ADAM COURTNEY eats at the refurbished Bombay Palace, near Marble Arch Tube station.
A BEHEMOTH of the high-end Indian dining scene in London since opening its doors in 1981, Bombay Palace off the Edgware Road evidently wants to remain so after undertaking a multi-thousand pound refurbishment.
Ahead of the reopening, I was invited with a couple of other journalists and food bloggers to check out the new decor and menu. Having not sampled the original restaurant, I'm not in a position to compare but, after being treated to an almost obscene array of dishes from new head chef Harjeet Singh, I can be unequivocal in saying the quality of the offering is top-notch.
I say 'high-end' but I must clarify I mean so by the quality of ingredients and cooking rather than through any aspirations to haute-cuisine. Having sampled Indian cooking with 'a modern-European twist' in the lavish surroundings of the Cinnamon Club in Westminster Library, I, not having been fully clued up on the history of Bombay Palace, suspected a similarly ambitious style there, but was not displeased to find instead a menu of classic dishes like Goan fish curry, Tandoori chicken and barbecued lamb.
What set this traditional Indian offering apart, though, was the delightful way in which it was prepared, presented and cooked. We started with a selection of four starters, including butterflied, spicy prawns, some of which were the size of a baby's fist; some tangy paneer cheese with deep fried lentil puffs; and, the piece de resistance, the tandoor chicken marinaded in cardamom, mace and sundried fenugreek. The restaurant's PR puff says Singh was schooled in the art of tandoor cooking at Bukhara in New Dehli, which is apparently a mecca for the discerning Indian diner. Well, I can say they train them well there because the chicken was simply incredible, its succulence having to be tasted to be believed and its balance of flavour so delightful that it could only have been achieved by a true master.
The dishes kept coming. Changezi champen (lamb cutlets marinaded in mint, fennel, pepper and yoghurt) were divine, while the murgh tikka makhni (chicken in a cream, butter and tomato gravy) was very rich, with the sauce not unlike a tin of Heinz tomato soup in its consistency. And, no, that is not meant as a sacrilegious dig.
I'll be honest, by this point I had entered into food coma and the rest of the dishes came and went in a blur. I know there was a fish curry and some excellent vegetable sides but after my third lamb chop I could ingest no more, not even the enticing looking lassi and selection of fruits.
Decor-wise, it would be unfair to comment as the restaurant is not completely finished but in the dining room, which was practically complete, it was smart without being intimidating, with stylish wallpaper and Indian photography and chocolate coloured long curtains and big chandeliers.
Bombay Palace does well to remain focused on the excellence of its food rather than getting side-tracked by any aspirations of pretentiousness, as demonstrated by the traditional huge basket of pre-meal poppadoms, albeit served with outstanding homemade chutneys instead of the equally traditional, and far less palatable, radioactive sauces found in many Indian restaurants.
The only downside of the night was the 30 minutes it took me to waddle to Marble Arch Tube station due to the lingering effects of the aforementioned coma.
* Bombay Palace reopens in August.
50 Connaught Street
0207 723 8855