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Candid Reviews: Farzi Cafe, St James

March 11, 2019

Food & Drink | by Harry Mills

The Indian subcontinent is bursting with regional cuisines, each as exciting as the last, but in Britain there are very few opportunities to try anything but the well-worn dishes you can find at your local curry house, well until now that is!

After successfully amassing a 30 strong restaurant empire in both India and the Middle East (other brands include Made in Punjab, Masala Library), Massive Restaurants, founded in 2012 have brought Farzi Café to the UK. “Farzi” Urdu for “fake” is a nod to the tongue-and-cheek approach to the restaurant’s take on playful pan-Indian cuisine.

Spread over two floors, the main dining room is very sleek and sophisticated which extends also to the floor below. Lavish banquettes, a wall of tealights, large central bar and open kitchen – there are very few similarities to a traditional Indian brasserie.

At the helm of the open kitchen Saurabh Udinia, recently honoured as India’s best young chef and the restaurant groups most senior chef can be seen at the pass, serving up their playful dishes of Dal chawal arancini (a signature dish) which seems like an impostor at first however, we took to them with open arms; delicious balls served with achaar papad, an Indian-style pickle native to the Indian subcontinent.

Morish morsels of Udupi paneer popcorn had a wonderful texture and flavour. Madras pepper prawns brought a welcomed heat, served with thayir sadam (yoghurt), which soothed the gradually intensifying heat from the spices. Pork belly tikka was forgettable, not just in flavour but also after the arrival of Masala rub USDA rib eye steak which was tender and perfectly charred. The star dish of the evening however, was Jhol chicken tangri biryani, perfectly risen pastry encased wonderfully fragrant rice and chicken. Not uncommon to most, over ordering is perhaps our downfall when eating Indian food and as result there was very little appetite for dessert.

Dishes which play around with traditional recipes, a trademark of Farzi, offer an Anglo-Indian on British classics like: Ground beef scotch eggs, Amritsari halibut ‘fish & chips’ and Masala wagyu cottage pie (with purple mash potato).

A healthy wine list of red, whites and fizz ranging in price, most moderate for its St James location. Cocktails range from classics with a twist to ones inspired by your zodiac sign.

As London began to be blanketed by snow, Farzi Café kept us warm and intrigued with their experimental approach to pan-Indian cooking, we left well and truly “#Farzified”.

For more information on Farzi Café, see here.

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