Thursday 21 February 2008

Punjab - London, Covent Garden

After a day on my feet taking in the magnificent and varied architecture of central London it came as a relief to sit down all the same. Al Cochrane, one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, a guy with an insatiable thirst for life who I hadn't seen since I was eleven and almost another person, joined me for beer and curry. He said I hadn't changed at all, he's probably right - I've still got enough hair to make a winter coat and the same amount of freckles (on the last count at least).

Once inside the Punjab, poppadoms and dips included a lovely mint chutney, the recipes on their webpage. Chosing from a short list of appetisers I opted forAloo Tikki. They arrived swiftly and turned out to be two lovely potato croquettes full of hot creamy mash sour with resinous green chilli.

For main course I decided on chefs special Annari Gosht, ignoring the spinach based dishes ('for the Punjabi musclemen'). Cubes of firm, supple lamb like steak in a moreish curry sweet with lush, exotic pommegranate at the same time intense and sour. Good Vegetable Kofta, herby, fleshy balls in a tart pumpkin sauce were similarly flavourful. Al’s chicken korai tasted good despite paultry serving (!) – at least compared to large mound of rather watery pilau.

Service was calm and quietly efficient, the restaurant was full including a fair number of turbaned seekhs, dignified and handsome. We received our bill (£40 with drinks – toothsome buttermilk lassis) from a particularly fine, tall, soldiery punjabi. The place has been run by the same family for decades and generates a warm atmosphere with resplendent burnt yellow wallpaper, soft lighting and the buzz of contended chatter from diners full of robust food. Among the amusing quips on the menu one Mr Lawerence ate lunch and dinner here for forty years. It's easy to imagine the place as a home from home.


Willp2328score: 7.5/10

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