The Famous Curry Bazaar
28 March 2019: Famous Curry Bazaaar - How bizarre, how bizarre
A 9th outing for the old work crew and so far we've been served up only one disaster at the hand's of Ghandis in Kennington. With spring in the air we decided to chance our luck again with a trip to Brick Lane.
The name Brick Lane is synonymous with curry in our nation's capital, but to more discerning curry fans it can also throw up a few red flags. A walk down this famous road can sometimes feel like running the gauntlet with restaurant touts harassing you to enter their establishments every step of the way. And yet, despite the offers and renown, you rarely hear positive reviews emanate from this corner of east London. Notably, local favourites like Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House are situated over a quarter of a mile away.
It may be that Brick Lane's glory days are behind it, indeed previous visits have left me unimpressed. However, it would be remiss not to give it another chance, having travelled as far as Camden, Kennington and Euston for our other group gatherings.
This bold move east, orchestrated by Spellins, brought out the full team complement. With all seven of us chomping at the proverbial bit, he chose The Famous Curry Bazaar from a shortlist I'd put together including Jasmine and Eastern Eye. After a raucous few Guinnei at The Ten Bells it was time to test the Brick Lane waters.
A picture on the restaurant's front showed Chris Martin dining at The Famous Curry Bazaar in the early noughties. This may explain it's 'Famous' name, but would our visit prove to be as magic or would it leave us in trouble and feeling a little yellow? Read on to find out.
The Famous Curry Bazaar, is situated about halfway down Brick Lane and draws the eye with its bold red frontage. Less impressive is the Trip Advisor 'best curry house on Brick Lane 2018' banner that adorns the window. These reviews are seemingly ubiquitous along this street and as such should be taken with a pinch of salt, especially coming from the green owl eyes of this particular tourist review site.
Inside, a good number of covers fill the reasonably narrow space. Murky burgundy paint up to the chair rail is offset by white walls above and bright chandeliers bring daylight to prevent the place from feeling cramped. Lining the walls are murals akin to those on Euston's Drummond Street, but these are a little more contemporary and refined than those found at Taste of India, Ravi Shankar and Diwana.
Everything else is in good order, well-maintained and there is a good buzz about the place. And whilst there is nothing particularly Famous or Bazaar-like about the place, it certainly ticks all the right boxes for a typical Curry house; it's therefore a solid 7/10.
Starters and sides
Our Brick Lane review kicked off with the obligatory poppadoms that proved up to scratch. Ostensibly a good start, however, a lack of lime pickle had some frowning. We never change do we? Even on our first group outing to Chettinad over a year ago there was widespread condemnation of the miserly dips. Unfortunately, these grumblings proved a warning sign and were just the start of further disappointment.
After crunching our way through our crackers, sparks started to fly as Sean took umbrage to the quality of the mixed grill, especially the size of the lamb chops and the overall quantity that came with the £14.95 price tag. The lamb tikka pieces were partially redeeming, but better options can certainly be found elsewhere - a statement that rung true for the veg platter too. The platter came with two measly samosas, a couple of similarly average bhajis and some paneer that was so in name only. The result was an offering even Iceland wouldn't serve up in one of it's frozen selections.
Unfortunately, our paneer woes continued as the chilli glazed, gelatinous triangles that were part of our veggie platter proved to be the same as those in the paneer tikka we'd also ordered. Their colour - an illuminous orange not seen since Lego's early nineties Ice Planet range - completed the unpalatable picture. The whole dish brought back painful memories of Gandhi's miserable paneer fry from last summer, both a far cry from Booma's melt-in-the-mouth achari paneer tikka.
Sadly, reasonably good naans couldn't salvage this one, and the keema rice had no chance as I didn't get a look in, so it's a lowly 5/10 for Starters and Sides.
Gosht Kata Masala
Fish Kufta Vegetable
Following the poor start, it was back to square one with the mains. Would the rest of our review go up in flames or was everything not lost? We ordered six further dishes to find out.
The lamb biryani was first up and an ok start, although it was lacking in moisture, as exemplified by the over done meat pieces within. The lamb in the gosht kata masala also wasn't the most tender. In fact, the meat in all the curries was tikka style, so pre-cooked then re-heated within the curry sauces meaning flavour and texture was lost. Despite a spicy punch this second dish was also pretty average and the murghi (chicken) masala was much the same. Despite having a complementary fried egg on top it was less than egg-cellent.
The chicken makaney wasn't any better: slices of chicken tikka sat in a very gloopy, yellow sauce that was growing a skin on top. Not very appealing to look at or taste, much like the fish kufta vegetable.
In hindsight, we should have thought better of ordering fish and vegetable meatballs, but at least we can confidently say now that you shouldn't. The flavour of this maritime number was reminiscent of school dinner fish cake nightmares - not for me.
Even the chana masala, our potential chickpea challenger, was disappointing. Like the other dishes it lacked the subtlety and love of other dishes we're used to enjoying. It's therefore another poor score for the now infamous Curry Bazaar - 4/10 for Curry.
Perhaps distracted by the poor food, I made little note of the service. This is usually a good sign - waiters that don't cause a scene. In this respect, I'll have to give some credit where it's due - a 7 out of 10 for Service.
Value for money
The sour taste in our mouth from the food turned to bitterness when the bill showed up. This couldn't even be sweetened by complimentary house-branded chocolates or indeed washed down with good value beers as the Cobras were £6 a pop. The food bill on top of 12 of these was a staggering £30 a head each; little evidence of the economies of scale we're used to and little quality to justify the relatively high prices. With the total coming to £255 between six, the joke was certainly on us.
Our decision to visit Brick Lane and follow Chris Martin in to the Famous Curry Bazaar was perhaps a rush of blood to the head. It doesn't take a scientist to see we were less than impressed with our meal and the final bill was a bit of a cold play. The hardest part was we should've known better.
It will probably be a while before we return to this infamous street, but don't panic, we'll choose somewhere better next time and hopefully fix you up with a more worthy review if we do.
Address: 77 Brick Ln, Spitalfields, London E1 6QL
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Brick Lane favourite with classic dishes