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Dastaan

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

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This Indian restaurant in Ewell, near Epsom, was opened in late 2016. There are two key people that set it up. Sanjay Gour, originally from Mumbai, worked at Gymkhana and the Tamarind restaurant group after training with Angela Hartnett at Murano and working as head pastry chef at the Corinthia hotel. Nand Kishor was head chef at Gymkhana and senior sous chef at Trishna, and is the head chef here. Sanjay was running the front of house this evening. 

The restaurant is in a parade of shops and has quite basic décor. The kitchen is at the far end with a couple of tables opposite it. The menu has curry house staples and just a few more exotic dishes, such as pork vindaloo, a Goan dish. There is a brief wine list, with for example Beyond the River Shiraz at £19.75 compared to its high street price of £7, and Mayfly Sauvignon Blanc at £30 compared to its retail price of £10. Kingfisher and Cobra were £3.25 for a 330ml bottle.

The first starter gave no real hint of the fireworks to come. Pani puris are a crisp shell with a hole at the top in which you pour a spicy liquid, then eat in one bite. The liquid, jaljeera, is made from water, cumin, ginger, black pepper and mint, and the pooris were served with a chickpea salad. The pooris were nice and crisp and the overall dish fine, though this was nothing remarkable (13/20). However the red pepper tiger prawns were another matter entirely. The prawns had been marinated in spices and came with chilli and garlic chutney. Athough quite large, the prawns were superbly cooked and were of excellent quality, having fine texture as well as great flavour – this was one of the best indian dishes I have eaten in this country (16/20). Next was bream that had been marinated with a sauce of coriander, spinach, mango chutney and plenty of green chillies before cooking. This was another lovely dish, the fish beautifully cooked and the spice marinade lovely, the kick of chilli working really well with the flavour of the bream (15/20). 

Methi chicken was a glorious, rich affair, the chicken carefully cooked and the sauce having deep fenugreek flavour (15/20). Black pepper fish tikka used stone bass and was also excellent, served with a tomato chutney that used a mixture of cherry and plum tomatoes as well as mustard oil, and was very enjoyable (15/20). On the side, aloo gobi retained the textures of the potato and cauliflower well (14/20) and spinach was topped with strands of ginger and had plenty of flavour, avoiding the sogginess that can so easily afflict this dish (14/20). Naan bread was lovely, light and pliable and made to order (15/20). Desserts are bought in except for a pistachio kulfi, which was fine but served a bit too cold (13/20).

Service was friendly though distinctly stretched tonight; the bill came to £34 per head with beer to drink, a bargain given the standard of the meal. I was genuinely taken aback by the standard of the food here. How good is it? Well, in the UK only Jamavar is of a similar level, albeit with much smarter premises. In India I have scored just three places a point higher over my twenty visits to that country. If you are within reach of Epsom then do yourself a huge favour and make a beeline for this terrific restaurant. We went on a Sunday night yet the place was completely packed, with tables being turned multiple times around us, so the locals have clearly realised what they have been fortunate enough to gain.

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@Phoney_o Er, creative in places.