Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides
The Hart Brothers
The Hart Brothers, who have made Quo Vadis and Fino into such success stories
16 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HW
Tel 020 7629 9802
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12 -3pm then 6-11.30pm (Sun until 10.30pm)
Forget your Vindaloos and Madrases, the award-winning Chor Bizarre only deals in real Indian food. The name itself is a play on the phrase Chor Bazaar, or Thieves bazaar and the interior certainly lives up to that hint of exoticism. No effort has been spared on the decor, ensuring that the Chor Bizarre experience is even further removed from that of the standard curry house. Whilst most high brow Indian restaurants seem to be leaning ever more towards standardised European interiors, Chor Bizarre bucks that trend and is all the better for it. The restaurant is bedecked with artefacts and ornate furniture - silver-leafed chairs, pietra dura tables, carved lattice jarokas and even a canopied bed - from India's bazaars, much of which is for sale and can be ordered through the management. Complementary bangles and bindis for the ladies are also an unexpected but fun touch.
Like its sister restaurant in Delhi, the London branch has a bent towards Kashmiri cuisine. Sensibly it does not pretend to represent the diversity of Indian food in full. Instead it presents certain key recipes from the smorgasbord of Indian cuisine, and does it rather well. Chor Bizarre is not cheap, something that perhaps prevents it from being all that busy. Friday night was only half-full, though about half the clientele were Indian - surely a good sign?
On arrival we were greeted by the friendly staff and escorted to our tables before being served some complimentary mini-popadoms, which could have been fresher. Minor grumbles aside, the service remained attentive throughout and the waiters were only too happy to explain the extensive and well-balanced menu. To start my companion went for the coconut mussels. Whilst somewhat indifferent towards the (very large) mussels themselves she did remark that the coconut broth in which they arrived was done to a tee. I opted for the Kashmiri Tarami, a selection of Seekh Kebab to start followed by a combination dish consisting of Goshtaba (meat balls cooked in milk), Mirchi korma, Rajmah (curried red kidney beans), Dhaniwal Korma and Haaq (spinach). Several of these combination dishes, most in the form of thalis (an assortment of little bowls), are on offer and come highly recommended for those seeking a bit of variety.
The Seekh Kebab was solid, but eclipsed by the other dishes which offered a rich fare of intense flavours and well-cooked meats. My companion, who lived on and off in Delhi for five years and is very much au fait with Indian cuisine, was suitably impressed by her main course of gosht lazeez, describing the ground cashew sauce as "divine". Her dessert, Cardamom ice-cream, was fantastically presented and also went down a treat judging by an unusual bout of silence on her part. I gave in to my vanilla ice-cream fetish and was not disappointed by the creamy but delicate offering.
All of the above was washed down with a clear and fresh bottle of Sunnycliff Chardonnay from Australia, which complemented the food perfectly. The wine list is certainly worth a mention in its own right. The well-balanced selection chosen by one of Britain's best-known wine critics, Charles Metcalfe has previously won âWine List of the Yearâ. The list contains a useful section recommending wines to accompany certain dishes, helpful when wondering which wine would go well with chicken chettinad. Those plumping for the beer option might find themselves made to feel slightly uncomfortable by the waiter's look of disappointment.
Chor Bizarre makes a welcome change from average preconceptions of an Indian restaurant, which explains the higher prices than those of your local takeaway (the bill for two came to Â£60, but the restaurant does offer a pre-theatre bargain of four courses for Â£18). Itâs a winner in terms of atmosphere, food and service and if you enjoy Indian cuisine, it is a must.