Casual dining with spicy hints of elegance
Venue: Imli Street, Wardour Street, Soho
Menu: Indian casual with a Western fusion
Prices: small plates from £4; bigger plates from £7, sides £4, cocktails £8
The tempting, taste-teasing smells of the sub-continent wafted at us invitingly as we approached via a modernsied Wardour Street.
In the heart of Soho, this very welcome space for LBQ customers - catering for both large groups and individuals alike, from bar snacks to full dining - is a gem.
With a menu based on traditional street cuisine from all over India, lovingly created by a Michelin starred chef, offered so much more than the typical Westernised heavy curry dishes found on a Saturday night take-away menu.
We entered to a modern rustic blend, with a bar area at the front that encapsulates the street food, eat on the go concept, but supported by a large restaurant space towards the rear, accommodating up to 150 over two floors.
The noticeboard in the entrance way is pleasant little quirk to show previous customer appreciation, a take on the customary signed celebrity head shot endorsement.
Greeted with a very warm welcome that continued as excellent service throughout our visit, we chose a window seat and were immediately served water in traveler-style beakers. Very cute.The casual lounge atmosphere was perfect for post work cocktails and dinner.
Beginning with fresh fruit cocktails, on an Indian theme - bombay gin, spicy hot cocktails and chai-based drinks, we then spent a significant amount of time perusing the appealing menu, the difficulty being everything sounded appetising.
Capturing the authentic traveler experience of eating on the move in India, whether by rail, road or boat, the co-ordinated menu under each travelling theme - including a suggestive sea food section, offers the diner the chance to sample several options in the sharing platter under each section.
We enjoyed a small plate of lamb cutlets to start, which came with a delightful mint puree. The lamb itself was very tender, and coated in an incredible balanced seasoning of spice and hotness without setting the mouth on fire. (Editors note, we were so keen to sample the menu we forgot to take photos of the food!)
Balance of flavour was key amongst all the dishes, nothing over-seasoned or over done, rather keeping tantalising hint of flavour that left the palate wanting more. Each menu item was a playful alternative on the real life experience or a western fusion, providing exciting combinations and blends not found anywhere else, simply delightful.
As part of our "railroad" platter, we enjoyed breaded chicken wings with an indian style ketchup, a flavour-filled chicken biryani and "railway" lamb - accompanied by light naan and raita was a perfect combination of tastes and textures. The platter worked well as an easy combination to enjoy lots of flavours and tastes rather than settling on one dish. (editors note: make sure you bring a companion who likes sharing food!)
As a side - and potential bar snack, aloo tuk spicy potato chips were just the job, - think sauteed potatoes but with a chilli flavouring that compliments the savoury nature of the potato and carasses the tongue.
For dessert options there was a now expected Anglo-Indian fusion take - with some familiar traditional puds wrapped up in exotic fruits and spices that created a unique special sweet to wrap up the meal.