Khans is a curry institution, serving Pakistani food in Kensington since 1977. It is a vast, sprawling place, with high ceilings, bright murals on the walls and vast plastic palm trees draped around the pillars of the dining room. The dining room can seat 150 at one time, with a further 100 downstairs. I first came here in 1983 and I don’t think the décor has changed since then. The menu is pretty standard curry fare, and there is no alcohol served by the Muslim owners. Fortunately the lassi here is very good, nicely mixed to just the right balance of yoghurt, water and sugar, not too thick and not too watery. Main course dishes are around £5-6, vegetable curries not much less at around £4, while naan bread is £1.65. In a gesture to keep up with the times, there are some menu options now noted as being “healthy eating”, but I am little unclear as to the criteria used, since “butter chicken” is one of these!
Tonight fish tikka featured pleasant spices but was rather tasteless and a little dried out through overcooking. The manager optimistically claimed the fish to be cod when it was in fact (much cheaper) coley (barely 11/20). Onion bhaji was decent, with a reasonably crisp outer coating (11/20). Chicken biryani had quite good rice with rather tasteless but properly cooked chicken (12/20). A channa masala had quite good chickpeas and was nicely spiced (12/20), whilst aloo gobi had potato and cauliflower that were a little overcooked (11/20). The only real failure of the night was a wildly oversweet prawn dansak, which used tiny, cheap shrimps (10/20). Naan bread was, by contrast, quite good, supple and properly made (12/20). The bill came to £28 a head. Service was perfunctory but polite. With such low prices it is hardly a surprise that ingredients are of a very basic level, but the cooking is generally competent, albeit with the odd slip. Although somewhat flawed, the cooking here is still better than most high street tandooris, and the restaurant has plenty of Indian diners as regulars. Portions, incidentally, are very generous indeed, so it is easy to over-order.
The notes below are from a meal in December 2008.
Popadoms come with standard issue chutneys, but at least they arrive in decent size metal pots, rather than the thimble sized measures some places insist on these days. A starter of chicken tikka had a generous portion of chicken pieces, marinaded and then cooked in the tandoor. The chicken itself was not especially tasty, though the lightly spiced marinade helped disguise that, but it was cooked well (12/20). An onion bhaji was surprisingly lacking in flavour, with a rather thick batter with a hint of greasiness (10/20). A main course methi chicken had a thick sauce with plenty of fenugreek flavour amongst the spices, but used some pretty cheap, stringy chicken (just about 11/20).
Prawn biriani had nicely cooked rice but was very light on prawns, just a few, tiny prawns being present (again, barely 11/20). Best dish was a channa, which had good chickpeas, cooked nicely but still with a hint of firmness in texture, with a spicy sauce (12/20). Sadly a bhindi was a soggy mess (10/20). Naan bread was good, supple and fluffy (12/20). Service was brisk if not particularly friendly.
Overall this is honest cooking which is still well above the average high street tandoori in standard, though it is certainly possible to eat better these days. In 1983 this was one of the best curry places in London, and it is interesting to see just how much the curry scene has actually developed since then. Khan's is still packing them in, all those years later. Precious few restaurants last ten years, so it is a testament to its appeal that it can still fill its cavernous maw with diners over 30 years on.