Bombay Bicycle Club
Greenwich Kitchen, Trafalgar Road SE10
I don’t recall a more fiercely anticipated arrival of any kind of takeaway anytime or anywhere than that of the Bombay Bicycle Club. When the old fish and chip shop closed it stayed shut for sometime. I recall writing a blog about the number of dead shops down Trafalgar and Woolwich roads – in the 30s, I vaguely recall. That has been alleviated to some extent (though there’s still plenty of room for anyone contemplating any of the shops on our wish list – see ‘streets’ – don’t hold back now…) and not least by the presence of several decent shops – Theatre of Wine, The Fishmonger Ltd – and now the Bombay Bicycle Club.
The BBC is a chain – the same chain as the new Gourmet Burger Kitchen, I’m told – a bird that makes its nests in swanky London urban suburbs – Holland Park, Hampstead, Clapham – you get the picture. The very fact that it has decided to come to Trafalgar Road must say something good for us – that they consider it an area worth investing in. Money talks and they wouldn’t come here if they didn’t think the area could stand it – with a bit of luck others will come (preferably individuals, but good SMALL chains will be fine in the short term) and the so-so takeaway jungle we already have there will be forced to pull its socks up.
The place itself is ok – not as pretty as some of its branches, but still smart and fresh. It’s modern with a post-ironic touch – flock wallpaper and chandeliers making little statements about the traditional concept of the Indian restaurant. We tried to order a couple of days after the leaflet came through the door, but it took until the weekend before they actually opened.
We decided to enjoy our first order with friends. We were unable to get our usual “secret control menu” because, shock, the BBC actually do their own recipes and don’t completely follow the same lines as everywhere else (though of course everyone has their own interpretations of the classic anglicised meals.) We decided to order ‘off-piste’ and see where and what we got.
The online ordering service isn’t live yet, so we called up with our choices. The guy was difficult to understand, but it was worked out quickly. They promise a free bottle of house wine with your first order if it’s over £ 20 – believe me that isn’t hard at their prices. They don’t actually have any house wine at the moment, so they substituted a couple of bottles of beer instead.
The order arrived quickly (they’d said 45mins, it actually arrived in around half an hour) and with a smiley delivery man (always a good thing.) But we were a bit surprised by the size of the bag.
Now I don’t know about you lot, but the one thing I normally noticed about Indian takeaways is that you get plenty of food for your cash. We have got into the habit of under-ordering, because the portion sizes are so huge. When we looked at the prices of the BBC, we assumed that this must be the case with them too. Everything – from the poppadoms to the specials – was more expensive than everywhere else – some things just a few pence, others well into the pounds. This isn’t really a major problem if you know in advance and the quality is excellent. It just makes it a ‘treat’ takeaway rather than an everyday naughty staple.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that we had spent well over twice what we normally spend on an average curry, the amount in the bag just didn’t look like it was going to suffice. As our company hadn’t arrived, I dashed round to our local ‘normal’ takeaway to get supplements – rice, an extra main course, and extra poppadoms. I thought it would make a good contrast anyway.
I have to say that fresh boiled rice is fresh boiled rice. I could taste no difference between the BBC (£ 2.50) and Cafe Massala’s ( £ 1.40.) Of course some takeaways, especially if they’re not very busy, send old boiled rice – you can tell as soon as you open the box – but both of these were light and fluffy, and well-flavoured. We didn’t get any pilau from Cafe Massala, but the BBC’s version was aromatic and light. Again, when they say it’s for one person, it really is.
I think that there were two BBC poppadoms, but it’s impossible to say. It was literally a paper bag full of crumbs. The crumbs tasted nice – well spiced and crisp, but they were just crumbs. Cafe Massala’s version won that particular battle.
The onion bhajees were good – tasty and fresh. We chose one meat, one fish and one vegetarian dish as mains. Of these, the best (in my humble opinion) was easily the cod in masala sauce – rich, flavoursome and nicely spiced. Definitely one I’d have again. Of the vegetarian dishes there were no medium-spiced options (they do it in ‘penny farthings’ – one bicycle is ‘mild,’ two, ‘medium,’ three, ‘hot’) and I felt that their Dopiaza (£ 6.45, Cafe M’s – £ 3.80) was a little too mild, though also very tasty, well-made and with lots of recognisable vegetables as opposed to the brown mush you sometimes get. The meat dish, Lamb Madurai, advertised as a club favourite, (£ 7.75) was ok. nicely spiced but a little brown-mushy and slightly chewy – enjoyable but possibly not worth the money. Our aubergine side dish (£ 3.95) was rather oily and not as flavoursome as some in the past.
As I have mentioned, these dishes really are for one, so I had ordered an extra bog-standard dansak from C.M – £ 3.60. Dansaks are, of course, by their very nature, a bit on the brown-mush side, but this one was the usual medium/hot very edible standard.
My advice on this one is that the food is of very good quality. But the prices are high (we paid well over twice what we normally would and then went to get supplements from Cafe M) and the portions, when they say are for one, really are. There was very little left over from our meal – and that includes the supplementary dishes. That said, I still cannot move this morning…