Veeraswamy, Regent Street, London
It’s not often (make that never) the GCC has to book a table for its monthly curry. But, hey, it’s Christmas (almost), so a month’s notice was in order (and even then we had to change nights). But it was worth it to try the oldest curry house in the country.
Veeraswamy has been around since 1926 and they don’t mind reminding you of the fact on everything you see in the place, from menus to wine lists and more, so much so you’d think the place is actually called Veeraswamy 1926. But who can blame them? Because although this wasn’t the first Indian to open in England (that’s said to be the Hindoostane Coffee House, 1810), it’s the oldest surviving one, and that’s some achievement.
‘Not exactly the _ _ _ _ [insert name of any local curry house] is it?’ exclaimed the GCC members at first sight of the décor, with the array of turbans lining the walls, the gold screens and the mellow lighting (no flash photography in here please).
Prices are double a decent curry elsewhere and treble a cheap and cheerful one down your local, but you don’t come to Veeraswamy to save money.
Crab kebab (£11.50), Duck kebab (£10), both served on banana leaf, and very plump Scallop Moilee (£11.50) got the ball rolling for starters along with a round of Cobras (£5.85 each).
But the best was yet to come. Huge portions of Raan Akbari (lamb shanks) and Hyderbad Lamb Biryani (both at £23) set the tone with super soft and tasty lamb, spiced to perfection, clearly with delicious and fresh whole spices. The latter is said to have been on the menu back when they kicked off in 1926 so they’ve clearly had some time to perfect it. Which they have.
The Chingri Malai (£23) also didn’t disappoint when it came to huge plump prawns in its creamy sauce. No fiddling around looking for shrimps in this dish. Ideal for dipping the Tandoori Roti (£6.70) into. Heaven knows, the GCC knows a few things about Indian food, but it’s not often they rave about a roti like they did here.
Gosht Hara Salan (£23) and soft, soft Saag (£7) cooked with tasty, tiny chunks of crunchy onion, ensured there was plenty of green on the table, while a Murgh Makhani (£17) delivered a sense of normality to proceedings.
The Nectarine Tandoori (£6.75) soon put paid to any thoughts of normal though. Whoever thought up this slightly caramelised dish, well done to you. Tandoori Nectarine indeed.
But like the place, it has to be tried by every curry lover.
Veeraswamy, Victory House, 99 Regent Street, London, W1B 4RS (entrance on Swallow Street). Tel: 020 7734 1401.
Food ① ② ③ ④ ⑤
Decor ① ② ③ ④ ⑤
Value ① ② ③ ④
Atmosphere (late on Tuesday night) ① ② ③
Service and friendliness ① ② ③ ④