Indian cuisine in the U.K. might still dominated by the takeaway – greasy naan and a chicken tikka masala are some of the first things that come to mind for most – but that’s not to say that fine Indian dining is scarce in the city. Enter Kensington’s Bombay Brasserie restaurant, which originally opened in 1982, but has recently been fully refurbished. This iconic restaurant, celebrated for its authentic cuisine, seeks to reflect the spirit of Bombay (now Mumbai) in hearty, elevated dishes.
On arrival, we were seated in the plush, opulent bar, fitted with armchairs and a fireplace, striking a laid back tone from the get go. The drinks list divulged a diverse selection of beers straying far from the expected Indian lagers, including local favourites from breweries including Pressure Drop and Partizan, alongside a few American and European options.
The cocktail menu, on the contrary, puts its Indian heritage more squarely front and centre, with pomegranate and mango making up the most prominent ingredients. We tried out one of the more unusual concoctions; the Bombay Breeze, which was heavy with tamarind and resulting in a sticky, spicy drink that couldn’t be further from your regular crisp, light gin combinations.
Between the restaurant’s Kensington spot and its classical décor, it would be hard not to detect a colonial influence, and the monochrome photos adorning the walls added to the evocation of an era when India was under British control. But get past the sense that you’re reliving the glory days of the British Empire and there’s a lot to appreciate in the spacious, brightly lit dining room. Tables are set a respectable distance from one another, while sprawling sofas and a soaring ceiling adds to the sense of extravagance.
As for the food itself, Executive Chef Prahlad Hegde comfortably banishes any preconceptions of gloopy chicken kormas. Steamed lemon sole melted in a delicate coating of coriander, chilli and coconut, while the pungent, punchy spicing on perfectly cooked khada masala scallops was packed full of gentle, comforting heat.
Rich tomato flavours dominated the tender chicken makhani, while even the humble tadka dal was a warming, balanced delight. Black tiger prawns were masterfully cooked, but could have benefitted from a more forceful kick of chilli, while jackfruit palak was an unexpected misfire – beautifully garlicky spinach let down by chunks of bland, stringy fruit.
Desserts return to the diversity of the drinks menu, with Indian options interspersed with European ones. Beautifully sweet kulfi and thick, satisfying almond halwa made up the authentic end of the offering, while a raspberry chocolate mousse was less Indian and less successful – dominated by chocolate, with hardly a hint of fruit to slice through.
With the restaurant’s tasting menus hovering around £55 per person and wines starting at £30 and climbing quickly, Bombay Brasserie will set you back a bit more than anything you’re likely to find on Just Eat. It’s a welcome reminder of the depth and sophistication of a cuisine often overshadowed by its European counterparts in the fine dining world, balanced spicing and varied flavours shining above and beyond the opulent surroundings.
Words by Dom Preston