Review: Colonel Saab – Trafalgar Square

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A Salute to the Colonel

From outside, this relatively new Indian restaurant to Trafalgar Square appears somewhat nondescript, but we had been told of the magical wonders within and were there to experience them, writes Michael Holland.

Colonel Saab is the brainchild of restaurateur Roop Partap Choudhary who has curated a menu from the family’s travels across India, combining recipes from all corners of the sub-continent that he has given a modern twist to.

My companion Nina and I were booked in to sample the tasting menu, a selection of delights assembled to allow the kitchen to show off their skills while providing diners with some of the best tastes and textures that India has given to the world.

Rasam was a warming tomato and lentil concoction with a spice kick that stopped you in your tracks – but in a nice way. It came with idli: small, steamed flying saucers of rice cake that complemented the dish perfectly. Rasam would be just right for when you need to be snug at home on those cold winter nights – Much like June is turning out to be!

Next was Marwad’s Raj Kachori, a crispy sphere the size of a cricket ball that hinted of mystery and secrets inside… Made from plain flour and water, it was filled with spiced chick peas, potato, creamy sauces of different hues, plus, fruits and seeds and spices of different textures. It was an absolute pageant of colour. It was Nina’s favourite of the night – Which had only just begun.

Our third course was paneer accompanied with prunes and pomegranate in a salsa, or a pulled chicken Madras cutlet served with a tomato and raisin relish. I was now beginning to lose count of the number of diverse ingredients our taste buds were being bombarded with. It was time for a break and a mango sorbet to clean the palate.

An Indian Pale Ale for me and an organic gewürztraminer for Nina(which she raved about) helped the down time and digestion, a time when our server, Sam, talked us around the artwork and related tales of the origin of the antique camel saddles that hung above us. He also brought a delightful riesling – perhaps the ideal wine for spicy food.

After a respectful interval we resumed. The time had come for the main course. I had the Sunday Lamb Curry which was not only the tenderest lamb I can remember eating (cooked for 72 hours in an array of spices and herbs), but also a dal, rice that every grain appeared to have been cooked separately, naan, and crispy cumin potato. It was a foodie’s paradise with sauces to dip the bread and potatoes into, and rice to soak up everything else. I was officially in Heaven.

Nina had a similar platter for her Nadan Fish Curry, a rich dish that she struggled to finish without my assistance.

As well as five star fine dining, Colonel Saab is also a feast for the eyes: sumptuous, velvet-seated rooms, galleries gloriously lit by enormous chandeliers from Firozabad; walls adorned with historic artefacts from Rajasthan and other areas of India that tell of the country’s history, as well as Choudhary family photos and a staff that are keen to entertain guests with stories from the past.

All around us we could hear people saying how beautiful their food was, or asking their server for information about a dish. There was a low soundtrack of music coming from somewhere but the over-riding ambient sound was purely of diners enjoying dinner.

At the three hour mark we had our final dish, a splendid cheesecake and an exquisite raspberry, pistachio and coconut tart that was – unbelievably – vegan. It had a crisp sharpness that revived us for the journey home after a truly fantastic feast.

Tasting Menu £80 pp. Drinks. £55 – 0208 016 6800 

Trafalgar Square, 42 William IV St, London, WC2N 4DD.


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