Stepping off the train in Southall (aka Little India), which believe it or not is only a twelve minute journey from Paddington station. Once you arrive in Southall you’re immediately greeted with the intense smell of what i thought was onion bhajis – i got quickly excited. A mere five minutes later and we arrived at the restaurant we were to be dining at – Madhus. Compared to the rest of the restaurants on the high street Madhus was very smart, probably the smartest. The restaurant has both a downstairs, and mirroring upstairs dining room , plus a lovely private dining area. They’re also well know for catering high end events – something to bare in mind.
After arriving thought the doors we quickly settled in with a bottle of wine – each, my kind of evening. A few starters quickly made their way out to us and first was an absolutely stunning single achari king prawn. Huge in size and marinated in a multitude of spices and a garlic laden marinade – you can only imagine how good it was. Juicy and succulent i couldn’t have asked for more from these prawns, apart from more of them.
An up close and personal photo with this piece of paneer couldn’t be helped. When paneer is cooked right, it can be a beautiful thing, but more often than not I’m faced with something resembling rubber. Madhus on the other hand certainly know what they’re doing with it. A smoky grilled piece which had been cooked and marinated to perfection, topped with a good smothering of fried onions and pepper. The paneer was so soft and crumbly but still retained a layer of its yogurt coating which hadn’t got lost in the cooking process. This was mouthwatering stuff.
I’m not entirely sure why i ordered the next dish, chicken malai tikka. It’s really the sort of dish you’d order if you didn’t like Indian food as its generally quite bland and simple, with more a focus on the poultry itself being well cooked. Here i wasn’t overly excited by the dish, but it did exactly what i could hope from it. The cream cheese marinade was subtle but in abundance, the chicken extremely soft and juicy. For what it was, it was a very good example.
Our delicious arrays of starters quickly changed in to what ended up being an epic Indian feast. Aloo raviya, was a deeply rich coloured dish of baby aubergines stuffed with an array of spices and potatoes, all encompassed in a thick sauce with a final sprinkle of coriander. The more i eat out, the more i can’t help to think how easy it would be to convert to a vegetarian. It’s never going to happen, but if i was faced with such delicious dishes as this, containing beautifully soft aubergines and bursting with all that flavour – you can easily forget about all the meat, for a few moments.
Naan breads were i dare say, the best I’ve ever eaten in London. To look at they were no more than ordinary, but one bite and you were transcended away for a moment to somewhere else. It only got better when i took my first bite of the peshwari naan (filled with coconut and raisin). Light, buttery, sweet – its little things like this which you don’t’ expect, and really make a big impact on your meal. Especially when used to scoop away that delicious meaty lamb sauce.
Gajar halwa (warm Indian carrot cake) was again stunning, and miles apart from what used to be my favourite at Salaam Namaste in Fitzrovia. Sweet spices, pistachio and a hint of cardamom all helped to create this stunning example. The kulfi that accompanied it would have been much better suited on a stick as it was rather hard to stake my fork in to. I wasn’t entirely sure what flavour it was in the end, but it had a sweet, toffee like taste to it, which i liked.
So my first trip to Southall proved to be one which I’m going to repeat. I fell in love with the area a little and mainly because of its food. Southall isn’t the prettiest of places but Madhus is, along with its food and staff. If traditional Punjabi Indian cuisine is what you’re after then keep Madhus in mind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and leaving feeling very full, a little tipsy and still have change in your pocket.