My friend Isobel invited me out to dinner on Saturday evening to a place her boyfriend had been raving about – South Kensington’s ‘Bombay Brasserie’. On arrival I was wowed by quite how opulent the setting was. The entrance was unlike anything I’d seen in this country – reminiscent of an incredibly grand palace or embassy building. A suited doorman welcomed and led me through the stylish and well-lit bar area, and into the main dining room which is dominated by the largest chandeliers I’ve seen outside of Harrods. The staff were incredibly friendly and attentive, never rushing us to order, but always on hand to help. I would certainly come here for a special occasion, as the service flowed effortlessly. We sat at a wonderfully plush booth with pillows, which allowed us to take in the surroundings, while maintaining a comfortable distance for conversation.
The menu is, at first glance, overwhelming, and breaks from a traditional Indian layout, opting for the Western style of dividing courses into starters, mains and desserts. Rather than seek guidance, I took it upon myself to narrow my choice of starters down to two crab dishes. I asked our waiter which he would recommend between them, and without any hesitation, he replied that the soft shell crab was magnificent. Never having tried this dish before, I was keen to experiment – and while deep fried and spicy foods rarely feature in my usual repertoire, this method of cooking is one of the best ways to get the flavour into the flesh. This was accompanied by a trio of Vegetarian specials (£8.50) and chargrilled spiced asparagus tips (£8.50)
To drink, my friend opted for the ‘Bombay Breeze’ cocktail, an icy treat which packed quite a punch, and was fittingly based around Bombay Sapphire gin and tamarind. I opted for a cooling mango lassi, which offset the spice of the starter, and was made with the most luscious and fragrant mangoes imaginable.
For the main course, feeling confident with my own judgement, I ordered without asking for a recommendation – I went for Kashmiri chilli curry-leaf fried lobster: a whole lobster, cut, spiced and pan-fried (£28.50). This was magically tasty and tender; however, I didn’t manage to discover how to eat a lobster without sporadically splattering it across the booth in a comedic fashion. My friend ordered the Gobi methi mutta, a mixture of cauliflower florets, fenugreek leaves and peas with onion and tomatoes (£9.00), with boiled rice on the side. It was a wonderfully warming yet subtle vegetarian curry, and was well-matched with the cucumber and mint raita (£3) as a refreshing side dish.
It was not until the dessert course that I finally asked sought the full guidance of the waiter to help us decide. I was very glad we did, as the ‘Berries reduced milk pudding’ (£6.50) which arrived was topped with berries almost cartoonish in their juiciness. It was a truly heavenly concoction, and was easily the highlight of the meal. The cardamon kulfi was a pleasant surprise also, and was not too sweet, instead offering a depth of flavour I wouldn’t normally associate with it. Served in a crunchy brandy snap, it was enhanced greatly by the gingery bite.
The highlights of Bombay Brasserie are the beautiful setting, the polite and engaging staff and the exquisitely prepared food. In fact, the only quibble I would have with the restaurant was that, in attempting to present Indian food using a Western menu structure, ordering a complementary selection of dishes was tricky. When you scratch beneath the surface however, the menu is as flexible as you make it. My advice when ordering would be to ask for advice from those who know the food best – seek the recommendations of the house. When the staff are as helpful and knowledgeable as they are at Bombay Brasserie, it’s a real shame not to!
27 Courtfield Road (Tube: Gloucester Road)
Tel: 020 7466 4747