Address: 256-258 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 0DN
Alcohol Policy: No alcohol
Summary: Diner meets take away at the centre of Tooting's curry heartland.
Da-wat am I doing back here you may ask? Yes, this does indeed signify a return to a previously reviewed curry house. Fear not, I haven't run out of new curry houses to try, but rather, after years of wandering, will be soon returning to my roots to live in Tooting once more. My ongoing search for the best curry in London will continue, but interspersed with city-wide reviews, it seems only fitting to go back and review some of the old curry stalwarts on Tooting high street once more.
For this first repeat it's Dawat, first visited in November 2013, almost 6 years ago. On that occasion we were a little thrown by the crass and confusing pale green interior, but impressed by the curry. This time around, my friend Dave and I were thrown by the weather forecast that misled us towards a game of tennis in the rain and were impressed upon to find shelter from the storm.
Following a soggy walk from Furzedown Park, we searched for a bite to eat. Not usually one for curry at lunchtime, it didn't take much persuasion from Dave to twist my arm, especially given it had been five years since I'd been to Dawat. After such a long time, it was only right to return.
In five years, the interior designers at Dawat have seemingly found a little more taste. The garish pink sign has been replaced with a classy black and silver number and the interior is a little smarter, despite still retaining a hue of green. Tasteful images of Pakistan line the pale coloured walls and there’s a general cleanliness and order to the place that is often awry in local establishments. There are, however, still strange elements, for example, the raised exclusive-looking dining area at the back and the children’s play area to the side with little to nothing in the way of child stimulation. Nevertheless, it’s an improvement and we chose Dawat on this occasion because it was the liveliest venue on a changeable Saturday lunchtime, much more so than Mirch Masala and Lahore Karahi opposite. Indeed, it’s clearly a popular place amongst the local diaspora and has the option for ordering to takeaway much like its Pakistani neighbour opposite.
Starters and Sides
Last time, we were complimentary of the poppadoms, but on this occasion they were very stale, which is inexcusable really. Equally dubious was the squeezy plastic bottles of mango chutney and raita to accompany them. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand very convenient, but on the other pretty budget looking and a little gross, especially with their childish sticky labels half peeling off (blurgh).
The lamb chops were a welcome distraction when they arrived, but, although fresh and nicely spiced, they were a touch over-done and a little on the lean side. Far better was the peshwari, in fact, up there with the best. It had a lovely fragrance, with aniseed hidden within its coconut-ty filling and a sweet, honeyish glaze topped off with a generous sprinkling of bitter sesame seed. However, it wasn’t quite enough to make up for the earlier poppadum misery, so it’s a 6 out of 10 for Starters and sides.
In 2013, we gave a generous 9 out of 10 for the curries here, but a revisionist perspective of those early reviews might say they were a little generous in the score department. This time, with more miles on my curry clock, I was able to give a more objective view perhaps. Nevertheless, it was still a strong showing, for the lamb karahi at least. Whilst clearly reheated, this is the norm, and if anything the beautiful oiliness of it added to the ginger and chilli flavours. Served on the bone, it fell off tenderly for a delicious and fragrant bite. Lovely stuff.
The jalfrezi fared less well from its reheating with the chicken over cooked as a result. This was average despite an onion sweetness and a welcome, zingy heat. Also only just on par was the biryani. Presented more as a rice plate than a lovingly slow-cooked dish, its good moisture, aroma and succulent chicken weren’t quite enough to rival the best found elsewhere.
Dave, with his finance director’s hat on, was incredulous at the dozen or so staff milling about. The number was pretty absurd even if footfall was good for a lunchtime. The result was over attentiveness and a conveyor belt of waiters asking us the same questions one after another. Quite annoying, even if the service was speedy. Given I always give a 7 for service, it makes sense to mark this down on this occasion – the relaxed vibe somewhat spoiled by the over-eagerness of the waiting staff.
Value For Money
Curries here are around the £7 mark, rising to nearer £10 for seafood. So average for the locale, but great value in general.
We indulged in a good number of dishes for just £16 each, a welcome amount given the 18,000 steps I’d clocked up by a morning of tennis, running and following Dave on his scooter around Tooting (yes, he’s that guy). So, it’s a decent score of 7 out of 10. Yes, some dishes were notable, but on the whole slightly better quality can be found elsewhere for the same price.
In the past, I’ve been quick to overlook Dawat. Maybe, it was the last experience or the slightly more welcome look of Mirch Masala or Lahore Karahi over the road, but I’ve generally favoured other options over it. It’s definitely worth checking out and the naans and karahi are great, but still a hesitancy lingers about recommending it highly. Still, it’s a solid overall score of 33 out of 50 again even if for different reasons this time!
Please check out our previous review for Dawat here