Address: 244 Brixton Rd, London SW9 6AH
Cuisine: Indian Small Plates
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Chic Indian (not-so) small plates restaurant on the outskirts of Brixton
2018 saw us add a record 22 new reviews to the site. Let's hope that, as the blog moves into its 8th year, 2019 adds many more to the 53 curry houses reviewed so far. Kicking things off early in the New Year was an unplanned visit to Booma in Brixton.
Very much feeling the January blues and having no guilt about continuing the Christmas boozing after running everyday in Advent (humble brag), I jumped at the chance to join Ange and Nate at the Crown & Anchor for a cheeky, Saturday night pint. There was the potential for eating there or opposite, in Booma, but who were we kidding suggesting it would be anything other than the curry.
Having recently sampled Brixton's newest Indian small plates at Kricket, we hoped Booma would live up to its variety, but perhaps deliver a little more wow factor.
Lively on a Saturday, Booma, despite its relative distance from central Brixton, no doubt benefits from craft beer quaffers heading over from the Crown & Anchor next door. Indeed, that was the path we took, admiring Booma's chilli eating monkey mural on it's side wall as we supped on some foamy ales, before booking a table. However, there's no doubt this modern Indian restaurant is a destination in it's own right, attracting attention with it's bold, red chilli branding from passers by on the busy Brixton road.
Inside, the decor is fairly minimalist, but trendy, with coppery table tops and trophy-esque lamp fittings giving off a sparkle. Angular fans and quirky honeycomb ornamentation on the ceiling add panache, whilst wooden chairs complete the dining space.
Modern, chic and lively...and opposite a great pub, it's 8/10 for Venue.
Starters and sides
Achari Paneer Tikka
Pudhina Lamb Chops
There aren't starters here per se, but for the purpose of a review I've chosen to split out dishes that would typically described as such. In reality, the menu is a modest list of around 15 items, but still offers great variety. Each dish also comes with a pairing recommendation against an extensive range of craft beers. However, rather anachronistically we shared a bottle of wine instead.
Food-wise we started with poppadoms that were presented in pieces (as is the modern way) and drizzled with three tangy sauces: tamarind, spicy tomato and mango chutney. All three excellent and overall not bad value for £1.50.
Next to arrive (as not everything comes at once here), was the achari paneer tikka, which proved unbelievable. I've been waiting to have paneer tikka like this for ages. Often a let down on account of the cheese rarely holding any flavour, the opposite was true of Booma's tikka offering. Deliciously smoky, with a good spicy heat and melt-in-the-mouth consistency, this is a must have. As are the the pudhina lamb chops which followed suit. Drumstick thick and beautifully medium-rare, the meat was juicy, wonderfully spiced and succulent. Arguably the best chops this blog has ever had; absolutely sensational!
The final starter-type dish was the ragda patties. We had wanted to try the deep fried okra (bhindi jaipuri), but were told they were unavailable so substituted them with this vegetarian dish instead. Consisting of potato cakes and chick peas hidden under a mound of crunchy kachumber (a mix of fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lemon juice, and chili), crispy sev and drizzled in yoghurt, this matched the quality of the paneer. Fresh, almost bhel puri-like in its combination of textures, and sizeable in portion, this was another excellent plate.
Getting off to a great start and boosted by the mouth-watering paneer and chops it's a superb 9/10 for Starters & Sides.
Booma Chicken Curry
Chetttinad Pork Ribs
For the 'mains' we had a further range of dishes: the Booma chicken curry, the crab kurkuri and the chettinad pork ribs; each each with its own unique style and flavours.
Pork isn't found on the menu at most Indian restaurants and when it is it's usually Goan in style. The ribs here are instead slow-cooked in more easterly, Chettinad spices, but tasty nonetheless. A blend of notes including nutmeg and cardamon give them a unique fragrance and flavour. Personally, it wasn't my favourite marinade, but there was no doubting the quality of the dish as the meat fell perfectly off the bones in delightfully succulent strips. Once again, this was a sizeable plate and certainly a must try for any rib fan.
Equally original was the crab kurkuri, an entire softshell crab deep fried and sat upon a generous bed of crisp asparagus 'kurkuri' and coconut poriyal. The al dente style veg, topped with crunchy lentil and seed garnishes added yet further textures to our meal and the crab itself was very tender with an almost KFC style rub. Again, an excellent dish.
The final item was the more prosaic Booma chicken curry, a tomato and fenugreek, creamy chicken curry akin to butter chicken or korma. This came with a plain naan and while well executed was less exciting that the other plates. Still, the combination of all three alongside the starter dishes proved an exemplary range of dishes that couldn't fail to impress. It's an 8/10 for Curry.
As in many small plate restaurants, the orders come out one by one, tapas-style. Service wasn't the fastest or most friendly, but neither were there any complaints. I sensed our waiter was in training so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The only real recommendation would be bigger plates for eating off, but that's clutching at straws.
Value for money
The staff recommend you only have two dishes each which reflect how these 'small plates' are anything but. In fact, given their size and quality, the value here is really quite staggering. We were well satisfied after our visit and not left out of pocket given the most expensive dish was the very impressive pudhina lamb at £10.
Overall, with a bottle of wine (£23) and one beer (£4.60) the bill came to a more than reasonable £86.18 between 3. I'm sure the bill could rack up if you end up sinking a fair few craft beers, but generally there is great VFM to be had.
I'd been eyeing up Booma for a while after a few of visits to The Crown and Anchor opposite, however, I wasn't expecting it to be this good. It surpassed all expectations with its simple menu of excellently prepared dishes encompassing a delightful range of ingredients, flavours and textures.
Slightly away from the bright lights of Electric Avenue and the ever popular food markets of central Brixton, Booma is nevertheless well worth the effort and certainly better than Kricket. As a result, it shoots straight towards the top of our leaderboard with 40/50 in total.