1 Blenheim Terrace, London, NW8 0EH, United Kingdom

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Ritu in St Johns Wood opened in September 2021, taking over the site of former Lebanese restaurant Yasmeen. The name “Ritu” means “seasons” in India. There are, incidentally, six seasons in the Hindi calendar: Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Autumn, Pre-winter and Winter. The executive chef is Navin Prasad, a former head chef of Benares and Zaika, who also spent eight years in India, cooking at restaurants in Rajasthan and elsewhere, with head chef Shoeb Haider, originally from Lucknow, who also worked at Zaika and Benares. It is owned by restaurateur Anubhav Srivastava, who owns two restaurants in Chennai including KNK Project. The menu spans India and has plenty of dishes that you will not find in your local curry house. The menu includes a full set of vegan options. Mr Prasad was apparently in the kitchen this evening. 

The short, twenty bottle wine list was rather sorry for itself, omitting vintages entirely and having typos like “Picpoul de Pient” (sic) and “Pinot Grigio Hiltop” (sic) as well as useful labels like “Riesling Kabinett Trocken” with no grower, which narrows things down to just a few thousand possible wines. The descriptions were so ambiguous that in most cases it was impossible to be sure of the retail prices, but some examples were Fabre Montmayou 'H J. Fabre' Reserva Malbec at £34 compared to its retail price of £17, Francoise Monay Brut at £53 for a champagne that will set you back £23 in a shop, and Amarone Podere Cariano Le Bertarole at £66 for a wine you can find for £29 in the high street.  This is one of the most careless wine lists I have ever seen, riddled with typos and ambiguity. They might as well just put “red” and “white” and be done with it. Whoever put this list together would appear to be scarcely familiar with wine at all, as if they once read about its existence in the way that you might have heard of some far-off exotic island than you have never visited, but then unexpectedly had to write a school essay about it.

When I asked about corkage I was greeted by the kind of baffled silence that might have resulted if I had asked for a hippopotamus, then to be told by the deputy manager that there was absolutely no amount of money in the world that would persuade them to allow wines beyond the fine selection on their own list. OK then, beer it was, since I had no intention of going for a lucky dip in the barely labelled wine list. Talking of beer, a small 330ml bottle of Kingfisher was priced at a distinctly ambitious £7 (plus service), for a bottle that you can currently buy in the high street for £1.65 for a single bottle, or £1.26 a bottle if you buy a case. This means a markup of between 5.5 and 7.2 times its retail price. Wines are typically marked up at three times or so their retail price in restaurants, so this is excessive by any standard. By comparison, another Indian restaurant in the London suburbs, Black Salt, charged £3.75 for the identical bottle last week. 

Popadoms were crisp and pleasant, accompanied by a mayonnaise with garlic and curry leaves. The version initially presented had clearly been hanging around since it actually had a thick skin on top. When we queried this the waitress initially tried to pretend that this was exactly as intended, but when I insisted on a fresh one the new version that arrived was entirely without this unpleasant skin, and tasted fine. I am not quite sure in what world someone would think that a congealed skin on the top of a mayonaisse was "as the chef intended" but it is not one that I want to inhabit.

Tandoori lamb chops came with a spicy mint chutney and a spiced onion relish concealed beneath a poppadom. This was easily the best dish of the meal. I had been asked how I would like the lamb cooked, and it arrived pink as requested, the meat tender and having nicely absorbed the spices of its marinade before being cooked in the tandoor (14/20). Lotus root chaat was rather one-dimensional and a little dry, just having lotus root crisps and chickpeas being dominated in flavour by onion, and was crying out for some balancing element, such as a tamarind chutney (11/20). 

Chicken biryani was served in a cylindrical bamboo container topped with tin foil rather than traditional pastry, but this had the same effect of sealing in the aromas. The rice itself was all right though not with the distinct grains and heady aroma that the best biryani has, but the chicken was distinctly dry. The meat in the centre was merely dry, but the meat at the edge was as if it had been left out under a desert sun for an extended period. This was a pity as the rice itself had acceptable texture (11/20).

A side dish of potatoes with curry leaves and red chillies retained some of the texture of the potato, though was a touch overcooked (11/20). Bhindi in a pickled tomato sauce was sadly of the greasy and soggy variety, not grotesquely so but definitely much mushier than it should be (10/20). Tandoori prawns, when they finally arrived, were cooked all right but sadly had that unmistakeable whiff of chlorine that pervades cheap farmed prawns. Additionally, the prawns were over-salted, which was not the case with the other dishes (barely 11/20). The best side dish was a quite good dhal makhani, which could have been a touch richer with deeper flavour but was nonetheless very decent, and positively miraculous when compared to some of the other dishes (perhaps 13/20). Naan bread was fine; it could have been a little lighter and fluffier, but was perfectly pleasant (12/20). 

Desserts were mostly bought in but they did make the carrot halwa from scratch, and this was very nice, having good texture and being topped with fresh pistachios (13/20). The kulfi, though not made on the premises, was itself fine. Coffee was made in a fancy machine with beans from an unspecified but frankly not very good supplier, the coffee being over-extracted and roasted too long. The front of house was unable to identify the coffee supplier, even after checking with the person notionally in charge of the coffee.

Service was well meaning but there were a number of glitches. Our waitress declined to write down our order, which is always a bold step and perhaps OK if you have a carnival side line as a miracle memory expert, but is unwise if you do not possess a flawless memory. We duly ended up with salmon instead of prawns, which was hardly a disaster and was rectified quickly enough, but would have been so easily avoided if the waitress had written the order down and read it back to us, something that just about every other restaurant on earth manages to do. I asked some questions about the dishes but it was clear that the staff had not been briefed on them, so I stopped bothering to ask after it became clear that the staff had not been trained to be more than vaguely familiar with the menu. The bill came to £78 a head, which to be frank is an awful lot of money for the standard of food that arrived. The tandoori lamb chops showed that there was some fleeting glimmer of ability in the kitchen, but several other dishes did not remotely live up to that standard. The good halwa just raised the average score just over 11.5/20, so I have rounded the overall score up to 12/20, but frankly that feels over generous.  It is hard to recommend Ritu given the level of inconsistency and the high price point. The sloppy wine list and sketchy front of house training did not redeem it.

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User comments

  • Jake

    A barely-edible combination of hubris and badly-cooked ingredients. That's what I'm hearing from this review. I'll avoid this place like the plague.

  • meezan

    Just returned from India, wasn't aware that this place even existed. Seems that their arrogance is misplaced, hate it when the front of house staff do not write the order down ....