17 Jan 2008

Happy Tandoori Nights

Indian food is one cuisine I can happily devour without much fuss, for when it is cooked without shortcuts, it is naturally gluten free. In India, use of garam flour made from chickpeas, is widespread, making some of my favourite foods such as pakoras and papadums safe for me to gobble up like the cookie monster. Having recently moved south of the river, I have been keeping an eye out for a good Indian restaurant and recently ate at Tandoori nights in East Dulwich. Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane cited it as her favourite table for Observer Food Monthly magazine, in 2003, so was keen to see how it stood up, four years on.

Rather than using the common “gravy pot” technique to which a couple of spices depending on the dish are then added, all the dishes at this very busy little venue are cooked separately, making them individual in taste and appearance, and can confidently accommodate many dietary requirements. Being a family run business also means staff are so familiar with their menu that they can easily advise on ingredients and potential adjustments to dishes. The other unique thing here, in my experience of local Tandoori restaurants, is that meat and vegetables are fresh and wherever possible organic. This is evident just in dishes like saag paneer that tasted fresher, with more spinach flavour and less metallic aftertaste.

Some favourites, such as Tandoori chicken and a particularly fragrant lamb passanda with fresh chillies for extra zing are to be found, however much of the menu is taken up with dishes new and unfamiliar to me. Handis, which are Pakistani in origin, refer to the earthenware dish they are cooked in are a popular order, whilst an interesting Palak Gosht, fragrant and very spicy lamb and spinach curry won loyalty at our table. This and more including a handful of unusual vegetarian dishes such as a corn and paneer curry provides excuses to come back again.

Specific dishes aside, overall, I was thrilled by the combination of original dishes, which use fresh ingredients, organic where possible, and underpinned by an adaptability to accommodate gluten-free diets. All this on my doorstep, and costing less than their west London counterparts, I think I am going to like living Southside.

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