Salloos has been open since 1976, owned by a Pakistani gentleman called Mr Salahuddin (nicknamed Salloo) who had previous run a restaurant in Lahore for ten years. The style of cooking is essentially Punjabi: Pakistan, in existence since 1947, shares its culinary heritage with northern India. The restaurant is at the end of an attractive mews in Knightsbridge. There is a greeting area at ground level, and you then ascend a flight of stairs to the dining room. This is bright and well lit, with windows covered by lattice screens, the far wall of the dining room decorated with small back-lit paintings, seemingly of embroidery, in arched frames.
The wine list has around fifty wines, ranging in price from £20 to £180, with an average price of £40, the list mostly but not entirely consisting of French wines. Bizarrely, given that there are some reasonably serious wines on the list, no vintages were listed, despite there being short descriptions for each wine. Example wines were Sauvignon Blanc from Monte Verde in Chile at £20 for a wine that cost £5 in a shop, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc at £33.50 for a wine that retails at around £12, and Dom Perignon NV champagne at £108 for a wine that you can buy for around £102 in the high street. The average mark-up appeared to be around 2.8 times retail price, but without the vintages it is hard to be precise. Still water was an absurd £4.70, a small bottle of Becks beer £3.90.
The speciality of the restaurant is tandoori lamb chops (£24). I had a “half” portion (which actually arrived on the bill as slightly more than half), simply served with a basic salad of lettuce and tomato. The chops were tender and nicely spiced, and although I have had better tandoori lamb chops elsewhere they were certainly good (13/20). Vegetable kebab (£10.50) was a pair of deep-fried vegetable fritters, pleasant enough and served with same excuse for a salad (12/20).
Tandoori prawn (£20) was cooked properly but had that whiff of iodine that usually characterises cheap farmed prawns (12/20). Chicken karahi (£18.50) was served in an iron dish and had a one-dimensional hot sauce with an oddly grainy texture, the chicken itself cooked properly (just about 11/20). Chana masala (£10.50) had reasonable, though just slightly overcooked chickpeas and pleasant spicing (12/20) and mixed vegetables (£10.50) retained some texture but were bland (11/20). Yes, you read that correctly: £10.50 for a channa. Boiled rice was a ridiculous £4.70. Naan (£3.10) was quite good, reasonably fluffy if just a fraction hard in texture (12/20). A bowl of raita was an outrageous £4.50 for essentially a dish of yoghurt. The kitchen make the kulfi (£6.50) here, a fairly rare thing, and it was enjoyable, though the texture suffered a little from ice crystals (12/20) while carrot halwa (£6.50) was quite good (13/20).
The bill for two, with beer, came to an eye-watering £78 a head. There was even a cover charge of £1.50 per person (to be fair, some unrequested popadoms arrived, which presumably accounts for this). Service was quite good this evening, with waiters remembering who had ordered what, dishes arriving at a steady pace and drinks replaced as needed. I recognised the manager from a visit a long, long time ago, so there appears to be little in the way of staff turnover. The problem is that the prices are completely, wildly, out of line for the standard of what arrives on the plate. It is priced at about the same level as nearby Amaya, but the food is not remotely of that calibre. I recall eating at Salloos in 1984, just after I came to London, and thinking the food was pleasant but that the bill was absurdly high. Almost three decades on, nothing much has changed except that the prices retain their capacity to shock.