Opening in December 2021, “Dipna Anand at Somerset House” is a sister restaurant to the long-running Brilliant in Southall, and is run by Dipna, the daughter of Gulu Anand, who founded The Brilliant. The restaurant is located in the South Wing of Somerset House, three linked dining rooms each with views over the outside terrace and the Thames beyond. You can access the restaurant via the main Somerset House courtyard, but there is also a lift down to the Embankment level, and you can access it via a building entrance there that shows changing exhibitions. The restaurant is not marked on all of the Somerset House signs, so while not exactly hidden, it is certainly discreet. The same style of Punjabi food as at The Brilliant is served, though with a much shorter menu. The dining room is split into three connected rooms, each with a river view, as well as a bar area, seating up to eighty customers in total. There is also an outside terrace area overlooking the river that would be a fine spot for a drink.
There was a short wine list with five sparkling options, six white, two rose wines and six reds, along with beer and the usual soft drinks. The wine list had 19 labels in all and ranged in price from £25 to £85, with a median price of £42 and an average markup to retail price of 2.8 times, which is distinctly moderate by central London standards. Sample references were Finca de Landaluce Rioja Reserva 2016 at £38 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £22, Alain Cailbourdin La Côte
Blanche Pouilly-Fumé 2019 at £59 compared to its retail price of £24, and Moët et Chandon Rose Imperial NV at £85 for a wine that will set you back £62 in the high street.
At this Sunday brunch there were two thalis offered, one meat (£27) and one vegetarian (£24.50), and we opted to try both. There were also some other interesting sounding alternative dishes available such as chicken tikka naan. In the evening there is a slightly wider a la carte menu with five starters and five main courses on offer.
The thalis, served on a traditional metal plate, came as complete mini meals. There was a popadom, samosa and onion bhajia as little starter elements, then pulao rice with a trio of curries as well as a naan bread and raita. The vegetarian curries were saag aloo, channa and tadka dhal, while the meat version had lamb samosas and makhani chicken curry, lamb kofta and saag aloo as the curries. The samosas were enjoyable and the onion bhajia had a pleasant kick of spice. The curries were good, though I preferred the quite mild chicken makhani to the lamb curry, whose meat did not have a lot of flavour. The channa was fine with its tender chickpeas, as was the saag aloo, with good spinach flavour and potatoes that could for me have been cooked a little less to retain a firmer texture (thalis were both 13/20).
One extra dish that we tried was thadka greens, a mix of green vegetables including broccoli fried with coconut and mustard seeds. This was in some ways my favourite dish. The vegetables were lightly cooked, the coconut brought a fresh taste and the mustard seeds added a gentle hint of spice (14/20). Gulab jaman was nicely made, the fried dough balls of semolina and milk solids resting in a sugar syrup, served piping hot at the table. This is a classic Indian dessert, warm and comforting (14/20).
Service was very good, the staff being friendly and attentive. The bill came to £45 a head with just a single beer. If you drank wine then you would expect to pay a bit more. The restaurant has a really fine setting that was once occupied by a Tom Aikens restaurant (and one with Bryn Williams after that) and has a lovely view over the river. The short menu is appealing and this is certainly a very pleasant experience if you are in the area.