50 Connaught Street,
020 7723 8855
Mon-Sat 12:30-3pm, 6pm-11:30pm, Sun-12:30-3:30pm, 6pm-11pm
Award-winning restaurant, first launched in London in 1981, serving a menu of classic Indian dishes and street food staples. Tandoori dishes are a speciality, along with a range of cocktails.
Bombay Palace first flung open its doors to Connaught Street in 1981 and is one of eight branches around the world, including outposts in Beverley Hills and Hyderabad. The London restaurant is vast, and we happily contemplate its size while clutching a restorative beer in the separate bar. This whopping space could easily service a hotel, but thanks to the warmth of the hospitality, it feels like a favourite local restaurant, which is exactly what it is.
Bombay Palace is well patronised by the local community, who come here for Indian cooking with a level of care and attention above the high street norm. We start with a selection of traditional street snacks including golgappa puri, small round crispy shells to be filled with flavoured water and popped whole into the mouth – always a dicey experience for fear of spluttering contents onto the tablecloth – but no less delicious for it. Papri chaat is a riot of contrasting textures; fried wafers of dough, boiled chickpeas and potatoes, yoghurt, tamarind chutney and sev (short, crisp noodles) arrive as a jumble which is almost never pleasing on the eye but fabulous to eat – sweet, tangy and satisfying.
The real stars here are the Tandoori dishes – many types of protein given a good soak in spice then skewered into the intense heat of the tandoor. Seekh kebabs are a hit, having enough fat to remain moist, and strength of flavour to stand up to spice. The surprise win however is the chicken, beautifully marinated in yoghurt, ginger and citrus, it has been sliced on top to encourage even cooking, avoiding the dryness which often plagues this preparation.
Rich dishes sit very well alongside lighter meats and both dhal makhani and butter chicken disappear quickly. Black lentils have been slow cooked for hours with spices, the sauce finished with creamy slabs of dairy, and it’s rich enough to satisfy on its own with a spoonful of fluffy basmati. Our favourite dish of the meal however, is chicken with fresh fenugreek. Both seeds and leaves are used in Indian cooking and this dish uses the latter, the sauce unusual with their pleasing musty sweetness.
All this, pilau rice and naan bread make dessert a touch and go decision, and squeezing in a kulfi seems to be the most sensible option (get the pistachio). Leaving Bombay Palace we are stuffed with good food, too much wine and the afterglow which comes only from genuine hospitality. The locals are onto a very good thing.