Carom the restaurant: named after the Indian spice. Carom seeds have a taste similar to thyme and are popular in Indian savoury snacks, so even the restaurant’s name invites the visitor to expect something delicious.
Carom is a part of the D&D London restaurant group. They operate over 30 leading restaurants in London, Leeds, Paris, New York and Tokyo. Carom is found in the celebrated and vibrant neighbourhood of Soho in London. It’s an area famed for Chinatown and its associated restaurants, but cross Shaftesbury Avenue and there are streets boasting a much more eclectic mix of eateries.
This was my first visit to Carom. It has a new and contemporary design and that tends to start alarm bells when I am looking for comforting Indian food. Yes, I think that Indian food in the UK has become such a thread in our national culinary tapestry just because it has always offered that attractive comforting quality.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire and appreciate the innovation of many ground-breaking Indian chefs with their plated dishes and nods to Paris but I will always remain a lover of traditional dishes (perhaps with the chef’s personal twist) served in the time-honoured way.
Carom does indeed have a thoroughly modern and buzzy ambiance and the décor is attractive and just right for its location. There is ample seating in bar areas as well as tables and booths in the restaurant itself. A cold Thursday evening in January didn’t seem to put off the diners, many of whom were evidently regulars. It’s a restaurant that works well for a quick dinner before the theatre or club, or for a longer evening with a group of friends.
Head Chef Vishnu Natarajan has created an authentic Indian menu that gladdened the heart of this frozen visitor. He was born in Chennai in southern India and joined Carom in February 2013. He says his main influence remains his mother’s cooking.
My starter was Pakora Chaat and this is a must-try here. This small plate presented elegance, comfort, skill …and the possibility of addiction. A triumph of flavour and texture. Even a committed carnivore would be converted to spinach before the arrival of the main course. Excellent!
Chef Vishnu has included a dish from his home state in the guise of Chennai Chicken Curry. This is a classic comfort gravy dish. The sauce was silky and well-spiced and covered a substantial portion of tender chicken. This was great value for money, being only £8.50. I seldom quote prices in my reviews but this deserves promoting for quality, quantity and great value. Times are tough and it’s good to find a spot where one can be spoilt without guilt.
Alleppy-style curries hale from Kerala and my guest pronounced his Sea bass Alleppy curry to be outstanding. The sauce had a pronounced coconut flavour reflecting one of the most iconic and common ingredients from this state. A mild and rich curry.
The aforementioned bar provides bracing libations to accompany dinner but it also provides a stylish venue for some memorable cocktails. Memorable for their striking flavours but also for their equally remarkable price. From 4pm till 6.30pm one can indulge in a glass of something colourful and reviving for a fiver! My guest enjoyed a Dark and Stormy which was ginger beer well-laced with rum, lime and bitters. I rather like the sound of a Raspberry Collin with vodka as the main ingredient. I am having a Dry January in aid of Cancer Research so I missed my chance, but perhaps a return visit for a bar review is in my near future.
I hadn’t expected to like Carom but I loved it. It demonstrates what made Indian food so popular in the first place. It has great food from a great chef and there are menus to suit every pocket and inclination. It has a real city vibe but it clings to a fine food philosophy. I’ll return, and soon.
100 Wardour Street
Phone: 020 7314 4002
12:00–2:30 pm for lunch
4:00–11:00 pm for dinner
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018