119 Brockley Rise, SE23 1JP
In a tireless quest for perfection in the field of South East London curries, we set out on an expedition to deepest Brockley in an attempt to witness the fabled Babur on the 25th February 2007.
The journey required two buses, stout clothing and a spirit of adventure. Luckily we were accompanied by two local guides fluently conversant in South East London transport lore. These two hardy souls had both actually lived in the wilds of the Brockley jungle for many years and were able to easily negotiate their way onto a 177 from Greenwich Town Centre to just outside Goldsmiths College and then either a 171 or 172 to the restaurant itself, for which the rest of us were entirely grateful.
Leaving the foothills of Deptford we found ourselves unwilling to lose sight of comforting Tube signs at New Cross Gate as we plunged into uncharted territory – The Brockley Interior.
At first we were caught up with wonderment at the superb late Victorian Houses with their dinky terracotta detail, not noticing how far we had gone. But as we passed a chilling cemetary on our left, we were forced to admit that this was somewhere few Greenwich Residents actually ever see and our chatter died to an awed silence.
We sighted the quarry from some distance. A gigantic crouching tiger, mauling a small, innocent rock. We approached with caution, checking our credit cards were cocked, ready for any eventuality.
We were right. We sighed with relief as we realised the ‘tiger’ on the roof was indeed fibreglass, the ‘rock’ beneath it in no immediate danger. As we approached the door of this temple to Indian food, venerated by the locals for the past twenty years, we decided that despite its being in that region that is Near But Not Actually The South Circular, it was likely that these particular natives were friendly.
Inside the decor was bright and sassy, modern without it being tacky after a recent refurbishment. The lighting was bright enough to see the food, dark enough to feel intimate. Bare brick and wood-finished walls with muted, tasteful art works went just far enough in being contemporary to not just look cheap – so many ‘modern’ eateries think that clattering tables and laminate floors make them look cutting-edge.
It was festival time. The owner had recently been on a trip to the subcontinent and brought back 100 kilos of excess baggage in authentic ingredients and the atmosphere was exuberant. An exquisitely-dressed young woman brought gifts to the table, bangles and bhindis, and henna with which she decorated any hand proffered her way.
There was a special festival menu, and some of our party went for items on it. They had been matched with specific Indian wines. The food itself had a distinctly fusion feel to it – it was the first time I had ever seen rabbit or ostrich on a traditional Indian menu.
The food was excellent. The starters were intriguing and just spicy enough, the puppodums well-exectued and with interesting pickles. The coconut chicken was a particular favourite, but apart from a rather (read “very”) bony and slightly dry sea bass, it was all superb. My side dish of smoked aubergine was wonderful.
The wine was pretty good – not a traditional wine-producing region, India is catching up fast. I wouldn’t order a caseful, but it went well with what we were eating.
So. At the risk of sounding like Meridian Magazine, which never seems to find fault with anything, this is actually a really good restaurant which, if you avoid the sea bass, will almost definitely reward the effort taken in getting there.
They have a lot of festivals, apparently, and it’s well worth finding out about when they are as they do go that extra mile.