Roots opened in June 2023 in the high street of Teddington in west London. It is the creation of chef and owner Mayur Nagarale, who worked as head chef at La Belle Epoque in the Sofitel in Hounslow, and also runs Ma Cuisine in Richmond. The dining room is quite long and narrow, with banquette seating along one wall. The décor is tasteful, with a mural on the wall to your right as you enter. There is also some overflow seating downstairs. In total the dining room can seat up to 56 guests. The name of the restaurant reflects the desire of the owner to get back to the roots of regional Indian home cooking.
The menu is a la carte and features a few unusual dishes as well as lots of familiar north Indian choices. For example, there were fried frog legs sauteed with garlic and curry leaves, a dish from Chennai. As an aside, this dish also known by the pseudonym “jumping chicken”, at least in Goa, where frog legs are prized but where frog meat consumption is frowned upon by the authorities. I ordered more familiar fare, but it was interesting to see some less common dishes on the menu, with goat biryani being another.
The wine list had 33 labels ranging from £25 to £120 with a median price of £35 and an average markup to retail price of exactly 3 times, which is reasonable. The list showed vintages but there were a few typos on the producers. Sample bottles were Domaine Belle Mare Viognier 2020 at £28 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Les Beatines Rose Domaine Les Beates 2020 at £36 compared to its retail price of £8, and Guy Farge Condrieu Grain d'Emotion 2018 at £85 for a bottle that will set you back £35 in a wine shop.
We tried bhajias that were made with onions, kale, potatoes, green chutney and ajwain (carroway). The bhajias avoided greasiness but the ratio of filling to batter meant that a lot of what you tasted was the, batter, pleasant though that was (13/20). Better was an off menu special of the day, a single large tandoori Atlantic prawn that was displayed at the beginning of the meal (an impressive 32cm in length). This was cooked in the tandoor with a spicy marinade, and served with a diced mango salad. The prawn was superb, with lots of natural sweetness that worked well with the spices, the prawn itself superbly cooked. The acidity of the mango also worked well with the shellfish (15/20 is probably a mean score).
For the main course I ordered a chicken biryani, which arrived with its pastry lid over the pot to seal in the aromas, just as it should be, and how they arrive in Hyderabad, the home of biryani; the pastry is cut open at the table. The rice was fragrant and aromatic, the grains distinct, the chicken avoiding any hint of dryness. This was top notch biryani (15/20). Narangi prawns (creamy coconut prawns, a recipe from southern India) had quite a chilli kick and were carefully cooked and tender, the dish having a loose pastry lid (14/20).
Aloo gobi adraki had cauliflower which had nicely retained its texture, while the potatoes for me could have been cooked a fraction less. The vegetables were garnished with fresh ginger, which added a pleasing additional flavour (14/20). Lasuni khumb palak was a spinach dish with mushrooms as well as fresh garlic and spices. This was a lovely dish, the spinach flavour coming through really well, nicely enhanced by the spices (15/20). Dhal makhani had good texture but I didn’t think it had quite the depth of flavour of the very best of the breed (13/20). Naan bread was soft and pliable and arrived fresh and hot (13/20).
Some of the desserts here are made in house and others bought in. I had the pistachio kulfi, which was made in the kitchen. This had good texture, and my only observation was that there were a lot of almonds, which are quite a strong flavour. Indeed, this could have been described as an almond and pistachio kulfi. This is fine in itself, but for me a pistachio kulfi should taste mostly of pistachio (13/20). Coffee was Kenco.
The bill came to £69 per person with beer to drink and a cocktail, but that was for an awful lot of food. It would easily be possible to eat for less, and a typical cost per person might be nearer £50. I was impressed with the standard of cooking at Roots. It was just weeks after opening, and although a few dishes could be tweaked the overall standard was already high. What was most impressive was that the best dishes were really top drawer, such as the prawn starter and the biryani. It you live anywhere near Teddington then head down to Roots while you can still get a reservation.