Thursday, 30 December 2010

Delhi Grill

Success can be begat by the networking powers of Twitter. To open a new Indian restaurant in London these days can only be described as a Herculean gamble in willing to take risks in order to make a profit. What with the market that’s been sewn up for a fair number of decades and thus hopelessly saturated. I can only envisage three types of the following curry houses:

Formulaic (your local neighbourhood ‘Star of India’ et al serving textbook ChickTiksMas and where all the luridly coloured sauces look and taste the same except for the varying degree of macho hotness applied).

Vegetarian (on a partial mission to convince carnivores to kowtow to the experience that aubergines and chickpeas can be more satisfying than their usual battery hen or stringy lamb but never sufficiently fulfilling enough to sway even the most fair-tempered lovers of the tandoori mix grill).

Or get a PR dork to concoct some kind of Canterbury Tales about the chef’s bio. (Poor sod will be under pressure to serve the smallest leg of partridge imaginable, cook it in a tandoor and charge us 13 quid for it. He then appears on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and somehow gains a Michelin star soon after!)

Thank goodness, Delhi Grill applied none of the above and took a different route instead. DG was inspired by the food served by motorway cafes or truck stops in India known as dhabas. I think I’m not too far wrong in also suggesting that a dhaba is the Indian subcontinent’s version of our beloved greasy spoons. DG undertook the initiative to promote itself on Twitter by making friends with the food networking sites and teasing (albeit gushingly) the food bloggers who twitter actively. DG sealed its reputation in a relatively short time; it became the place for a righteous curry fix in London!

Located in Angel, Islington, the street DG resides on is far from pristine and orderly (if strewn rubbish is your idea of misunderstood beauty then Chapel Market has answered your prayers). As the name implies, this stretch of road is also home to a daily street market. Angel is en route to my girlfriend’s abode in deepest Hackney so I religiously stop off here to pick up a couple bottles of malbec or pinot noir from Waitrose- the resulting perversity to saunter past DG on several occasions indicated that the place was mind-bogglingly deserted and desolated! What happ’ed and did all the tweets resulted in nowt much!?

On my first pilgrimage here the restaurant was empty and I wanted the best-lit table in the middle of the dining room (bloody cameras and so on). Unfortunately I was turned down as the table was allegedly reserved for a table of six (guess what? They never turned up! Bleeding porkies and tall tales…restaurateurs, please take note, a majority of your potential patrons don’t relish the idea of being bullshitted to!). That said, DG is all about informal dining and the service is genuinely chummy and undoubtedly efficient. If you’re coming here for the first time, do keep your eyes peeled on the monthly specials on the blackboard, take this advice as a well-worth nag.

The menu is wonderfully idiot proof and concise. To the suburbanites from Pinner to Croydon, sorry no butterflied king prawn, Dansaks, Vindaloos or Kormas here, but sob no more mates as DG offers their take on the nation’s much loved Chicken Tikka Masala.

Now I know there are wine bloggers out there who are mercilessly snooty about ordering house wines and only because they have a certain ‘reputation’ to uphold. Well sod them, as I’d absolutely no complaints about the springboks’ Shiraz. At a tenner a bottle, it was much better and tastier than either a pint of Cobra or Kingfisher fizzy dishwater!

The complimentary chutneys and dips
You’ll need to order some poppadoms now. The chutneys were all amazing and a special mention goes to the memorable but fiery coriander, mint and chilli chutney.

Tandoori Paneer
Excellent and incredible value at less than two quid!

Lamb chops
Impressive and dare I proclaim, much better than HERE. I cannot see this dish being listed at £2.95 for too long!

Sheekh Kebabs
Unashamedly spicy and voraciously juicy. A must have at £2.50!

Tarka Dhal
Ubiquitous in name but rather superior here than the norm ordered everywhere else. The amount of fried caramelised onions and cumin seeds added to the dish was spot on. A sort of dish that can be eaten everyday and anytime without an ounce of interfering conscience.

Egg Curry
The only fail IMO. Dispiritedly laden with enough cloves to numb the mouth. It was at best a disappointing local anaesthetic of a dish.

Haandi Murgh
A most delectable chicken on the bone curry and only a close second to this. A nigh on unmissable dish that should by all accounts appear permanently on the menu instead of the specials board (but then again folks in Blighty only eat boneless and tasteless breast meat…sad beyond belief).

This belonged to the non-heavy dough variety. Light and fragrant, a mandatory order to mop up what’s left of the various karahi dishes.

Masala chai
Soothing and delicately spiced. One should be able to slumber with ease after this cuppa.

Mango kulfi
I could’ve sworn this was made with sweetened condensed milk. Loved it nonetheless, intense mango flavours and texture-wise; a perfect balance between a sorbet and ice cream.

Second visit-

Tandoori Paneer
Now there are more sweet peppers crowding the sizzling dish to achieve a better perceived value. It was as rewarding as my first visit and stonking value at £1.95.

Tandoori Chicken

The best I’ve had in London. Period. I bet the guys at DG guard their secret recipe for the marinade like the Coca-Cola Company does for their dark liquid.

Rogan Gosht
Slow-cooked tomatoey lamb curry. Another sensational offering from the regular menu. For the faint-hearteds, best be warned that this dish was hot enough to make me hallucinate and perspire like a wretched wuss. Sublimely delicious.

Gracious and much needed protein for my dining companion, an unrelenting vegetarian. The chickpea curry was as spicy hot as the lamb rogan and equally decent.

Tarka Dhal
Less majestic looking in a plain-jane bowl than the one served in a karahi from the first visit. But worry not, as it was just as good as expected.

Delhi Grill is an immense find, so much so that I’ve decided it’s my best restaurant of 2010. The outstanding food served here is so good I can perceive DG either relocating to or starting a second branch in an area in London that’s more prominent and noteworthy, and alas the upping of the prices will be inevitable. DG knocks the spots off its contemporary Dishoom and as far as great Punjabi cooking is considered it’s also the new New Tayyabs. With the latter getting a trifle too big for its boots (what with indifferent service, greasy dishes, badly cooked rice, etc), Delhi Grill is for now London’s current curry champion (let’s just hope they maintain the consistency). A thumping recommendation is thus endorsed. GO!

Delhi Grill,
21 Chapel Market
London N1 9EZ


Kavey said...

I love Delhi Grill... it's the first Indian restaurant I've been to that offers dishes that taste like my mum's home-cooking!

I heart cupcakes said...

I've been meaning to go here for AGES mainly because I keep reading Kavey raving about it on Twitter. That's it I'm going this week - the food looks right up my street

bellaphon said...

Hey Kavey and IHC, Happy New Year to you both and thanks as ever for reading my posts!

London Chow said...

Wife chanced upon Delhi Grill one day and we have been there a couple of times since. Needless to say, we love it and it's right at our doorstep too! Do you know that they'll throw in a free poppadom with every takeaway and delivery?

Oh, and happy new year! Seems like I'm the first commentator of 2011. :)

tim_g said...

this is why i read yr blog! hadnt heard abt this place at all til now

I heart cupcakes said...

Happy New Year Bellaphon -our plan is to go here next Friday or Saturday for some great food! And no booze -I'm now officially off it :)

bellaphon said...

LC- personally I think at least two poppadoms should be thrown in and that's regardless of whatever circumstances. It's the kind of attention no matter how trifling that brings the customers come back for more. HNY to Mrs LC and you.

tim_g- I'm gracious you diamond geez and thank you. Have a good 2011.

IHC- been there and done that...gave up the booze and the smokes once but succumbed a year later, good luck anyway! As a result I think I ended up less grumpy and cynical; my resolution this year is to love people more...

Helen T said...

Sounds like a great place to add to list of places to do this year. Love the fact that it very much sounds like its all about the food, not the place. Not poncey at all.