Scott Manson discovers how Farzi Café in London is reinventing our idea of Indian cuisine….
In a city that’s no stranger to experimental dining, a restaurant offering avant-garde interpretations of traditional dishes can often be a hit or miss kind of affair. After visiting London’s Farzi Café – packed to the gills on a wet Tuesday, by the way – I’m happy to report that it’s an outstanding success.
I’d actually attended the launch party – a glitzy affair full of celebs and influencers sampling great canapes while the DJ banged out house music. Fun, certainly, but it was hard to judge then how the restaurant might fare when the opening night buzz faded away.
The good news is that its combination of new gastronomic techniques applied to classic Indian cuisine really works – all housed in a quirky, chic setting. Its upmarket aesthetic brings a welcome dose of class to the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, a place better known for mega-bars and dawdling tourists. There are already several branches of Farzi Café in India itself, as well as Dubai, and the clearly deep-pocketed owners – the London outpost cost £4 million – must be relieved to see that this brand extension has proved popular with critics and customers alike.
And while it’s a beautiful space – although upstairs is definitely where you want to secure a table – the real draw is the food. We sampled what on first glance looked like traditional British fish and chips, but turned out to be Amritsari fish (halibut), a street food of Punjab, served with chips and a pea mash. A signature dish in the making, I’m sure.
The table also filled up with delights such as arancini – traditionally a Sicilian dish of rice balls. But these had been ‘‘farzified,’’ resulting in a far more exciting option of dal chawal arancini, bursting with dal and coriander, and served with aachar and chutney. A juicy wagyu seekh kebab also hit the spot, while more bread and several glasses of water were required after a spicy venison irrachi pepper fry was wolfed down.
Sadly, there was no room for their reimagined version of that Friday night favourite, the chicken tikka masala. However, the table next to ours ordered it and, from the oohing and aahing coming from them, it was clear that Farzi has another instant classic on its hands.
It’s refreshing to see a West End restaurateur mixing it up a bit and refusing to play safe. Farzi Café deserves its success – long may it continue.
For more information, visit www.farzilondon.com.