Bombay Brasserie and Bar, Gloucester Road, South Kensington has been an A-lister for the great and the good as well as the just famous and now it has adopted a new, cool ivory-coloured persona in place of the Rajesque opulence it once flaunted.
The restaurant has undergone a couple of transformations since it opened in 1982 as one of London’s first Indian fine-dining destinations. It has recently been refurbished and is now much lighter and more contemporary than its previous incarnation. There are still the famed sepia pictures of Maharajas gracing the walls of the bar and on a panel next to the piano in the restaurant, but now Bombay Brasserie is less fussy but just as classy as the old BB.
My guest remarked that Bombay Brasserie has perhaps the most generous table spacing of any London restaurant of any culinary persuasion. The restaurant evidently considers the comfort of its guests, and one truly does feel like a guest rather than a customer. The service, overseen by Operations Manager Mr. Shailesh Pandya, is, just like the man himself, professional and friendly yet unobtrusive.
The conservatory has been transformed with the removal of the central open kitchen. The walls are now covered with white-and-black Indian folk murals and there is an outside terrace to enjoy on warm summer evenings. But the new private dining area which seats about 18 is absolutely stunning. It’s a vision of dark wood, carved-back chairs and Indian good taste. It’s understated splendour.
Executive Chef Prahlad Hegde is modest, charming and softly spoken but heads an energetic and well-polished team. Chef Hegde is the hidden cornerstone in the kitchen and his skill as a chef has won him awards and deserved respect from his peers as well as those he feeds. It’s his food that entices the visitor to return …and often. He doesn’t court publicity but rather works quietly away to build a solid and creditable worldwide reputation for Bombay Brasserie.
We visited on a hot and sticky evening. Yes, it’s true, they are rare in London but when they arrive they are strength-sapping and tiresome. Alcohol didn’t appeal, even though we were luxuriating in Bombay Brasserie’s air-conditioning, but we were invited to try a couple of virgin cocktails and they hit the spot, to the extent that we ordered another round. Not exactly binge drinking and there was neither guilt nor hangover. Tamaringer was an addictive concoction of sharp and thirst-quenching tamarind spiked with chilli served with plenty of ice. My guest’s libation was the equally moreish Green Refresher which offers the much-publicised healthful properties of green tea along with pineapple, mint, ginger and lemon.
This restaurant is far from being a high-street curry house (although these are fewer in number they have long been well-loved institutions and it was they, after all, who gave us our appreciation of spice). Bombay Brasserie is famed for its accessible Indian fine-dining ambiance and menu. Chef Hegde has a light touch, a deft hand and a lot of passion for his craft. The menu has classics but also dishes that are unique to this restaurant.
Non-meat eaters are well catered for here with seafood aplenty as well as vegetable dishes such as the okra which shouldn’t be missed. The griddled prawns and scallops are for which to die. I would venture to say that those scallops are the best I have ever had in London, or anywhere else for that matter. They are translucent and succulent. Pan-fried Chilean sea bass on a base of spinach and mushroom is a fine example of why this fish has become so popular and it’s a flaky must-try on this menu.
Braised lamb shank should be the dinner of choice for any card-carrying carnivore. It arrived simply presented with a light gravy on the side. The meat was, and I know it’s a much-used cliché, ‘falling off the bone’. That’s a more literarily nifty phrase than ‘sufficiently tender as to be easily shredded with the blunt edge of a spoon or a sharp look’ which would be equally true.
Bombay Brasserie and Executive Chef Prahlad Hegde never disappoint. Its convenient location, its delicious food and impeccable service have kept this restaurant buzzing. It might have changed its décor, it hasn’t changed its name to Mumbai Somethingorother, and the high quality of its dishes and presentation remain the same. Any lover of good food will have this restaurant on their gastronomic Bucket List.
Phone +44 (0)20 7370 4040
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018