Although it often tops the list of Britain’s favourite food, I’ve never been one for a curry. I could eat plate after plate of samosas, onion bhajis, pakoras – anything deep friend with a magic mix of spice, I’ll eat. But curry for some reason never excite me the same way (I blame my mum for endless curry-from-a-jar nights).
Either I had been wronged by every single Indian dish I tried since being born, or there was something seriously wrong with Britain for voting it first for decades. I decided it was the former, and jumped at the chance of a visiting Tandoor Chop House with work friends during the week.
Situated on Adelaide Street in the heart of Trafalgar Square and near the world’s smallest pub (don’t visit that), Tandoor Chop House is a vibrant mix of traditional Indian favourites and British chop house style.
The first thing you notice is the noise; the delicious sizzle of the hot tandoor ovens blend with the buzz of diners. It’s fiery and warm, crowded but inviting –the smell of roasting garlic, fresh baked naan and seared meat is overwhelming. The place seems tiny but all 10 of us manage to fit in a wonderfully cosy square. We’re seated right by the open kitchen and I’m transfixed by the constant dipping of giant chicken skewers in different marinades and herbs.
We share bhaji onion rings for starters with garlic and onion raita; they’re golden, herby and crispy, the perfectly upmarket Indian onion ring. Instead of starters they have ‘snacks’ – lovely plates of curried mince in small naans topped with fresh chillies and the one we all fight over, the seekh kebab roll. The garnish of ruby pomegranate seeds and patterned blue plates are as aesthetically pleasing as the taste is good. In fact, it’s so good that I forget we have a main course to come. My curry fears kick in (along with my rice fear – again, my mum cooked too much rice during my childhood), and I order something between the lines of ‘I’d never eat that’ (masala) and ‘I’d eat that every day if I could afford it’ (ribeye).
We get plates of hot garlic buttered naan and delve into what I can now say is the best Indian meal I’ve had. The Masala boti rubbed ribeye is a pleasant surprise; the meat is tender, pulled off the bone easily and well marinated with all types of spices. It retains that tandoor oven smoky flavour, and I wonder how I could ever hate anything masala related from this moment on.
The end of the night turns quite weird however; after too many bottles of prosecco (all on the company card of course) and a glance at the slightly uninspiring desert menu, we order Nutella naans with coconut ice cream. Yes, that’s right, Nutella naans. It feels wrong (and according to some of my colleagues, tastes wrong) but seems to top a perfect night well. The ice cream is milky and flecked with bits of coconut, and the naan and Nutella is well, naan and Nutella.
After the meal, I realised I’d been wrong for a very long time; I always imagined Indian food as watery saag in foil or a congealed korma in a jar – but after visiting Tandoor Chop House, I knew that wasn’t ever the case. I left satiated and free from any curry worries that once plagued me – a long-awaited re-introduction into the celebrated world of Indian cuisine.