Address: 256-258 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 0DN
Alcohol Policy: No alcohol
Summary: Slightly odd take away meets restaurant with a strange interior. That said, food is pretty good.
After receiving some recommendations on Twitter, we popped into Dawat to see what all the fuss was about.
You could be forgiven for passing by Dawat. Tucked in between Dadu’s cash and carry and Jasmin’s function room its unassuming pink signage can be lost in your peripheral vision as you try and negotiate the hubbub of the Upper Tooting Road. Plus, most curry aficionados will no doubt have one eye on Mirch Masala a short way further down the street, or Masaledar in the opposite direction - tough neighbours to compete with, not least due to Dawat’s somewhat confused interior.
The place feels like it’s caught in an identity crisis between take away, restaurant and banquet hall. Facing the back, I felt like I was back in Thailand in a dubiously decorated hotel lobby dining area, whilst Tom, looking out to the road, felt like he was in a living room; not least due to all the families present. It felt at times like we were interrupting the mid-week, evening meal, and the pale green adorning the walls added to the discomfort.
Other notable features were the Fortress of Solitude style lights and a large and mysterious wooden door to the left – who knows, maybe the entrance to an Aladdin’s cave of curry pleasure, but probably not.
Generally, Dawat lacks the frenetic atmosphere of Mirch or Lahore Karahi up the road, but neither does it impress with more cultured design and decoration. This said, our fellow diners seemed very much at home, comfortably seeking the waiters’ attention and signalling orders with the art of fingers and nods, as if the kebabs were being auctioned. I suppose we felt slightly unsure of ourselves, but we were welcomed with smiles and the food eased our concerns.
5/10 for Venue.
Starters and Sides
The poppadoms were some of the best, and the mango chutney was bucket-sized in its generosity, much to Tom’s approval. The chicken shashlick was standard, but with a little bit of a stronger kick than some of the more Anglicised tikka offerings elsewhere on the high street. However, perhaps we should have been more adventurous in our choice of starter.
The breads proved more pleasing, with the sesame of the kulcha naan adding a nutty edge to proceedings and the buttery peshwari providing the perfect compliment to the prawn curry. The coconut rice was decent too and is seemingly becoming our rice of choice (sorry pilau).
You’ll also note the mango lassi indicating the no alcohol policy Dawat operates. We can’t say we condone this, but always respect our hosts. 7/10.
Deigi Methi Gosht
Tandoori King Prawn Curry
We were recommended the dal gosht, but opted for the deigi methi gosht instead. After the less than impressive surroundings, the main dishes more than made the visit worthwhile. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth, fall-off-the-bone good and the methi sauce rich with bitter herb flavours. Likewise, the prawn was excellent. The rich tomato curry was filled to the brim with juicy butterflied king prawns and was lovingly mopped up with naan to the last. These two dishes more than made up for the choice of paint and the odd wooden furnishings - 9/10.
As mentioned, the staff were welcoming and quite attentive to surrounding diners’ whimsical gesturing. Our waiter was very smiley and several other gleams met us on entry and departure too. We also noted our options being taken down on a crib sheet order book which we appreciated for its efficiency. Beyond this, there was little of note to mention from the staff so a steady 6 out of 10 it is.
Value For Money
Whilst the curries were delightful and the prawn was at a pound premium, Dawat is still a fraction more expensive than elsewhere. We were charged extra for the mango chutney, which is not a policy we’re huge fans of (despite ensuring we got our money’s worth). Similarly, the litre bottle of Evian placed on our table was not free. Whilst we were quite aware what was going on we always like to give the benefit of the doubt, often to be disappointed by these unnecessary and underhand techniques. Anyway, at £40 a head with tip it wasn’t too bad, but not as competitive as it could have been; 6/10.
Dawat was never going to be top of our list when we set out on this Tooting tasting trek, but the main dishes here reached impressive heights. Evidently we weren't overwhelmed by the venue itself, but the scores have come in at a mid-table 33/50. Dawat are you waiting for? Check it out for yourself!