The odd-sounding name means “Ginger” in Swahili (the owners are Kenyan Asians), and the restaurant is just on the Twickenham side of Richmond bridge. The dining room is narrow and long, and in late 2010 underwent a welcome minor refurbishment, which has removed some of the rough edges from the original decor. Waiters are dressed in smart uniforms and the service is efficient and friendly. The menu mixes the familiar with the more ambitious, so you have chicken jalfrezi alongside monkfish curry. The key is the cooking team. At the opening this is where the chef from the ill-fated Yatra went (a deserved 4/10 in the Good Food Guide in its day, though he has now moved on), and the sole head chef now is tandoor chef from the famous Bhukara in Delhi. In all, three chefs serve the dining room, which can accommodate up to 60 diners.
I have now had numerous meals here and tried many of the menu options. The cooking here is consistently excellent, whether it be tandoori dishes (I even had tandoori duck once), the treatment of vegetables (bhindi is well handled) or main course curries. The naan bread at my last meal was particularly fine, as light and fluffy as you could wish for. The kitchen has a charcoal tandoor as well as a gas-fired tandoor, which is more work for the kicthen but imparts an extra dimension of flavour to the bread which you get in restaurants in India, where charcoal tandoors are much more common. Overall this is as good Indian cooking as you will find anywhere in London.
What follows are brief notes from November 2010.
Monkfish tikka was impressive, the fish delicate and lightly spiced, with a hint of charcoal from the tandoor (4/10), and chicken tikka was available in two different forms - in this case I tried the the murgh malai style, here soft and tender and with light spicing (4/10). The naans were, if anything, even better than before. These are dazzlingly good: soft, supple and suppl,e a lesson in how a naan should taste (6/10 may be mean). Aloo gobi allowed both cauliflower and pottao to retain their texture (4/10) while a mushroom curry had a rich, buttery sauce (4/10). The dhal was as superb as ever (easily 5/10).
Below are brief notes from a meal in May 2010.
My starter special was chicken tikka flavoured with cardamom seeds, served with a little mint chutney and some salad leaves. The chicken was extremely tender, the cardamon flavour coming through nicely (5/10). A chicken biriani was also very successful, the chicken meat remaining moist, the rice delicate (4/10). The kidney bean dhal here is simply superb as I have written about previously, (easily 5/10), while the bhindi, a very difficult dish to get right, was also good, without any the sliminess of texture that so often spoils this dish (4/10). Naan bread was soft and supple (5/10). Service was friendly and effective.
Below are notes from a meal in 2007.
Complimentary poppadoms arrive and are above average, served with pleasant but home made chutneys e.g. chilli pickle, good lime pickle and ordinary mango and mint chutney that give little clue of what is to follow. My chicken tikka was half a dozen large, succulent pieces of chicken marinaded and then cooked in the tandoor, served with a few smears of mint sauce. The meat itself was superb, very tender and having taken on the spices of the marinade (4/10). Tandoori prawns were also very delicate, in this case the marinade being coconut-based (3/10). A little glass of mango lassi was extremely impressive, though it could have done without the mint leaf adornment which rather dominated the mango flavour (still 3/10). Prawn biriani, though it did not have the traditional pastry case top, nonetheless had superbly fragrant rice, cooked beautifully. There were not too many prawns, but other than that the dish was most impressive (4/10). Bhindi, a great test of a kitchen, was very good indeed, dry and retaining its texture with no hint of greasiness (4/10). Monkfish curry worked well, the fish cooked through properly with a mild but interesting sauce (3/10). Aloo gobi retained the texture of the cauliflower and potatoes, with just the right amount of spiciness (3/10). The dhal here is superb, made with kidney beans as well as lentils, and is just the same at at Bhukara in Delhi, with great texture and vibrant flavour (5/10).
Both naan bread and paratha were very good indeed, and there are plans (hopes perhaps since I have seen no sign so far) to offer romali roti in the future, now they have the Bhukara chef; romali roti is a highly skilled bread to make, and very few chefs in the UK have the experience. For dessert they have rather wimped out, making just one: halwa, and buying in others. This is a pity, since the kulfi, bought in from the caterers Royal, is very ordinary indeed (0/10). Yet the halwa was a delight, the carrot flavour coming through very well, the texture lovely (4/10). Cobra beer is available, and I did not check the wine list. This is Indian cooking at a very high level indeed (except for the bought-in desserts).