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Urban Turban

98 Westbourne Grove, London, England, W2 5RU, United Kingdom

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Urban Turban closed in early August 2010; so the notes below are of historical interest only; it will not be missed.

This is Vineet Bhatia’s take on Indian Street food. It is at the quiet end of Westbourne Grove and has quite tightly packed seating, with banquettes in the centre of the dining room and additional tables around the rim of the dining room. The limited space seems larger than it is due to the mirrors and picture windows, yet the lighting was oddly gloomy when sitting (at least at our table). The menu has “tapas” dishes at £6 (£5.50 for vegetarian) and main courses at £10 - £12, with side dishes at £5 - £6, bread and rice £3. There is a short but sensibly put together modern wine list. 

The meal began well with crisp popadoms with a couple of home-made chutneys, a cut above the norm (13/20). Masala crab and sweet corn cakes were surprisingly bland, though fried well enough (11/20), served with a slightly spicy ketchup. Easily the best starter were tangy scallops cooked with garlic and garnished with coriander; these were nicely cooked and still retained some sweetness (13/20).  Aloo chatt did not appear to be put together fresh, and the tamarind chutney with it had dried out, leaving just the dry taste of sev and potatoes (10/20). Home smoked honey and mustard tandoori salmon, though it appeared to use cheap farmed salmon, was cooked properly, served with a cucumber and dill raita (11/20). 

At this point the meal seemed to be a little inconsistent but good in patches, and I felt fairly content; it seemed the meal was heading toward comfortable 11/20 territory without difficulty and the main issue would be value for money.  Then the main dishes turned up. Prawns were oddly left with their tails on, cooked with a simply dull sauce that lacked distinct spicing (10/20 heading towards 11/20). However chicken makhni infused with dried fenugreek leaves had remarkably dried out and tasteless chicken sitting in a vaguely tomato, buttery sauce that had almost no methi taste at all (10/20). Worse was a dish of potatoes and vegetables whose vegetables were cooked to a pulp, and tasted to me as if the carrots as least were frozen (10/20). The amusing excuse “ah, but this is in the 'pav bhaji style" is such nonsense when you have tasted the dish in Bombay; a mushy tasteless vegetable is a mushy tasteless vegetable, and putting a marketing spin on it does not change that one iota (10/20). Dhal was watery (10/20). Oddly, naan bread was excellent, light and very fluffy (13/20), standing out like a beacon amongst the culinary rubble that was our main course; rice was fine. 

Bear in mind that the dismal chicken curry was priced at £12 for example, so I’m not sure what aspect of Indian street food this is supposed to bring to mind; certainly not the fresh, lively spicy food which pops up all over India. This seemed to me all the worse given that just down the road here are Indian restaurants like Khans that are not fancy but are serving decent, honest food at a fraction of the price here. You don’t have to head off to India to find better food; a short stroll would do the job.

Service was good this evening, and the manager was extremely helpful when I pointed out the problems with my main course dishes. I find it a very difficult meal to score, since there were some genuinely good elements: the chutneys, the scallops, the naan. Perhaps on average the food would scrape 11/20. Yet there were so many downright poor dishes that I cannot bring myself to score this 11/20, or recommend this place to anyone based on this meal.  

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  • Helen Yuet Ling Pang

    Hi Andy I think I'm going to have to cancel my reservation now! Having read your review and plenty of other negative ones (although perhaps 2/3 months on, the quality might have improved?), I don't think I could bear the prospect of a disappointing meal. Maybe Hereford Road instead... Helen

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