Address: 121-123 Drummond Street, Euston, London, NW1 2HL
Cuisine: Indian Bhel Poori House
Alcohol Policy: BYO
Summary: Popular and cheap vegetarian joint in Euston's curry hub
It's nearly ten years since I started out my career. No, not this blog, I actually have a full time job believe it or not. I started out on a graduate scheme way back in 2008 with a group of likely lads that in time have moved on to bigger and better things (if you count hockey stick manufacturing).
They say birds of a feather flock together and during our time working together it's fair to say the word professional was usually prefixed with 'un' and The Apple Tree and Blue Lion provided more valuable life lessons than the training sessions we regularly attended. Regardless, those formative years obviously left a lasting impression as endless email chains of 'banter' in subsequent years were testament to. However, one swallow doesn't make a summer and, in time, the conversations around football and the salaciousness of certain group members faded.
Anyway, I could go on being nostalgic til the cows come home, but I won't continue to bore you with that. The point is that, nearly a decade on, the exchange has been resurrected, like a WhatsApp phoenix rising from the ashes of our previous email trail. And, whilst some birds have flown the nest (to Manchester and Liverpool), the rest of us decided to graze on pastures old and go for a cheeky pint and a curry for old times sake.
Joining yours truly was Luke Pickering (freelance marketing services for hire), The Ace, Phildo, and Churchy. Arky and Pottsy couldn't make it due to geographical challenges, whilst Maccers has his busy fingers in other pies trying to establish his new hockey brand: Dr Agon. Meanwhile, Rubner couldn't be arsed to make time for it despite living up the road; an absence of commitment that you might've associated with Churchy, but who seems to have to have turned over a new leaf.
As time has moved on some have lost their love of easy meat so we opted for a vegetarian curry. We chose Diwana in Euston which had Arky's full endorsement behind it. Before sitting down for food we got our ducks in a row at the Euston Tap; a pub that really should give me free beers for the amount of mentions it gets on this blog. As it turned out, after asking The Ace for a pint of Redemption, he failed to deliver. Sums it all up really.
Anyway, I won't badger on anymore. Here's the review:
Diwana is found on Euston's Drummond Street and is another vegetarian bhel poori house, similar to Ravi Shankar next door. From the outside, Diwana is a little less enticing with its charcoal grey awnings also making the inside a little gloomier than its light and airy neighbour. However, Diwana seems to be winning the war for customers as it was a hive of activity on our visit, so much so that, despite being a little larger, we were squirreled away upstairs.
Regardless of which level you sit the interior is almost floor to ceiling wooden paneling that speaks more to a ski lodge than curry house. The few breaks in wood reveal white walls downstairs, but rather murky pink ones on the first. Upstairs is also a little devoid of full length windows adding to the cabin fever. Some Indian artwork of elephants and the like remind you that you're not in the Alps, but overall it's a case of function over style and a score of 6/10 for Venue.
Starters and sides
After drinking like fish beforehand, we were like bulls to a red rag as soon as the poppadoms came out. Unfortunately, the dips were a little on the light side given their were five of us. Nevertheless, the lime pickle was decent and the mango chutney was ok too - bit lumpy but solid. The dip portions were rivaled by extremely small, mouse-sized saucers masquerading as plates, but all crockery was metallic in authentic, Indian style.
The small plates and style of dishes lend themselves to sharing and that's what we did, picking a range of options from across the regionally organised menu. After our initial poppadoms we moved onto the bhel poori. Indistinguishable from the same dish offered next door, it was equally zingy and crunchy, with the blend of tamarind, mango, onion, puffed rice and sev proving a veritable palate pleaser.
The mixed starter was next, but not as exciting. An anemic looking samosa, and a handful of vegetable bhajya (pakora-like bhajis) were accompanied by a limp green salad, two chutnies and a 'cutlet' (a sort of fried mash potato and vegetable cuboid) that proved a little underwhelming. The house, Diwana platter was only a little more exotic with a selection of the 'chef's appetising starters'. This consisted of more bhajya, a wane spring roll style samosa, a skewer of deep fried aubergine and red pepper and something like a fried plantain. Indeed, deep fried was evidently the order of the day for these two sharers, but as a result they lacked a subtly of flavour. They still went down well though, especially when paired with the chutnies, most notably the aubergine with the minty coriander dip.
The biryani substitute for normal rice dishes here, but, as such, offer little to write home about. The only discernible difference were broad beans hidden beneath their ricey depths that added a bit of texture. The paratha on the other hand were perfect,with lovely soft layers of cooked dough under a slightly cripsy, charred surface. As for the other breads, I don't recall getting any poori, whilst the chapati were standard.
In summary, the starters and sides weren't quite the bees knees. A bit of a mixed bag, it's 6/10.
Paneer and saag dosa
For mains we had a further range of vegetarian dishes. All had a lovely heat to them, but again it was a bit of a mix quality wise. The bhindi (okra) and bringel (aubergine) bhajees weren't on par with similar dishes elsewhere. They were more ratatouille than curry, a little too generic and tomato-y compared to more richly flavoured counterparts. However, it's fair to say, the aubergine proved popular amongst the others. Equally popular was the tarka daal; slightly runnier than I prefer, but with good mustard seed tones that offered a contrast in taste to the other dishes. The daal looked the part as well, as did the bomaby alloo but the potato was a bit on the chunky side and was fairly bland overall.
The dark horse was the paneer and saag dosa. Never one to be blown away by dosa, this one was particularly good, especially the excellent accompanying green coconut chutney that added a real punch to the spinach, paneer and potato dosa filling.
Whilst we got a good range of textures and flavours, especially alongside the starters, the individual dishes weren't quite as good as can be found elsewhere. It's therefore another 6/10 for Curry.
Diwana came with a reputation of rude waiters (Google reviews) but this was not the case from our experience. The place was packed when we arrived and the waiters busy as bees. We did have to wait a short while to be seated, but in the end were shown upstairs. This did mean we were at the whim of just one waiter who wasn't the most attentive, but still did a good job, despite having to negotiate two large groups and a staircase.
Value for money
Whilst the food was middling, at £58.96 between 5 there can be few complaints. Throw in BYOB and the fact we pigged out and you've got unbelievable value. Only let down slightly by the quality, the veggie pound will go a long way here.
If you're a vegetarian curry fan and in a bit of a flap, stop running around like a headless chicken and head down to Drummond Street. Ravi Shankar proved good in the past, but on this visit Diwana proved better.
For those used to a more typical British curry experience then Diwana is probably a different kettle of fish and worth a visit to broaden your horizons. Don't worry about any negative reviews online about service; from experience it rarely makes the difference and wasn't an issue on our visit. Instead focus on the opportunity for perfect partha, decent daal and delicious dosa.
Overall it's 32/50