Four years ago, I found it hard to even sit next to someone that was eating a curry. After a bad experience when I was ten (I’ll spare you the details), I thought my curry days were firmly behind me. But around four years ago I found myself with a boyfriend who adored the stuff. But it wasn’t just him, it was his family too. Not long after we met, I moved into his family home and was surrounded by it too much for my liking. When we had a night off cooking, I would sit with my lemon chicken from the local Chinese restaurant while they would gorge on dosas and Karahi chicken and lamb chops.
‘Come on Sarah, you have GOT to try this’ shouted my boyfriend’s dad one evening. And that was it, the whole family taunted me and I felt like I was a small child in a playground getting bullied to eat a cockroach off the floor. My boyfriend put the fork up to my mouth and I begrudgingly opened, eyes closed, and chewed. I can’t remember my exact reaction but it had the whole family laughing. After one mouthful, I have quite literally never looked back. The curry in question was from a local Wembley restaurant called Karahi King where my boyfriend’s family has been going for over 20 years. I can’t tell you how glad I am that that forkful of tender, spicy, saucy chicken dish was forced fed to me that evening. It opened up my eyes to pretty much anything and taught me not to be so narrow minded when it comes to food.
We’re lucky to live in an area of London with a large Indian community so we’re spoilt for choice with good Indian restaurants (that don’t serve dishes like the chicken tikka passanda that I ate when I was ten). But I’ve often found it hard to locate a Central London restaurant that serves food as tasty that is also reasonably priced.
I was invited to try Malabar Junction, initially to use as the Indian entry for mine and Jacks Eat the Olympics challenge. But as we want to use our local for that, I thought I’d write it up for you lot.
Malabar Junction resides on Great Russell Street, just away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. I walked in to find Jack waiting for me in the sitting room at the entrance of the restaurant, flicking through a copy of Spice magazine, which was sat on a coffee table full of Indian food magazines. It took him a while to notice I had arrived (too engrossed in the magazine) but once he did, he jumped up and we were shown to our table at the back of the restaurant. We sat in large wicker chairs padded with comfortable cushions and looked out over the whole restaurant.
The menu provided a wide range of options, from dosas to Biryani and Tandoor specials. We shared a couple of starters, chilli paneer (£7.50) and a Malabar masala dosa (£8.50) before sharing tadka dal (£6.50) and kerela mutton curry (£10.95) with a side of plain basmati rice (£2.50). I opted for the semiya payasam (£3.75) for dessert, while Jack went for the unadventurous option with two scoops of Belgian chocolate Haagen Daaz £2.75).
Anticipation of the dosa was high. Another local of ours, Chenai Dosa, serves huge dosa pancakes with a delicious potato filling and unlimited sauces for around £3! The dosa at Malabar was slightly more expensive but that is to be expected when you’re in Central London. Still, the prices definitely don’t break the bank. It arrived, smaller but more perfectly formed than our usual with three sauces – chilli, sambar and coconut. We tucked in with our knife and forks (something we rarely do at our local as they believe the food tastes better when eaten with your hands) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The potato was soft and fresh with the perfect amount of spice. The sambar was thick and chunky, the coconut sauce creamy.
The chilli paneer was an utter delight. Soft cubes of paneer sat in a spicy chilli sauce and crunchy vegetables – the perfect way to awaken the taste buds. There definitely could have been a few more chunks on the plate though!
Our squeaky clean plates were politely taken away to make room for our mains. They arrived and the colours were fantastic – two curries sat in front of us, one bright yellow and the other deep red. The tadka dal was creamy with a hint of spice from the fresh chilli garnish. The mutton was tender with the most fantastic accompanying spiced tomato sauce. The bread basket that we chose to accompany the dishes (£6) contained paratha, chapatti, and poori, which were all delicious, except for the slight mishap with the paratha – it didn’t hold together very well and we had to dip small strips into the curry when we would have preferred to rip off a huge hunk for dipping. It didn’t take us long to polish everything off and as soon as we had wiped the remnants of each dish with the last of our breads from the basket, the polite and friendly waiter was quick to clear our plates, but not before commenting on the distinct lack of any trace that there had in fact been a pile of food on each plate.
Our dessert orders were taken and delivered promptly. We knew what to expect from the Haagen Daaz but the semita payasam was a new adventure and one that upon first glance didn’t look too appetising. The bad thoughts were soon diminished as I took the first mouthful of creamy vermicelli, which had been cooked in cardamom flavoured milk and dotted with raisins and cashews. This was a great dessert, not too heavy and the perfect way to satisfy the sweet craving at the end of the meal.
After dinner, we walked out of the restaurant, happy in the knowledge that we might just have found the Central London curry house that we have long been searching for.
107 Great Russell Street