Sunday, 10 January 2010

Dinner @ Bangalore Express (Indian), London

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a time for catching up with old friends but when you get to my age, it's hard to do two big nights out in a row. So after a Friday night that ended with dinner at Rasa Sayang, the last thing I wanted to do was to have a big Saturday. Mercifully, my mates El Greco, Nuf and The Ref weren't too keen on a big night either. So it was with great relief that after a beer or two, we left the Fire Station for a bite to eat. It was cold and we were lazy so we just crossed the Waterloo Road to try Bangalore Express.

It'd be fair to say that this is a trendy casual Indian gaff and Nuf had it spot on with his comment that it was Wagamama-esque. Modern art festooned the walls although it just about stayed on the right side of not being pretentious. On further reflection, it's also similar in concept to Masala Zone. We were seated at the end of a long communal table although there were also non-communal tables and double-decker booths.

It wasn't easy to order as the menu is frankly all over the shop – I can't even begin to describe how confusing and disjointed it looks – it's probably easier to check it out on their website. To confuse matters further, many of the dishes had lengthy descriptions and don't get me started about the inappropriate use of the word tapas in a non-Spanish context.

Once we got over the menu confusion, we ordered some poppadoms (£2.50) which were cracking and the following dishes from their 'tapas' and 'tandoori' sections to start:
  • Chicken tikka masala cocktail sausages
  • Tandoori lamb chops
  • Golden fried tiger prawns with chilli jam
  • Onion bhajis
These all cost £4.50 each but were largely disappointing. The sausages were particularly piss poor, I couldn't tell that they were made of chicken and I'm not sure what made them tikka. The Ref remarked they could have come from Iceland but I'm pretty sure not even Kerry Katona would've served these up. The three lamb chops were tough and overcooked to oblivion whilst decent quality prawns were murdered by a thick, soggy, and claggy batter. The pick of the bunch were the onion bhajis but there would've been something seriously wrong if they managed to balls these up.

Ignoring the gimmicky post-modern Indian spin on fish & chips, burgers and calzone, we plumped for more orthodox fare for our mains. Nuf went for a large dosa (made with chilli hot batter) filled with tandoori chicken, grilled peppers and masala mash. The rest of us used the menu grid to create the following 'big plates of curry & rice':
  • Chicken – jalfrezi – chickpeas & spinach – pilau rice
  • Chicken – dhansak – sweet potato mash – pilau rice
  • Chicken – tikka masala – potato & sesame salad – pilau rice

All our mains cost £8.50 and thankfully they were much better than the starters although that wouldn't be too hard. Nuf's order was the pick of the bunch – a well made giant dosa with a tasty generous filling although I thought the accompanying dahl was too salty.

Our big plates had a fresh clean taste although we all agreed that they it lacked zing (including my supposedly hot jalfrezi) with El Greco describing the spicing as 'tourist strength'. Other minor complaints included the chicken breast being a bit dry, not enough curry sauce and over-salty spinach. On the plus side the naan breads (£2.50 each) were really excellent, in particular the garlic naan.

For desserts, Nuf and The Ref ordered the Bangalore express sundae (£4.25) which they thought was too sweet. The total bill was pretty reasonable at £93 for four including 12.5% service – although it should be noted we didn't order many drinks. Service was unobtrusive, sometimes overly so as we had to remind the waiters of our drinks orders and missing cutlery.

Although the food was a mixed bag, it was a top night as the guys all got in touch with their inner foodie. Throughout the meal, they chipped in with insightful comments and whilst some were tongue in cheek, most of them were on the money.

For example, Nuf suggested that I blog about Sri Lankan cuisine as they use noodles in the form of string hoppers. Whilst El Greco despaired at the poor standard of meze served by chains like Tas and how they just don't measure up to proper Greek meze.

However the biggest revelation of the night was The Ref. Considering his favourite eateries number KFC and Kebab King, he really embraced the esprit de blog. All night, he came out with brilliant one-liners whilst doling out imaginary yellow cards to the waiters for any sign of poor service. Not content with giving Giles Coren a run for his money, he even came up with some ideas for future blog features. Unbelievable !

Verdict: Maddeningly inconsistent – it's hard to believe that the same kitchen that knocked out the excellent dosa and the naan were responsible for the poor tapas and the crimes against lamb chops. I wouldn't hurry back here but I might pop in for a dosa if I happened to be out and about in the Waterloo area.

Other Stuff: There's a branch of Bangalore Express on Gracechurch St in the City and I wouldn't surprised if it develops into a mini-chain.

Bangalore Express on Urbanspoon


  1. Indian Calzone? Chicken tikka masala concktail sausages? I think I'd run screaming if anyone presented me with that menu.

  2. 4 pound 50 for papadums! That is a crime! Haha

  3. Lizzie - we did um and argh before going in but there was enough 'normal stuff' on the menu not to be totally put off. I still shudder at the thought of those sausages so god only knows what their calzone might be like.

    3HT - the poppadoms were actually £2.50. It was the crappy 'tapas' that cost £4.50 - now they were criminal !