Dalcha in Parsons Green opened in early 2013, serving Indian food with an emphasis on the home of the chef: Hyderabad. The name is that from a Hyderabad dish called dalcha, a stew that involves mutton, channa and lentils, sometimes served as a side dish with biriani.
The dining room was reasonably smart, with linen tablecloths. The menu had plenty of familiar dishes, with a few Hyderabad specialities thrown in. The chutneys that came with the popadoms (mango, beetroot, tamarind) were made in the kitchen, which is a nice touch. The mango chutney certainly had better flavour than the versions out of jar that most Indian restaurants serve, though the tamarind chutney was too watery and so its inherent sweetness did not come through very well.
Garlay (£3.95) was reminiscent of Mysore bonda. Potatoes are fried in a coating of gram flour and chilli powder, with ginger garlic and turmeric. This all sounds lovely, but the version here was very bland indeed, so was resulted was essentially a dish of fried potato, which was decent but no more (11/20). Murgh malai tikka had chicken marinated in cheese and yoghurt before being cooked in the tandoor, and this was pleasant enough, a little drier than it should be and the chicken not quite as tender as can be achieved; this was a long way from the best version I have tried, such as at Jamavar in Goa (12/20). Tawa fish was quite disappointing, tilapia that had been fried with spices, but was quite soggy in texture (10/20). Of course the acid test of a Hyderabad chef would be one particular dish.
Although the origins of biryani (or biriani) are much disputed, it is likely it originated in Persia and came to India from there. The word comes from the Farsi word birian, meaning “fried before cooking”. There are different versions to be found across India, but the most famous birianis are from Hyderabad. Other regional variations on biriani include those of Calcutta, Malabar and Lucknow (Awadh). Even within Hyderabad there are variations: kacchi involves meat being marinated overnight and cooked with the rice in the baking process, pakki uses pre-cooked meat. There are literally dozens of variants of the dish around the regions of India. The version here appeared served without any pastry case (key to retaining the flavour and fragrance of the rice), though perhaps one had been used in the kitchen before serving. The chicken biriani was pleasant, the thigh meat not dried out, the rice reasonably fragrant, but this tasted no better than versions at plenty of London restaurants (13/20). However it was a long, long way below the standard of biryani I ate earlier this year at the Falaknuma Palace.
On the side, gobi mattur aloo was acceptable but the texture of the cauliflower and potatoes was too soft (11/20). Better was a yellow dhal, whose texture was enjoyably thick and avoided the wateriness that so often afflicts this dish in London (13/20). Naan bread was fine (12/20).
Service was very stretched this evening, though amiable enough. The bill, with beer to drink, came to £35 a head. Overall, Dalcha was a decent enough local Indian restaurant, but I had hoped for more from the Hyderabad specialities. If it was at the end of my road I would return, but this is not somewhere to make an effort to travel to.