Walking into Delhi Grill I felt something of the real Delhi, in all it’s chaotic glory, about it. So the meal wasn’t eaten to a background of baring horns, shouted conversation and sacred cows. But there was still something undeniably sub continental about both place and taste.
There has been a lot of buzz about Delhi Grill, more than you would usually get for a new Indian restaurant. A lot has been said about the fresh flavours and home made rotis. If there’s one thing a lot of sub-continental restaurants fall down on, it’s rotis and chapatis – so often bland and greasy. But when you walk in to see a young man spinning and rolling fresh dough, you know you’re know they should be good.
The menu is divided into two admirably short sections: “From the Tandoor” and “From the Pot”. It’s refreshing to see this focus on North West Indian food, not trying to be all things to all people. This allows them to concentrate on turning out good food. And that’s exactly what they do.
Tiliapa pakora was small parcels of firm white fish in a light and ungreasy batter. A little bland, but still nice. Chicken Tikka on the other hand was a real revelation. Meaty and full of warm juicy flavour, this was not some factory farmed tasteless fowl, it was decent meat. And perfectly spiced.
Lamb sheekh kebabs were little logs of spicy delight: warm, juicy and very tasty – they have someone cooking here who really knows how to handle a tandoor. It makes me want to go back to hit up the lamb chops and chicken wings.
And those rotis? They were light and airy, paper thin with a lovely wholewheat bready bite to them. Perfect for scooping up the chicken pieces, and mopping up sauce. They didn’t disintegrate at the touch of sauce either. Lovely.
Tandoori paneer was another revelation. So much of this Indian cheese in the UK comes as tasteless rubbery lumps. But this showed the same attention to flavour and texture that characterised the other tandoor dishes. Firm and tasty, and another highlight.
The meal was fast becoming one highlight after another: chicken, lamb, paneer. And next up, my dish of the night: Cholay. Slow cooked chickpeas in coriander and garlic sounds deceptively simple. But it was oh so good. It packed a simple soft punch – not so much a hit of chilli heat as a long slow-mo thwack by a warm, velveteen, spicy fist. I could have eaten this all night long.
Rogan Gosht was good, but didn’t excite me in quite the same way. Mind you the paneer and cholay were hard acts to follow. The lamb was tender and tasty, the sauce well spiced, but it just didn’t have as much of an impact.
What’s great about Delhi Grill is they know how to handle their spices. They don’t hit the default chilli heat, but allow the warmer and more subtle spice notes to come through. It’s this general approach, not afraid to let the gentler side of Indian cooking shine, that makes this such a good place.
And it’s a bargain too. With drinks, the meal came to about £16 per head – and we left well filled and quietly glowing.
Delhi Grill, 21 Chapel Market, Islington, London N1, 020 7278 8100, www.delhigrill.com