Without sounding like a broken record, Indian food is my one true love. I Deliveroo it from my favourite restaurants every week without fail, I eat it in an Indian restaurant at least every month and for as long as I can remember I’ve grown up eating it. My step-father is in fact the reason why I love it so much. For over 20 years he’s been half of a company which has provided almost the entire UK Indian restaurant scene with tandoori clay ovens and even fitted the one here at Darbaar. But with the times changing, Indian kitchens now want robata grills and who knows what else but he’s adapted well. We even still have a clay tandoori oven at my family home, though it rarely gets used these days.
The kitchens here at Darbaar are no exception either, with all of the new modern cooking utensils and ovens squeezed inside – as well as the huge tandoori ovens which are such an integral part of Indian cooking. We were lucky enough to be enjoying an Indian feast introduced by head chef himself, Abdul Yaseen – as well as a quick demonstration on creating the best marinades for meats, vegetables and seafood.
And of course no Indian meal can start without a few papadums or as it’s known in other areas of India, papad chips. They were served with a selection of chutneys, my favourite being that spicy chickpea salad and thick sweet mango chutney.
One thing I quickly discovered is that chef Abdul is the master of marinating and cooking everything so perfectly. No wonder he gave us a masterclass in it. Two of my favourite dishes from the entire meal were the ones we started with. Shahi paneer which was grilled to absolute perfection and was oh-so juicy. Equally as good was the royal Bengal style wild Madagascar prawns. Again the dish was carrying all of the juiciness the paneer did and the marinade perfectly spiced.
Things continued on a high and the main dishes started to arrive. Double smoked chicken with basil arrived smoking and the smell across the table was so inviting. Lovely morsels of well-cooked chicken with a fantastic spicy basil flavour running through the middle of it and in the air.
Another must order dish was the rich and creamy butter chicken. It was sort of in-between version of the classic and the British Indian staple we’re all so used to seeing – but of course this had much more depth, colour and a little more spice. A side of naan and fluffy pilau rice were the perfect accompaniments.
Things suddenly turned from fantastic to excellent with a stunning and rather huge in size – slow roasted leg of lamb. Moist, succulent and carved table-side. The whole thing was drizzled with a sauce I didn’t quite take note of, but flavour wise it was still perfect. A dish really fit for a royal banquet and the side of boiled eggs and roasted potatoes were a nice addition which really added a sense of home-cooking to it. The rich and deeply flavoured Kaali daal was great for dipping that leftover naan into too and drizzling a little of it over the meat.
I had such a lovely time at Darbaar and I’m so glad I finally got to experience this fantastic Indian restaurant. It wasn’t a restaurant I’d actually heard of before or even had on my radar – but of course now I do and I will be back. Head chef Abdul Yaseen is not just the master at marinating and precision-perfect cooking, but creating Indian food which transports you back to Indian itself – without ever having to leave central London.
NB: My meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.