Sarkhel’s was a celebrated Indian restaurant in Southfields, between Wandsworth and Wimbledon. That restaurant has now closed but it’s a strange irony that some of the staff from Sarkhel’s have opened their own restaurant. The coincidences continue: Triphal, the heir presumptive to Sarkhel’s, is right next door to the original restaurant. It’s unfortunate that the former Sarkhel’s has just been taken over by a competitor.
Triphal should not, however, be too anxious about the proximity of its neighbour. It has only been open a few months but it has already garnered glowing reviews from customers once loyal to Sarkhel’s. Triphal is starting to attract its own following of regulars, and there can be no finer accolade than that.
This is a small establishment that was a Thai restaurant in its previous incarnation. The murals give a nod to floating markets but the ambiance is pleasing, the staff attentive and the food as well executed here as at any high-end central London Indian restaurant. Its menu is confident and appealing with plenty of regional diversity and a hint of individual inspiration.
Onion Pakora (crisp-fried onions in gram flour batter served with tamarind chutney) is a standard in many a high-street curry house but Triphal treats the dish with a bit of respect. The pakoras were light and the ragged edges maintained their crunch till the end of our rather leisurely first course.
Crispy Squid fried in spiced rice flour with lime zest and chilli was another refined starter. The rice flour gave a white and delicate coating to the squid. It’s my favourite seafood but it can so often disappoint when the chef overcooks. There is nothing tempting in a mouthful of elastic bands. The example at Triphal was just right and moreish. Don’t order one portion to share as it’s unseemly to brawl in public.
Rang Biranga Paneer (Homemade cottage cheese cubes marinated in fenugreek leaf and cooked in the tandoor) could stand alone as a main course with just a few accompaniments. A striking skewer of large blocks of paneer interleaved with vegetables. The cheese was gilded and deliciously scorched and had robust texture. This showed the acceptable face of vegetarianism, a dish that is substantial enough for even a meat-eater – a must-try starter.
Dal Makhani – slow-cooked black lentils finished with cream – is a traditional favourite and Triphal adds just a little chilli heat. Order lots of naan bread to scoop this dal as I promise you it’s some of the lightest naan to be had. A simple element of the meal, but good bread is a joy and in my opinion much more interesting than rice.
Chingri Malai Curry – King Prawn simmered in coconut and curry leaf sauce – should surely become a signature dish. This is a mild, saffron-coloured curry that is less heavy than some kormas that I have eaten at other restaurants. Perhaps this is the dish to reserve for that rice. The sauce was flavourful and it grieved me to leave even a smear, but alas I was stuffed with side dishes of aubergines, and peas and mushrooms …and extra naan.
I wish every restaurant well but there are some that deserve to do very well indeed. Triphal is one such establishment. Its success can only depend on publicity. Its prices are more than competitive and the food will assure your return. The chef here can compete with many who have become household names. Word-of-mouth recommendations are worth more than paragraphs in newspapers or magazines. Yes, my written review encourages you to visit Triphal, but my mouth says “The food is a delight” and “Can I have some more Chingri Malai Curry please?”
Triphal Indian Restaurant – Southfields
201 Replingham Road, Southfields, SW18 5LY
Tel: 020 8870 0188
Open 7 days a week
Lunch – 12.00pm to 2.30pm
Dinner – 6.00pm to 10.30pm
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018