Veeraswamy, opened in 1926 by the great-grandson of a British soldier and a Mughal princess, is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom, having hosted Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, King Gustav VI of Sweden, and Charlie Chaplin among others. Following a number of revamps to its décor over the years, including the switch to an ultra-modern theme in the late 90s, the restaurant, now owned by the Masala World group, was redecorated in a 1920s motif on the occasion of its 80th anniversary in 2006. It is a pleasant enough space, with fitting touches of grandeur.
The three starters we tried were all very good – appropriately spiced, with perfectly cooked, moist and tender meat. Green Prawns: Wild tiger prawns – coriander, mint and chilli had a lovely grilled taste to it; Shalay Chicken Tikka: Smoked with garam masala a nice charcoal flavour; Chicken Bhajia: Crispy chicken “lollipops” a fine, crisp exterior. All were thoroughly enjoyable, quality dishes.
The main courses, however, were rather less successful. We ordered (on the recommendation of our waiter):
Chicken Chatpatta: Tangy tomato, fenugreek leaves and lemon. Kadai-fry
Kashmiri Rogan Josh: Lamb knuckles, sun dried Kashmiri spices, saffron, cockscomb flower
Bharta: Tandoor clove smoked aubergine caviar
Mumtazi Chicken Biryani
The kitchen’s skill in treating meat was again on display, with the lamb, and both preparations of chicken, firm, yet soft. But with the exception of the Chicken Chatpatta, all the dishes could have done with much stronger flavours and more robust spicing. This was a sanitised Indian meal rather than the the full-bodied, explosion of flavours we know, love and expect from this type of cuisine. Veeraswamy Layered Naan wasn’t great either, falling on the fluffiness count.
For dessert, Shahi Tukra: Indian bread & butter pudding with crisped brioche, apricot & pistachio cream was reasonable, but not really to my taste. Same can be said for Kulfi – Indian style ice cream: Caramelised banana. We were surprised by the presence of Fresh Alphonso Mango with vanilla ice cream on the menu given that it was no longer the season for it (mid June), and remain unconvinced by the genuineness of the mangoes we were served.
In a nutshell...
Not bad. The starters were very good in fact, but the main courses were a bit of a let down. Veeraswamy is still a legitimate option, but there are now better places for upscale Indian food in the capital.
99-101 Regent Street, London, W1B 4RSE
Average Price: £50
Labels: London, Indian