Jamal Kadiri opened this Willesden restaurant in 1974 and it appears to be thriving after its four decades of operation. Bookings are only taken on the day of dining, and lest you think that such a thing might be a formality in a suburban location, I was unable to get in on a notionally quiet night the first time I tried to book here. The dining room is simple, with tightly packed tables, a bar along one side and you can see into the kitchen from the seating area. Chairs are quite comfortable, the tables bare, the flooring tiled. The kitchen specialises in biryani, though plenty of other north Indian dishes are available too. There is no alcohol license, but soft drinks are served.
Popadoms were crisp and served with a couple of chutneys that appeared t be made rather than from a jar, the mint chutney being quite good. Aloo papri chat (£3.15) is a cold dish of chickpeas, sev, pieces of potato, fried pastry, yoghurt and spices. This was quite good, though compared to the best versions I have tried the spicing could have been more vibrant and the fried elements crisper (12/20). Better was malai chicken tikka (£6.50) served on a hot griddle with onions. The marinated chicken was quite tender and avoided drying out, the portion generous for a starter (13/20)..
The biryani itself was excellent (we tried both chicken and prawn versions, which were priced at £10.50). The rice was light and fluffy, suffused with saffron, and the chicken avoided the dryness that can easily occur with this dish (14/20). Sure, it was less good than the dazzling version at the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, but that is a high bar to reach.
Less good were the side dishes. Aloo gobi (£6.50) had cauliflower and potato that were not too soft but had a one-dimensional, vaguely hot sauce (11/20). Channa dal (£6.50) was acceptable but again the spicing just gave a slight chilli heat rather than the taste of distinct spices (11/20). Naan (£2.20) bread was reasonable, though a little harder than ideal (11/20). Portions are family sized so we didn’t make it to dessert, but they do offer a rice pudding and a semolina halwa.
The service was friendly though a bit stretched tonight. The bill came to £29 a head with lassi and water to drink, but we overordered, and there was enough food left for another complete meal. If you ordered more prudently then a typical cost per head might come to around £22. The biryani is the star dish here, and the other dishes we tried could not quite live up to this quality. However the food is priced moderately and the restaurant feels welcoming. If this was located near where I lived I would happily return. The formula clearly works, as on this Sunday evening every table was taken and tables were being turned all around us. Not many restaurants last over four decades, but this one looks like it has plenty of years left in it yet.