Really was there ever such a ridiculous name for a restaurant? Urban Turban may be the latest creation of Vineet Bhati the first Indian chef to obtain a Michelin star in Britain but I am still bewildered as to what possessed him to give this restaurant such a ludicrous moniker.
My friend Stephan was visiting from Germany on the weekend and he wanted some Indian food. Hoping that Urban Turban sounded wittily ironic to someone for whom English is not their native tongue Stephan and I made our way to Westbourne Grove. The restaurant itself is pretty sleek and immediately stands out from your typical Indian restaurant. However the flocked gold wallpaper and large timber island bar scream dodgy nightclub more loudly than understated luxury.
Stephan is in the mood to celebrate however unfortunately for him he has arrived in London during my self imposed alcohol free January. I am really so much more fun with alcohol! Luckily though Urban Turban happens to serve the best non-alcoholic cocktail I have tasted in my life. Their mojito made with apple juice and ginger beer tastes exactly like the real thing. I am ecstatic and am so convinced by the mock mojito that I almost feel drunk after three.
Cocktails in hand we peruse the menu. The emphasis at Urban Turban is supposed to be on informal street food and it is really the small plates to share or “desi tapas” that stand out.
“Gun powder” prawns are lightly fried and served on skewers topped with spring onion (pictured). They are very, very hot, a fact that I suppose we should have guessed from the title but they are also very good.
Masala crab and sweet corn cakes look and taste exactly like croquettes. They are delicately flavoured little balls of deep fried goodness and I only wish that we had ordered more of them rather than moving on to the mains which are comparatively disappointing.
Stephan’s half tandoori chicken with makhani sauce sounds like it could be a fantastic combination of two of my favourite Indian dishes – tandoori and makhani. However it is actually just two legs of chicken and a small bowl of makhani sauce served in a bowl on the side. Similarly my Masala lime lamb is a standard dish that you could get at any local Indian restaurant. Nothing in the execution or the flavours makes it stand out. I can’t be bothered finishing my lamb which is very rare for me but perhaps my overdose of non-alcoholic cocktails is to blame.
Still I cannot help but order the toffee pudding with cardamon ice cream when I spy it on the dessert menu. The pudding arrives and I quiz our waiter as to whether there has been a mistake. “I think you’ve forgotten the sauce” I helpfully point out. No, our waiter reassures me there is no sauce the pudding is meant to be eaten with the ice cream alone. A toffee pudding with no sauce. This is like serving a roast without gravy or a cake without icing. It is sacrilege. There can be no toffee pudding without sauce and as expected the pudding is horribly dry. Thank god for the mock mojitos or the meal would have been an unmitigated disaster.
Details: 98 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5RU (020 7243 4200)
If you liked reading this you may be interested in: nearby restaurants Hereford Road and Bloody French which are in my view far superior or the best Indian in town (although actually Punjabi) at Tayyabs.