Nestled on a quiet street in the heart of London’s Mayfair, it is not the usual hot spot to grab a great curry but this isn’t your usual tacky Indian restaurant affair. Chor Bizarre of Mayfair has more of an opulent vibe with majestic décor, kaleidoscopic interiors and antique looking furniture (which you can apparently purchase at a stretch if you ‘make them an offer they can’t refuse’).
The Aladdin’s cave bric-a-brac back drop is intended to capture the spirit of its namesake ‘Chor Bazaar’ meaning ‘thieves market’ and the walls of the recently unveiled ‘Bollywood Basement’ are adorned with close ups of stars of Bollywood past and present; not necessarily because they have been there, but in a tribute to 100 years of Indian cinema.
Chor Bizarre has currently launched an à la carte Old Bombay Street Food Festival menu with a contemporary twist, designed to coincide with the long and cold days where hot ‘n’ spicy comfort food is ‘exactly what we need to keep us going and beat the winter blues’.
Having been lucky enough to experience authentic Indian street food myself on a previous trip, I decided to take my travel buddy along, so we could make comparisons with what was the best that India had to offer: the food.
First up we’re served Bombay Bhel, which is kind of savoury rice crispies, tossed with red onions, all sorts of spices and topped with a hint of raw mango shavings, which the chef revealed he added in order for the sweetness to counteract the heat. A lovely touch.
Next we tuck into, moorish ‘Indian burgers’ Batata Wada Pao, a turmeric potato and rich chickpea dumpling served in a sweet bricohe bun with a fiery chilli garlic and peanut chutney; basically how a proper veggie burger should be.
Other highlights included Keema Ghotala, sumptuously slow cooked minced lamb finished with eggs and green chillies as well as a quail breast masala, an unusual choice of meat for curry, which worked surprisingly well here.
But my dish of choice was, funnily enough, my favourite street food I had in India, Pao Bhaji which is basically a mixed mash of vegetables in tomato sauce with butter and those grilled sweet spiced buns again. Admittedly sounds tame on paper, but the combination of flavours and richness of the deep vegetable blend are simply to die for. And I just love the simplicity of the dipping action with the bread; reminds you of when your mum’s making a big batch of something and you just have to savour a taste before anyone else by dunking in.
The authenticity of the dishes was definitely there in terms of flavour albeit, adequately, served in a more refined way with noteworthy modern touches.
One thing is for sure; the feeling of being so full of food that I could implode, leaving me invariably immobile, was a trait which definitely mirrored my experience in India.
The Old Bombay Street Food Festival runs through until December 10 at:
Chor Bizarre of Mayfair
16 Albemarle Street