Bombay Brasserie - Indian
Courtfield Road, London SW7 4QH
Tel: 020 73704040
Fax: 020 78351669
Review Date: 17 March, 2009
When was the last time you ate anything flambéed? Seriously. Go on, have a think. That’s right, flambéed.
Yes, that’s what I thought. Still, I was unwittingly thrust right back into the glitterball glare of the 1980s during a recent visit to that most venerable of London dining institutions, Bombay Brasserie.
The Brasserie – which wowed London’s movers and shakers when it first opened back in 1982 – flung open its famous doors once again at the beginning of the year after undergoing a lengthy refurbishment project.
Now part of the Taj Hotel Group and armed with a new menu crafted under the watchful gaze of the chain’s grandly-titled Corporate Chef, the restaurant finds itself in an altogether different culinary climate from the one in which it first made its name.
Once at the pinnacle of contemporary Anglo-Indian cooking – this was, after all, the place that put to bed the Brit notion that all sub-continental food “tasted the same” – Bombay Brasserie is now faced with competition from a legion of dizzyingly ambitious, terrifyingly glamorous and ultra-modern Indian restaurants enjoying unprecedented success in the capital. This place, however, feels like it’s stuck in a time-warp. Still, the grand cocktail bar and imposing dining room offer a fine venue for impressing on a client dinner.
But what of the new menu? Scallops arrived, beautifully cooked but overpowered by a virulent tomato chutney, while green mango-flavoured king prawns were a qualified hit. Inventive starters like the cleverly-conceived Lamb kebabs on sugarcane candies and spiced soft-shell crabs also caught the eye.
On to mains and the Brasserie’s much-loved signature dish - monkfish served wrapped in newspaper – remains steadfast on the new menu and the moist slab of delicate fish that arrived with a fanfare at our table deserved its celebrity.
Elsewhere, however, mains were a little disappointing. In particular, the hotly-anticipated halibut with a spiced coconut curry was nothing more than a pretty ordinary fish curry with an especially glutinous sauce, which did little to merit its hefty price tag.
A remarkably intense tamarind sorbet palate cleanser served with a dramatic dry ice confection, although over-spiced, was a nice idea and held true to the kitsch ‘80s vibe that pervades the restaurant, intentional or otherwise. It mightn’t be quite enough, however, to distract from a worryingly over-priced wine list.
Skipping dessert, we made a bee-line straight for that famous Cobra coffee, made famous by the aforementioned flambéing and a snip at around £9. Stepping into the bar – from where the restaurant now clearly places greater emphasis on its pre-dinner cocktail menu – we are soon gawping like a pair of eight-year-olds as our charming veteran barman does his stuff, mixing coffee, sugar and a healthy dose of grog, before proudly displaying the flaming orange peel from which the drink got its name. And I’ve got to say, it’s magnificent.
Stepping back out onto Gloucester Road and the feel-good ‘80s fun of the Brasserie already feels a world away. Don’t get me wrong, the fare here is all perfectly serviceable and some of it is downright excellent. The problem is that just at the moment, it’s all being done just as well elsewhere.
Ben Mitchell, Bevan Brittan LLP
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