Friday, 18 May 2012

Mirch Masala (Commercial Road E1)

During my recent ten day visit to Lahore the head of the delegation would often insist on wrapping up the daily proceedings at one of the restaurants of the hotel we were staying in.  It was always a choice between the Chinese, Japanese, International and Barbecue; they were all dreary, overpriced, shit and took the Mickey out of when in Rome…

Head of the Delegation- Right tonight we’re having Italian at the Avari and we can discuss the ‘way forward’.

Me- What! Can’t we have something more authentic and savour local dishes like Nihari or Haleem?

Head of the Delegation- No, you can have Pakistani back in London!

And so I did.

Mirch Masala is a largish chain of restaurants based in London. Its East London branch is located in the same vicinity as the two giants offering excellent Pakistani Punjabi grub in London:

It’s not that I’ve abandoned the two restaurants altogether, I suppose they’ve both become too popular for their own good and the quality of the food served can be alarmingly average at best. And whereas Wong Kei in Chinatown has more or less given up their legendary offhanded service, New Tayyabs seems to have taken over its mantle and relishing in it.

Mirch Masala ticks all the right boxes for me- great authentic Punjabi dishes, laid-back atmosphere, relatively warm service (believe me that’s bloody brilliant for a restaurant of its ilk), never too packed and downright affordable too. The crux is, and that might annoy a lot of other bloggers, Mirch Masala beats the proverbial out of both New Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House! 

Lahore Kebab House

New Tayyabs

I’ve been going to the Commercial Road branch of Mirch Masala for more times than I can count and that’s partly due to my preference of lunching alone on Sundays, so what better than a relaxed curry luncheon whilst reading a fine broadsheet. I decided to post the review as a way of alerting any potential pilgrims heading to Tayyabs or LKH whom might experience a disappointing time at either place. Tourists, Londoners and Lahoris for that matter, please mark my words- Mirch Masala is magnificent.

What I’ve enjoyed eating here-

The grilled stuff

 
The lamb chops are a must- greaseless, tender and stupendous. Four chops for £6.50, outrageous value!

  Karahi Aloo Saag
Spinach and potatoes. Actually I have to be careful with the issue of spinach, I once met a Bengali chef in Shoreditch who informed me that saag, six out of ten times, is made with common spring greens instead of spinach because the latter is too expensive. Two of my regular dining companions and one including my feisty daughter can never get to grips with the texture of the annihilated spinach. But I love it nonetheless.
 
 Karahi Aloo Corn
Potatoes with sweet corn. Every time you complete the order of your meal the waiter would ask whether you want your dishes cooked medium or spicy. The above was spicy and I lost a litre of sweat just gloating at it!

 Karahi Fish
Excellent sauce but perennially let down by the overcooked fish!

Stick to this instead, Mirch Masala Fish. 
Spiced-up battered fish and suitably wondrous. Think of fish and chips but Punjabi style and without the spuds.

Deigi Methi Chicken
Chicken curry served on the bone. Fenugreek heaven! Ever so bitter but intoxicatingly aromatic and terrifically spicy. The chicken (something about halal meats) was tender and ultimately first-class. This is a world class dish, order at will!

 Nihari.
Lamb shank curry or the national dish of Pakistan. If cooked long enough, like 10 hours or more the meat should pull of the bone with ease and ‘melt’. If you’ve sampled this dish at its best then the usual suspects of Lamb Bhuna or Rogan Josh simply pale into insignificance. Mirch Masala’s effort is to be applauded with.

Haleem
If anything this lentil and lamb dish is considered sacred. Haleem involves a long, long cooking process and the binding all the ingredients is aided with the addition of wheat and barley.
When concocted properly it should be thickset and paste-like. It’s acquired and not for everyone. If one can tolerate porridge and make do with trebling its consistency then Haleem is right up your street. It’s a sinful dish, full of ghee and protein-packed, but also one that’s memorably heroic. Haleem represents the Indian subcontinent deliciously in one bowl.

I believe that any Pakistani national visiting the capital of Englandstan would be impressed by their cuisine that’s currently on offer. Mirch Masala is one of those joints to do so and it comes highly recommended.




111-113 Commercial Road
London E1 1RD

www.mirchmasalarestaurant.co.uk


3 comments:

Oliver Standing said...

Totally agree about MM - last time food at Lahore Kebab wasn't great and Tayyabs is so rammed that I've given up on it. MM has never let me down! The Lamb methi is amazing...wow.

What's Needoo Grill like?

bellaphon said...

Hi Oliver

I find Needoo's too much of an inferior Tayyabs wannabe and the food is generally smeared with too much oil for my liking!

Sara Derocks said...

best post ever i read!
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