Renowned Indian restaurateur Zorawar Kalra has gained a hard-won reputation for innovation and trendsetting in his homeland, with a penchant for offering unusual takes on traditional dishes.
So when he announced the launch of his first London eatery, Farzi Cafe, promising local ‘twists’ on globally famous food, there was understandable fanfare around the opening.
Anticipation was further stoked by advanced publicity saying Kalra was especially pleased to be coming to London, because the city’s access to fresh and varied ingredients gave his chefs a ‘wonderful canvas’ on which to paint their menus.
So how did the reality live up to the hype when Curry Life visited the Haymarket restaurant in the heart of London’s West End?
First signs were promising as we scanned the menu, which was full of Asian takes on British classics.
There was a Masala Wagyu Beef Cottage Pie with purple mash potato and some Wagyu Beef scotch eggs, not to mention Amritsari halibut fish and chips – not with your standard mushy peas but a ‘chukki pea mash’.
There was also a generous helping of standard Indian dishes, such as various biryanis and tikkas, but again with a bit of a twist in each case. Hence there was a bok choy and asparagus biryani and a shitake and cottage cheese tikka.
We went for main courses, which tested the ‘traditional with a twist’ philosophy, so tried out the Jhol chicken biryani and a venison dish.
Both lived up to the something-slightly-different tag – the biryani nestling beneath a light pastry, a sort of upper crust biryani chicken pie, while the venison was an Irrachi pepper version.
Whether it was the fresh authentic ingredients, or the skilful way they were put together and presented, both mains were scrumptious.
Not always easy meat to cook well, the venison was extremely tender, while the biryani was moist and well spiced.
The two mains were sandwiched between a selection of starters and desserts suggested by the attentive staffs that were serving us.
So the hors’douevres included grilled asparagus accompanied by toasted sesame seeds and chicken wings with a masala rub, as well as some tasty dal chawal arancini with nice achaar-papad chutney.
To finish off, we were plied with a Laddoo Shell which, when tapped, exploded with an outpouring of coconut mousse and berries – together with a Mango Semifreddo, which came with a coconut lime kheer, passion fruit foam and lychee – both absolutely delicious.
We resisted the temptation of accompanying the desserts with the ten-year old tawny port or sparkling wine, which is offered at a small extra cost, tempting though it was.
For diners who do enjoy a snorter or two with their meals, there is the type of extensive drinks menu you would expect at a high end West End bistro.
Prices were also generally what you would expect to pay for a smart restaurant in the heart of London – with our choice from the a la carte menu costing in the region of £40 a head including drinks– though there are also cheaper set menus.
There’s a two-course lunch and pre-theatre menu, which comes in at £20 a head, while the thee-course version costs £25.
Summing up, there’s probably something at Farzi Cafe to suit most tastes and pockets, living up to the ambitious goals set by its owner.
Suppose you could say – So Farzi, So good!
Farzi Cafe is at 8 Haymarket, London Sw1Y 4BP
Tel: 020 3981 0090 – www.farzilondon.com