11 White's Row, London, E1 7NF, United Kingdom

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This no-reservation restaurant near Spitalfields market opened in November 2015. Nirmal Save is the head chef, having previously cooked at Zaika and with The Tamarind Collection group. I’m not sure whether there is an official description for the cooking but “hipster Indian’ captures it quite well. There are some fairly classic dishes but also modern takes on the classics. The simple dining room has wood floors, bare tables and little in the way of light – the room was quite gloomy even at lunch on a summer day. The same owners have just opened “Madame D” just yards away across the road.

This being east London, you already know the format: “shared plates, some arbitrary number to be shared between you, appearing in whatever order we see fit; one or two dishes are way bigger than others but we won’t tell you which”. You think I am making that up from a spoof comedy sketch, but that was pretty much the description of the “concept”, word for word. There were a few wines listed, priced from £20 to £55, with no vintages. Remy Ferbras Cotes du Rhone was £27 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £5, Berthier Sancerre was £47 compared to its retail price of roughly £20, and the pleasant Saintsbury Pinot Noir was £55 for a wine that costs around £33 in a shop.

A dish called “rasam ke bomb” was a sort of deconstructed masala dosa. Here the dosa batter is made into a miniature sphere, complete with vegetable filling, and served on a shot glass containing a sambal. This was pleasant enough, though I am far from sure that it is an improvement on a regular dosa (12/20). Better was venison and vermicelli doughnut with a spicy tomato sauce. This had plenty of flavour and the rich sauce had lots of spicy complexity (13/20). Karwari soft shell crab was simple and decent, garnished with a slice of lime, though this was less interesting (12/20). Aloo chaat was more traditional and was fine; for me a bit more tamarind chutney would have been good, but this is very much a matter of personal taste (13/20).

The best two dishes were the last ones we tried. Broccoli was smoked and then grilled, served with tomato and mustard sauce. This was genuinely good, the broccoli retaining its texture and being an excellent foil for the spices (14/20). Even better was tandoori lamb chop, precisely cooked and laced with a spicy marinade. This was terrific, one of the best versions of this dish I have tasted, the meat good quality and the blend of spices beautifully judged (15/20).

Service was rather tiresome. Our waitress was personable enough, but the first phrase she uttered when I walked in was the “we only seat the party when the whole party is seated” policy, something I have only seen in restaurants with a fairly psychopathic attitude to their customers, such as Momofuko Ko. Given that the dining room was completely empty at this point, and give that there is nowhere to wait, she at least had the grace to relent rather than make me stand in the corner facing the wall like a character in “The Blair Witch Project”. When I later asked a different waiter (who perhaps was the manager) for lassi he said “Oh, that is so Brick Lane; we don’t serve lassi here”. I have drunk lassi in considerably smarter places than this, but that is their call, so tap water it was. Given the inherent profitability of selling a drink that consists of yoghurt, water and sugar that goes perfectly with Indian food, it would seem to be passing up a business opportunity to not deign to serve it because it is deemed insufficiently fashionable, but there you go. The bill came to £31 each, with just water to drink. If you consumed wine then a likely all in cost per head might be around £45. If you can get past the “too cool for school” attitude then there are some very good dishes tucked away on the menu here.

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  • Murali Sayana

    “Rasam ke bomb” must be Gol Gappe or Pani Puri than a deconstructed masala dosa. Its heartening to see - Pani Puri, Dahi Puri & other street foods from India making it into restaurants & dining rooms.