After your average days 50km mountain bike race in gale force winds and hail. After losing your car keys and
trading up borrowing your mother-in-laws car, you’re going to fancy a curry. The Bird came up in the TopTable results, had good reviews so we dropped in.
Don’t be put off by the casino, the restaurant is on the first floor and is tucked away in the corner so you won’t notice the wheels and dealers. I’ll spare you the introduction to Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, you can read all about him on the menu.
Our new motto when eating out is to look at the dessert menu first. If its not attached to the menu, ask for it. Enjoy the bewildered look on the face of your waiter/waitress. It helps us plan our attack on the menu, and we hate to be too stuffed for pudding. Definitely do it here, because even with the nice touch of half portions, it’s a close run thing. It certainly helped us sidestep the inevitable ‘oh god, we’ve ordered too much’ scenario that happens every night in thousands of restaurants around the country. Which was to their benefit as we were able to squeeze in desserts.
I wouldn’t normally choose to have a samosa. Like those disturbing images of maltreated bears in confinement, I see them suffocated in plastic, cowering in the fridge section of late night shops harbouring goodness-knows what bugs; I’m never certain that they’re sensible to eat. The Achari Pea and Potato Samosas at The Bird beat my expectation of a tired pastry that’s sat around too long, only to be perked up with a blast in an oven or fryer. Three small samosas arranged on a banana leaf with a dark black dip were presented. Filled to bursting, fresh tasting with a gentle but progressive spicy heat that grew and grew, these were more-ish, and excellent after dunking in the date tasting dip – a welcome accompaniment.
The traditional Handi Lamb and potato curry was, for me, as good as a curry could be. So many lamb dishes are tough and chewy, which is a huge turn off for me in a curry. This however was full of meltingly tender lamb that you could squash into the sauce with a fork, a pleasantly spicy stew that was thick enough to be mopped up with the naan.
Oh the Rosemary & Olive Oil Naan. Alongside the other bread staples like a garlic & coriander and Keema naans was this piece of leavened beauty. Sprinkled with freshly chopped rosemary it went superbly with the lamb dish.
Malai Kofta in an onion korma sauce looked interesting, with long lumps of ‘kofta’. It was a good effort, but it seemed to be made almost entirely from plantain. Not the most flavoursome of fruit, I had expected a kind of mixed vegetable croquet of some sort. I think it’s fantastic that The Bird are coming up with interesting dishes for vegetarians so they have something other than mixed vegetable curry.
The Punjabi Chickpea Masala was slightly heavy on the onion/garlic paste, but the ginger and sour amchoor notes were perfect. I’m still searching for the chana masala recipe that’s better than the one served by The Tiffin Tin in Tufnell Park.
Pulao rice was simple, slightly buttery, but not overly so.
So the desserts. No laminated pudding photo sheets, none of that cash ‘n’ carry pre-made stuff here.
We were told that the fresh Rose Petal and Vanilla Bean Kulfi was their most popular dessert. We can see why. It was beautifully presented, the kulfi was fragrant and slightly chewy. The three baby gulab jamun were a great foil and didn’t assault the dish with too much sweetness. I normally hate rose flavoured sweets and desserts. They always remind me of my Gran’s plastic air fresheners from the 1980s. Ugh. This, though I would come back for.
I’d been tempted by the Orange and Ginger pudding with cardamom custard and cinnamon ice cream, but I feared a strike from the scythe of the Grim Sleeper. Not when I had 3 hours drive home to finish.
So the Chocomosa with Madras Coffee Ice Cream it was. Fearing huge samosas, the two tidy packages that arrived looked the part. Unfortunately the pastry was too hard to eat with a fork and shattered. Much easier to use your fingers and dip in the coffee ice cream which was perfectly acceptable. The samosa filling seemed to be a chocolate paste with finely chopped hazelnuts and almonds.
Service was efficient, chatty and charming. The whole experience was a great finish to our weekend.
The naysayers may complain that this isn’t Michelin-starred dining. Strictly speaking, maybe it’s not, but it’s sophisticated and affordable Indian cuisine. What’s not to like?
Dinner for two with soft drinks came to £36.