is a ‘flatpan nigella bread’, piled high with Chilli Country Chicken Tikka, melted English Cheddar, red onions, crispy British bacon. The finishing flourish? A masala fried egg.
That mixed-up meal is a marvellous metaphor for the most brilliant bits of our diverse British society. Any cultural committee looking to bridge boundaries could learn a lot from the tasty plate that merrily celebrates the quirky, unites cultures, and enables disparate elements to sit side by side in delicious harmony.
Just a little food for the powers that be to chew over as you chew over all your awesome Indian eating options…