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Dastaan

447 Kingston Road, Epsom, KT19 0DB, United Kingdom

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This unprepossessing restaurant is one of my favourites. It doesn't look much but inside is some of the best Indian food that you can find in the UK. There are not many 55 seat restaurants that operate two sittings even on a Tuesday night, and are full at every single one. Remember that this is out in Ewell, well away from the crowds of central London.

Popadoms were of two varieties, a normal one and a lentil and black pepper popadom, which was interesting. Both were suitably crisp, and came with home-made lemon pickle, mango chutney and mint chutney. Tonight I tried the tandoori lamb chops, which were large and tender, the meat having absorbed the spices of the marinade. The lamb chops came with little slivers of cold mooli (aka daikon or winter radish) which did not seem an obvious accompaniment and seemed unnecessary (14/20).  A trio of mixed vegetable bhajia was impressive, reminding me a little of a rosti. The texture of the bhajia was superb, a mile away from the greasy balls that all too often appear in Indian restaurants labelled as bhajia. The filling of onion, potato, spinach, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, ginger and fresh coriander had vibrant spicing and was carefully cooked. These came with tamarind and mint chutney (15/20).

For the main course I tried chettinad chicken, which here came with a rich, dark, brooding and quite spicy sauce involving curry leaves, star anise and fresh coconut (15/20). The star dish was the spinach dish kumbh palak, which seemed to have just spinach, mushrooms and spices including ginger. So often spinach dishes in Indian restaurants arrive as a soggy mess, but here the spinach texture was retained well and again the depth of flavour was impressive; it takes real skill to impress with a dish as nominally simple as this, with a humble main ingredient (16/20). Wild mustard potatoes were excellent as they were at my last visit here, the little potatoes keeping their texture and flavoured with curry leaves and garlic (15/20). Takda dal was a yellow dhal that was also unusually good, in no way watery and the yellow lentils keeping their texture (14/20). 

Naan bread was as excellent as ever (15/20). The only disappointment was whole sea bass in place of the usual stone bass. Being cooked whole this was fiddly to eat due to the bones, and since the skin was left on the spices were restricted to the skin rather than permeating the flesh of the fish. Finally the fish was a touch dry inside; pleasant enough but well below the standard of the other dishes (12/20).

To finish we tried an excellent pistachio kulfi, which had deep flavour and smooth texture (15/20). Service was very professional and friendly, and the bill came to £51 a head with plenty of beer and lassi to drink. This is a lovely restaurant whose cooking quality exceeds all of the currently starred restaurants in London.

Further reviews: 30th Dec 2017 | 11th Jul 2017 | 30th Apr 2017

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