Copper Chimney is a restaurant group based in India that started in Mumbai in 1972 but is now a veritable restaurant empire. There are fifteen Copper Chimney locations so far, as well as a separate bar chain under a different brand. They are also a large wedding caterer in India, their largest ever being feeding 40,000 people at a single wedding at a race course that had been hired out for the occasion. One piece of trivia is that the first job that Cyrus Todiwala, of Café Spice Namaste and TV fame, had after catering college was cooking at Copper Chimney in Mumbai.
In October 2019 the group opened its first UK branch in the somewhat unlikely setting of the huge Westfield shopping mall in Shepherds Bush. It is actually in the parade of restaurants on the approach to the main building, and seats up to 125 customers at any one time. Westfield is known for chain restaurants like Nandos and the like rather than anything more ambitious, but from a business viewpoint it has vast footfall – Copper Chimney apparently does around 200 covers on a weekday and up to 400 covers on a weekend. The local chefs that work here, including the head chef Manish who was formerly at Kahani, were taken to Indian for two months to train in the kitchens of the restaurant group.
The décor is quite smart and there is an open kitchen, where you can see the chefs working and occasionally making romali roti, which involves twirling the dough in the air before cooking it briefly on a steel hemisphere. The menu is extensive and prices are quite moderate, with for example a tawa batata starter at £4.75 and vegetable biryani at £9.95.
At an initial meal I tried a chaat, which was served in a beaker rather than on a plate but was otherwise conventional, with chickpeas, potatoes, yoghurt and sweet and spicy chutneys. This was good, the chickpeas tender and the sweetness from the tamarind chutney coming through nicely (13/20). Potato tawa consists of little cubes of potatoes stir-fired in a tawa (essentially a wok) along with a chaat masala, chutneys and lime juice. This was pleasant, but the potatoes could have been a bit crisper to my taste (12/20). Lamb chops had been marinated in a mix of spices for eight hours before being seared and then chargrilled. These were genuinely good, being tender and slightly spicy (easily 14/20). I have had worse tandoori lamb chops at much grander restaurants than this.
Lamb biryani was served with its protective pastry case at the table and then cut open. I like this theatrical touch, as it releases the aromas that were sealed in by the pastry. The rice was quite fragrant and aromatic, the lamb perhaps a fraction on the dry side but having good flavour; alongside was a quite good black dhal that had been cooked overnight (13/20). Romali roti was extremely good, soft and pliable when it arrived piping hot; all too often restaurants make the bread too early and leave it lying around to cool, which results in it hardening, but this version was just as you would hope for (15/20). I also sampled an unusual version of the same bread, a crisp flat version with spices. I prefer the traditional one, but this was certainly interesting. I also tried a dessert called rasgulla, made from chhena (cheese curds) and semolina dough cooked in sugar syrup, and reminiscent of bread and butter pudding. This was comforting and enjoyable.
On a second visit crisp okra strips were certainly crisp though so thin that they limited flavour of okra (12/20). Shrimp curry was quite mild, the shrimps cooked all right but the curry sauce a little one-dimensional rather than one where you could taste individual spices other than a hint of saffron (12/20). Chicken tikka was tender and the meat had taken on the flavour of the spices in the marinade nicely (13/20). There was also a version of the same dish but flavoured with mint. Gobi adraki was cauliflower cooked with ginger. This retained the texture of the cauliflower well, though a touch more ginger would not have gone amiss (13/20). Vegetable biryani didn’t have the pastry case topping but the rice was very good, being carefully cooked (13/20). Butter chicken was reasonable but without the really deep buttery flavour that some versions have, though it is probably healthier this way (13/20). Romali roti was excellent again, and I also tried a stuffed naan, which was hot and freshly made and very good (14/20). Coffee was directly sourced from an estate in southern India, and was pleasant.
Service was very good; I was served by a capable waiter who, as it happens, has served me at a number of other restaurants in the past, including Zaika. Although I did not have a reservation in my name, I was recognised and was entirely unable to obtain a bill, so left a tip for the staff larger than the average spend for the restaurant instead. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Copper Chimney, whose food is altogether better than anyone has any right to expect at Westfield.