Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Veeraswamy - A rather Fine-Dining Experience

Veeraswamy – London’s oldest Indian Restaurant.

For a long time I assumed that one would have to travel to India to experience great Indian food, (but then my palate had been agonizingly subjected to local takeaways, where every dish tastes the same just with varying amounts of heat) until just recently, when a friend introduced me to Veeraswamy; and now, my love affair with Indian cuisine has truly begun. I feel a sense of commitment that I’ve never really felt before and a deep longing to return and try everything Veeraswamy has to offer.  I’m finding myself planning trips to Regent Street that aren’t strictly necessary, but are somehow crucial for my happiness.

Of course, it does help that it’s located in a beautiful part of town, on the corner of Regent and Swallow Street, with the dining room on the first floor overlooking swanky shops and twinkling city lights. It couldn’t be more chic and romantic if it tried and we girls do love a bit of glamour & romance! The entrance is discreetly tucked away in Swallow Street and when we arrived we were greeted by a charming young doorman, clad in traditional colonial Indian costume. It all felt very swish and majestic, a bit like entering a private member’s club with cool décor (that was just a little bit ‘disco’) leading to a cosy elevator that prolonged the excitement further.

As you enter the main dining room the elegant and sophisticated Bombay-Bollywood theme opens up before you with multi-coloured glass lanterns punctuating the dramatic ceiling, and an original 1920’s Venetian chandelier deservedly takes centre stage. The lighting is so gentle and soft it could complement even the most unfortunate and the elevated views over Regent and Swallow Street give you a wonderful sense of grandeur and importance. Delicate crimson rose petals are lightly scattered on each table; elegant wine glasses reflect the room’s vibrant colours and silk Maharaja’s turbans line the walls. Everything is so beautifully appointed, shimmery and sexy; even the pearlescent menu sparkles!

If you, like me, are not an authority on Indian cuisine, or if your knowledge only stretches as far as Dopiaza and Aloo Gobi, then sit back and let the exceptionally conversant and polite staff guide you through the menu; they clearly enjoy doing it and you’ll learn something in the process. We had a starter we’d never have considered trying had it not been for their knowledgeable cajoling, which turned out to be an absolute triumph - Raj Kachori – puffed puri (an unleavened bread) filled with vegetables, sweet chutney and yoghurt, then topped with pomegranate seeds. 

I’m afraid that no description I give this dish will do it justice, it simply has to be tasted. I also discovered Bishop’s Weed, a fragrant little seed-like fruit spice (which I first mistook for cumin) which apparently has “Ayer Vedic qualities”, or was that just meant to distract us from the calories that lie ahead? Many typical and indigenous spices are used here, harmonising and enhancing first-rate ingredients that clearly don’t require any chaperoning, but are however, lifted from the introduction. Lamb cutlets were achingly tender, scallops were unctuously plump and bouncy, and sauces were luxuriously rich but never overpowering. The problem with food this good is you convince yourself you can eat huge quantities of it! I was soon releasing a notch on my belt and trying to get to grips with my wide-eyed gusto by consciously slowing myself down.

We ended this sublime experience with a silky rich crème brulée and green tea ice cream which were both wonderfully light and refreshing. It was a struggle though if I’m honest and anything heavier would have just broken the belt, so this was the perfect ending to a lovely evening.

Folks, round up your partners, lovers, husbands, wives or whoever and make Veeraswamy your next stop. It ticks every box and is now safely positioned in my ‘Top 10’ for sure. In fact, the sooner I get back there, the better.

Veeraswamy, Mezzanine Floor, Victory House
99 Regent Street, London W1B 4RS
(entrance on Swallow Street)
tel: +44 (0) 20 7734 1401
fax: +44 (0) 20 7439 8434


1 comment:

  1. Isobel, you can be sure I'll try this beautiful restaurant when next I make it to London. But your writing skills make me feel I've just been!