You might think it a bold move to open an Indian restaurant on the site of one of the Capital’s most legendary curry houses, but the team behind Pali Hill are more interested in offering diners a new taste of India than filling Gaylord’s shoes. The London debut of New Delhi-based Azure Hospitality is named after an old suburb of Mumbai. Gone are the white table cloths and dark carpets, the new interior is kitsch and colourful with Pondicherry yellow and inky blue paintwork, art deco light fittings, mid-century inspired rattan furnishings and folk patterned cushions; eclectic artwork has been specially commissioned for the walls. Head Chef Avinash Shashidhara (previously River Café and Hibiscus) and his team work from an open kitchen at the back. The concept: regional Indian small plates, adapted from home recipes and traditional techniques, made to share in an informal setting.
I visit with old university friends. We haven’t been together since early last year, and have much to catch up on, so we are slow to make our dinner choices. The waiter suggests a papadi chat to share while we digest our options. We’re pleased he does: a popular north Indian streetfood, it is made with fried flour crispies (papadi), spiced yoghurt, red and yellow tomato, pomegranate, sev, mint and tamarind chutney. It is pleasingly crunchy, sweet, spicy and extremely moreish, and bodes well for what is to follow. And we are not disappointed; the langoustines – which come fresh from Scotland on the train daily – are succulent and juicy, served in a delicious wild garlic, ajwain and chilli dressing, which we mop up with the warm tandoori sourdough roti (though, dripping with house ghee, this is equally good eaten alone). We fight over the sea bass, which comes steamed inside a banana leaf and topped with matchstick potato chips, served with raw mango, mint, coriander and lime. The fragrant Cornish lamb biryani is a safe option, but one we’re pleased we made, and is perfect accompanied by an excellent dal tadka. Plates licked clean, we’re told we simply can’t leave without sampling the Alphonso mango cheesecake, and we concur that it was good advice. The perfectly ripe mango is sweet and juicy. We are too full to sample Bandra Bhai, the funky looking underground bar, but vow to return soon and work our way through the cocktail list, too.
79-81 Mortimer Street, W1W (020 8130 0101; palihill.co.uk)