Complaining about the lack of good Indian restaurants in Western Continental Europe has become somewhat of a habit for me. I often find restaurants to be cooking multiple boring variations of the same curry, exchanging the poultry for lamb, and the red curry paste for yellow curry paste, often times combined with medium quality ingredients.
So when in London I am always on the lookout for good Indian restaurants. Babur (http://www.babur.info) totally fits this category. Located somewhat off-center in Forest Hill, South East London, the restaurant offers innovative and modern Indian cuisine while still being true to the classic Indian flavours and textures. The place actually already exists since 1985, so that should say it all!
The restaurant was fully booked on a Saturday night, so do not forget to book your table in advance. The service was very nice, discreet but charming. As a starter I had the Paneer ke soole, char-grilled Indian cheese with Rajasthani masala and mango chutney. The starter was fruity, spicy and hearty at the same time and was beautifully presented on the plate (see picture). My company had spinach and sweet potato shingara, a fried homemade Bengali pastry with an aromatic and comforting filling.
Babur is very keen on their wines, something you don’t see too often in Indian restaurants, as one usually hears that Indian cuisine does not pair well with wine. For every dish on the menu, Babur suggests a wine au verre. That night I did not drink any alcohol (yes that can happen) but the idea is super and the wine choices seemed great.
For our main, we chose the Somerset organic chicken supreme with mustard, yoghurt, fenugreek and black chickpea rice and steamed shoulder of lamb with spice-rich Punjabi masala, lamb jus and beetroot rice. Chicken is often what I find the most disappointing in Indian restaurants. Not here: the chicken was juicy and moist and although the sauce was mild, it was very aromatic and perfectly balanced. The lamb has been marinated for 100 hours, was very tender and the sauce was intense and spicy. Regarding the degree of spice, Babur works with a system of zero, one or two tigers on the menu. No tiger means mild (which luckily does not mean bland at Babur), one tiger means medium spicy and two tigers means very hot. The chicken had no tiger while the lamb had one. I generally like spicy food (as long as it’s not overpowering the actual flavours) and I found that one tiger was already pretty spicy. Not sure I could have handled two…
To accompany our food we also had some plain butter nan and Baghare baigan, a vegetable side of baby aubergines in a peanut sauce. Both were very good as well.
We did not have any dessert that night but they do have some appealing ones on the menu for example white chocolate and cardamom mousse or saffron and pistachio praline kulfi.
If you like Indian cuisine and are travelling to London, definitively give Babur a go!