Gaylord London

79-81 Mortimer Street, London, W1W 7SJ, United Kingdom

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Editor's note: Gaylord closed in September 2019. The premises became the short-lived Banjarah, and then, in September 2020, it became Pali Hill.

This restaurant was founded in 1966, and is sister to Gaylord in Mumbai. It is part of a restaurant group with several other brands, with 42 locations in total at the time of writing. The décor is quite smart, with carpets, tablecloths and large paintings of assorted Indian scenes (by Indian Bollywood poster painter turned noted artist Prithvi Soni) on the walls.

There was quite an extensive wine list, with examples like Picpoul de Pignet Beauvignan 2012 at £27.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7, Bollinger NV at £79 for a champagne that retails at £46, and Santa Rita rose at £22 for a wine that you can find in a shop for about £6. Beer is either Kingfisher or Cobra at £5.90 a pint, mineral water £4.25 a bottle.

Aloo tikki was reasonable, potato cakes filled with spices and lentils and served with tamarind chutney, yoghurt and sev. The potato cakes were a little stodgy in texture, and I would have preferred more tamarind, but this was certainly pleasant (12/20). Aloo papri chat consists of crispy pieces of pancake with yoghurt, chickpeas, mint, potatoes and tamarind chutney. This was nicely put together, quite a modest portion but well balanced (13/20). Pani pooris were little crisps whose dough has a hole at the top, into which you can pour tamarind chutney and mint water from the glasses provided. The idea is to pop the poori whole into your mouth and enjoy the taste of the liquid centre as the poori bursts in your mouth. I have had better versions in this e.g. at the late lamented Sabras, but certainly the pooris were nicely made and the tamarind chutney was good, though the mint was rather subdued (12/20). Little vegetables pakoras topped with onion and coriander had crisp coating and nicely spiced potato (13/20). 

Murgh malai tikka was a generous portion of chicken marinated in yoghurt and cheese before cooked in the tandoor. The meat looked a fraction dry but its taste was quite good (13/20). This was better than fish tikka, which had definitely dried out a little (11/20). Black dhal was a little watery (11/20) but aloo gobi was reasonable, the texture of the cauliflower a little soft but far from soggy (12/20). Roti was fine (12/20). Halwa was very good, not too sweet and with good texture (14/20). Kulfi is made from scratch and had plenty of almond flavour, though by the time it was served it had started to melt (12/20).

The bill came to £54 a head, with beer and mineral water to drink. Service is led by a manager, Ateen Dasgupta, who used to work at The Brilliant in Southall, and our eastern European waitress was good. The formula here is clearly successful, as on a Sunday night in August the restaurant was full, with some walk-in diners being turned away at 9 p.m. Overall, although the dishes were a little uneven in standard, I was pleasantly surprised by Gaylord. It is a restaurant that is about as far from fashionable as can be imagined, and yet the standard of the best dishes was high, and the only real issue was one of value for money at this price point.  

At a follow-up meal a few weeks later, an onion bhaji was an unusually good example of the breed. There was not a hint of greasiness, the onion flavour coming through well (14/20). Cauliflower stir-fry had pieces of cauliflower spiced with chillies, the texture of the vegetables nicely retained (14/20).

Chicken biryani had quite fragrant rice, though the chicken was a touch dry in places (13/20). A prawn curry was better, the prawns of good quality and carefully cooked, the blend of spices in the sauce nicely balanced (14/20). Bhindi is a difficult dish to do well, the okra easily becoming a soggy mush. The version here was better than some, but still the texture was not as good as it can be (12/20). Yellow dhal was very good, avoiding the runny texture that afflicts this dish in so many restaurants (14/20). A plain naan was pleasant if unexceptional (12/20). Service was very capable throughout the evening. The food here is good, between 13/20 and 14/20 in standard overall, and the only real issue is the relatively high price point; with drinks it is easy to spend over £60 a head. 

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