7 Cheval Place
SW7 1EW London
Tel. 0207 823 7373
Food type: North Indian
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
We are taking a short intermission between all the gastronomy to bring you something more ‘everyday’. After all, having returned from a weekend of indulgence, nothing could be better than an honest-to-goodness curry fix. Given that my sister wanted to do some shopping at Harrods (there were no large departmental stores in Perl for her to flex her credit cards), the logical choice would be Haandi, just across the road. If approaching from Brompton Road please be aware that the (back) entrance is rather obscure, sandwiched between two shops, and involves having to navigate a narrow stairwell.
Haandi is the brainchild of chef/ restaurateur Pradeep Mullick and is part of a chain of North Indian restaurants around the world with outlets in Kenya and Uganda. However, instead of just being a cheap chain, all London based chefs have to train under Mr Mullick himself in Nairobi. Mr Mullick himself is no slouch himself having trained at the kitchens of Sheraton and the Taj.
The dining room has Colonial India written all over it. Floors are wooden with the obligatory palm leaves in the middle. Despite a recent change of chef, the restaurant was seemed to be very popular, nearly packed out on a Wednesday evening we visited. Perhaps one of the major draws is the glass panel which allows diners a view of their open kitchen. Surprisingly enough, only two chefs were at work here cooking everything fresh, and from scratch. Freshness is indeed a key word here – masalas are made fresh every morning.
It would be very difficult (and boring) if I were to list each and every single dish we ordered so, instead, I will give a quick summary of what was good and bad about the meal. I am a big fan of authenticity and requested the food be cooked ‘apna style’ (some restaurants tend to tone down the spicing in the curry to suit the tastebuds of non-Asian diners).
Barbeque King Prawns (£19.50) may be pricey (this is Knightsbridge after all) but consists of 3 fat prawns, served in a half-shell, which are marinated in a special spicy garlic sauce and cooked over a tandoor. The prawns were superbly fresh and the sauce, although spicy, never overwhelmed it. If you can stretch your pockets, this is definitely a must order item. (5/10)
Lamb Seekh Kebabs (£9.90) were juicy and tender with the aromatic herbs coming through well, the meat gently spiked with some chilli to give a pleasant, background heat. This was another winner. (4/10) Just as well because both the Meat (£6.50) and Veggie (£4.90) Samosas, whilst well made were rather ordinary. Whilst crisp, and virtually grease-free, the filling in the meat samosa in particular was rather dried out. (2/10)
If you come here, you must most certainly try the Haandi Chicken Makhini (£9.90) which features tandoori cooked chicken in a mildly spicy tomato curry. The chicken were remarkably tender, no doubt benefitting from being cooked in the tandoor oven whilst the spicing was yet again spot-on – for example the individual spices of cumin and fenugreek coming through beautifully. (4/10)
Goan Fish Masala (£8.95) was ok I suppose, but the dish could have definitely been improved with the use of a more robust fish (e.g. Red Mullet, John Dory or the much dreaded Telapia) rather than the haddock fillets used here. The fish themselves were moist but rather drowned out by curry. (3/10) Lamb Vindaloo (£10.50) here is truly spicy, just as it should be although the heat is beautifully tempered with the addition of coconut milk. Indeed, lamb vindaloo is one of those curries which is never, ever done properly in most places and is one-dimensional (ie. Hot and hotter, but nothing much else). (4/10)
For veggies, Gobi Aloo (not on the menu, but available by request) and Palak Paneer were both of decent quality. (3/10) The gobi could have done with a touch more spicing but it is a bit unfair to criticize a dish that is not on the menu in the first place. On the side, Plain Naan (£2.30) were a tad dry and could have been a lot more lighter (2/10) while Pilao Rice (£3.50) was light and fluffy with the individual rice grains well separated and not clumped together. (3/10)
Dessert options are limited with the usual suspecst of kulfi, rasmalai and halwa. A Pistachio Kulfi (£4.80) that we tried was less than inspiring – the kulfi having a crystalline texture and rather grainy (1/10) although the Mango Kulfi (£5.20) fared much better. (2/10) It might be wise checking with the waiter if they have any mangoes in stock because a simple Mango with Ice Cream (£4.50) offers a generous serving (an entire mangoes’ worth) of the beautiful Alphonso mango. Just eat the mango and forget about the ice cream which is probably brought in.
Service was good although I had to ask twice for another beer to be brought to me. During the busier periods, it may take a while for food to come out of the kitchen so it would be wise to dine at an earlier hour if you have a large party. I guess that’s the trade off for food that is prepared fresh and a la minute.
If you are in the area, it is definitely worth dropping by at Haandi for an authentic dose of curry, albeit at prices to match the area. This is of course alleviated somewhat by the fact that the portions here are rather generous and the ingredients used are generally of much better quality than the average curry house (although that doesn’t really say much). This is one Indian restaurant that is worth coming back again.