By now, should you have foolishly ignored all my advice on delving into the wisdom of subcontinental cuisine to liven up your festive dining, you’ll be pig sick of sausages and tired of gobbling turkey. So don’t extend the agony of the self-imposed spice ban any longer- see in the New Year in a rather more palate-pleasing manner with one of these cracking Indian-style knees-ups.
Dishoom Bollywood Vintage
NYE, when all you want to do is unashamedly don your glad rags and party like a socialite from some bygone era… And everyone else wants to lounge around in the onesie they‘ve worn since Boxing Day. Well, Dishoom won’t have that nonsense. No, Sir- there will be a duo of lavish ‘Bollywood Vintage’ dos, exceptionally glam affairs tailored to the particulars of both the Shoreditch hipster brigade and the classy Covent Garden clientele.
On entry, guests are festooned with a ‘Queen’s Necklace’- not an ornate ornament, rather a slinky chocolate cherry cocktail. Dinner is a divine 10-course banquet, taking in Bombay bhel, lamb raan, chicken berry biryani and Guju chocolate mousse. Then it’s time to drain your chai and call on your smartest moves, as Cornershop DJ to the East London crowd, whilst central London guests enjoy music and dancing. A sophisticated start, indeed.
Dishoom Shoreditch, 7 Boundary St, London, E2 7JE
Dishoom Covent Garden, Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9FB
The Bromley location may be somewhat of a stretch for Londoners, but Cinnamon Culture is worth a trip. This pub’s reincarnation as a Michelin-recognised Indian restaurant and bar shows the former boozer must have been pretty good in it’s past life. Prices are keen, the husband-and-wife set-up makes for a warm and genuine welcome, and food strikes a successful balance between tradition and modernity- a rarer achievement than you’d think.
There won’t be too many venues offering a 4-course feast and a boogie for under £50 per head, either. Kicking off proceedings, tomato shorba, followed by a blinding selection of starters. Rest assured whatever you choose will please, but to make sure, get your group to opt for the widest selction possible from the pickle-y achari lamb; chilli scallops with a fresh apple chutney; dry-spiced sukka chicken and Indo-Chinese-style chilli gobi fry, and try it all.
The ‘seductive scattergun’ approach extends to mains: tandoori poussin; Veal Malabar; Karwari fish or mixed Konkani veggies. Trimmings are taken care of with spiced potatoes, pilau, daal and brilliant breads. A mixed pud platter means no further choices to agonise over- just enjoy your espresso martini, mango rasmalai, white choc brownie and a jolting gin’n’tonic sorbet. Then take to the dancefloor, and undo all the delicious damage.
Cinnamon Culture, 46 Plaistow Lane, Bromley, BR1 3PA
Moti Mahal is ideal for ringing in the New Year in a manner that’s rather more ‘posh’ then ‘partay’- a good choice for family groups or a romantic tete-a-tete. Delicate portions of imaginative Trunk Road-inspired cuisine and flawless front-of-house-with-humour ensure you’ll glide into 2013 pampered and indulged- not stuffed like some turkey ghost of Christmas past.
Anirudh Arora’s NYE menu roves the subcontinent, with Tamil mullugatwany, Bengali-style steamed sea bass and Northern Indian rabbit korma amongst the meaty offerings; whilst veggies are treated to South Indian ‘winter rolls’, seasonally-apt roasted chestnut cakes and home-made paneer dumplings in an aromatic bottle gourd gravy.
For your £75, Moti Mahal’s festive banquet offers a proper spread- quantity, most certainly, but also quality- both menus are rounded out with rich black dal, wild mushrooms, rice, breads and raita, and offer a real sweet end to the year- halva-like date and walnut pud, tonka bean ice cream and a dollop of chocolate fudge sauce. A particularly refined New Year find.
Moti Mahal, 45 Great Queen St, London, WC2B 5AA
Over Tamarind’s 15 years of widening eyes with their Michelin-starred, novel and slightly ‘nouvelle’ approach to Indian cuisine, CEO Rajesh Suri and chef Alfred Prashad have proven themselves a bit of a winning foodie tag-team. The restaurant’s New Year celebrations will be as classy as ever, with live jazz and lounge sounds smoothly lubricating the proceedings begun with a glass of Theinot Brut.
If you’re a group (or a duo with no ‘my-food-my-territory’ issues), order a mix of veg and non veg options and share the lot- else you’ll have to choose between guinea fowl with kumquats, monkfish in green herbs, tandoori lamb chops, and peppercorn-crusted duck breast; or sago-coated spiced vegetable cakes, smoked aubergine bharta, and paneer and morel koftas in rich gravy. Not easy.
But both menus are transformed from mere meals to banquets throught judicious application of the same side dishes- mixed veggies in poppyseed gravy, potatoes and broccoli, the ubiquitous black dal and Tamarind’s delectable coconut and poppy seed naan. The no-nonsense-sounding pud- choc and walnut ‘slab’- is gussied up with a birrov gold leaf- a nice way to ensure a doubly rich start to 2013.
Tamarind, 20 Queen St, London, W1J 5PR
You’ve probably blown the budget by now, so go the full whack and shell out for Cinnamon Club’s 5-courser, where you’ll also get live entertainment and tunes from the in-house emcee. You might even get an unexpected bonus- the menu comes with the caveat that game dishes ‘may contain shot’. Aperitifs will be served- were they really needed to get you in the mood for Vivek Singh’s food- alongside a canapé trio including semolina-crusted cod fingers with green mango chutney.
Choosing from the lengthy menu could be a painful process, with everything from Keralan lobster soup to Rajasthani smoked Welsh lamb fillet to truffled pao bhaji on offer- and that’s just for starters. A set interim of Bengali vegetable cake thankfully takes the decision out of your hands, but then it’s more agony, with fish, game and veggie mains variously utilising intriguing ingredients like sandalwood, Peruvian quinoa and pandan leaves.
If you’re planning any sort of healthy January regime, dessert needs to be a sufficient ‘last hurrah’- and Cinnamon Club’s are fittingly indulgent. There’s chocolate, there’s brulee, and there’s cheesecake- but it’s the halva-inspired carrot and ginger toffee pudding with peanut ice cream or the delicately spiced thandai custard tart with cinnamon ice cream that best display the restaurant’s nifty way with a bit of fusion.
If that little lot hasn’t knocked you off your feet, perk up with a coffee and wander Southbank-wards to watch the midnight fireworks, heralding 2013’s arrival with a glass of Champagne. If you’re still going and in no hurry to call it a night, Cinnamon Club’s own entertainment and the DJ run through to 1am. At that rate, it’s almost worth staying on ‘till they start serving breakfast- although the exhausted team may not thank you…
Cinnamon Club, The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU
La Porte des Indes
If a vast spread served to you in wonderfully anachronistic surrounds evoking the colonial French era in Pondicherry gets your New Year party popping, La Porte des Indes will deliver of all the above- along with a tiger-skin rug and waterfall. On New Years’ Eve there’ll be music and a DJ, but it’s chef Mehernosh Mody’s unique and copious menu that’s the biggest incentive. La Porte showcases refined, French-influenced cuisine quite unlike anything you’ll find in other UK Indian restaurants.
Don’t book for too late an hour, or you’ll never be done by next year. The menu goes on and on- duck liver mousse amongst the raft of canapés, salmon samosas, king scallops, guinea fowl and tandoori fois gras to start, then king prawns, chicken vindaloo, Welsh lamb chops and stir-fried water chestnut and Swiss chard mains. On the side, date and walnut raita, pilau and tandoori breads. For £15 you can tack on lobster or black cod- but do you need to?!
Veggies are similarly spoilt, with everything from banana flower beignets, to paneer-stuffed chillies, chana chaat and beetroot samosas in the beginning; then baby aubergines in peanut gravy, Keralan moong dal thoran and stuffed Desiree potatoes along with all the aforementioned trimmings. Pud for both is a grande assiette indeed- pannacotta, chocolate tart, macaroons and sweet samosas. Then it’s Mysore Coffee or Chai Masala served with petit fours. What a way to go out with a bang.
La Porte des Indes, 32 Bryanston St, W1H 7EG
And, because of course I understand there is life (and quality Indian eats) to be had outside the capital, here’s the 1875– committed to providing authentic and diverse Indian food, but equally unafraid to adapt and update the classics. The team are putting on a sub-£50 5-courser on New Years’ Eve, and throwing in a glass of Prosecco for good measure. The 1875 are strong backers of local and seasonal British produce, so even pre-prep, decent ingredient quality’s assured.
A warming, spiced soup’s always a pleasing prospect, followed here by starters proper including ‘Christmas mushrooms’, Goan salmon on puri, and tandoori Yorkshire rabbit. Mains feature further local meats- Punjabi chicken, wood pigeon in Rajasthani spices, and a proper Pork vindaloo. There are plenty of veggie options, too- try mixed veggies or healthsome saag paneer. For pud, the Darjeeling-fried ice cream with forest honey’s an intriguing prospect.
1875 Restaurant, Menston Railway Station, Station Road, Menston, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 6JH
The New Years’ Eve 5-course menu costs £49pp. For more information and to book, visit http://the1875.co.uk