A few weeks ago I was invited to go and try the thali menu at Simply Indian, a restaurant serving authentic South Indian food for over 17 years. It’s located just off Borough High Street, literally round the corner from Borough Station. I walked down from London Bridge Station and it was an easy 5/10 minute walk. It’s a shame it’s not on the main road, but it’s easy to see how it could be the locals’ favourite.
We dined late on a Monday night, which isn’t typically busy for most restaurants outside of central. But even then, the small restaurant had many tables occupied, which says a lot about the place. It’s also bring your own booze (BYOB), which I think is a brilliant idea on their part because it means that people feel like they’ve spent less on their meal by the end of the night. I believe I saw an off licence just a few doors down as well.
The thing is, none of the food was fancy – just a good take on traditional curries. It probably isn’t fair to compare it to trendy places like Dishoom, etc. But I’ve genuinely found it hard to find good curry in London. Most are old school and haven’t bothered to update their menu in years. They tend to use the same curry base for most of their dishes, so they end up being rather unimpressive.
Inspiration for the food served at Simply Indian comes from years of eating delicious food around London; from Dishoom to Hoppers. The owner, Abu Choudhury, hopes to bring elements of these foods into his dishes and has grand plans to refurbish the restaurant next year and create a menu with influences from many regions of India.We were treated to a selection of dishes as part of their grand thali offering, but to start, we snacked on some popadoms and chutneys, obviously! This included a Tamarind and Date Chutney, a Mint Sauce and a Spicy Tomato salsa style chutney.
We also tried a juice made from English pears and blended apples, which certainly helped to cleanse my palette.
The first dish we tried was the Masala Dosa and it had some interesting textures. Ours was a Chicken Masala Dosa, but you can get a veggie version. It’s a crispy pancake made of lentil and rice flour, wrapped around a filling. I wasn’t expecting the toasted cashew nuts in it, but it provided a nice crunch to it. The dosa and its contents make the dish a little dry, but that’s why it’s served with some flavoursome accompaniments such as a coconut chutney, tomato chutney and a sambhar, which is kind of like a veggie curry. It completes the dish and this is pretty filling in its own – so imagine eating a full meal after that! The fish was a real delight. I really like Tilapia and this was so light and refreshing. It didn’t have a tomato base, which made me happy. Instead, it was cooked with mint, chilli, coriander and lime, but it wasn’t spicy and the sauce was so addictive.
The daal was incredible and the star dish of the night. It tasted just like the special one my mum makes at home. Usually it’s really hard for Indian restaurants to get the consistency and flavour right, but these guys got it spot on. The Goan Chicken Curry wasn’t my favourite, but not because it wasn’t good. It’s only because it didn’t compare to the other chicken dish, which felt like it had been created especially for me. Hyderabadi Kali Mirch Chicken was amazing with a spicy sauce that I couldn’t stop eating. The sauce was packed with flavour and a real peppery kick, which I loved! I always add too much pepper to my food, so this was a welcome addition for me. I’m already looking forward to going back and ordering this again!
The Lamb Ishtew was the only dish that had a tomato base, which was a nice change. Usually you find every dish is pretty much cooked the same way and it can be quite disappointing. The lamb was so tender and the vegetables in it were also cooked to perfection.
The thali’s were served with a fragrant pilau rice and a roti, along with salads and chutneys. The portions were generous and I was stuffed by the time I left the restaurant and had to roll myself home!To end our meal we had a very fragrant masala chai, which is probably the most strongest tasting one I’ve tried, but the winner was the warm, milky tapioca dessert, which tasted just like a rice pudding, topped with a few pomegranate seeds. How have I not tried this before? I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of this if I hadn’t been so damn full. I’m sad I didn’t get to try any of the other desserts on the menu, but there’s always next time! Thank you to Simply Indian for their wonderful hospitality. It was such a treat being able to try so many dishes and experience some authentic Indian cuisine in London. I’ve already recommended it to friends and I know I’ll be going back when I get that curry craving again!