Address: 17-19 Wilcox Rd, London SW8 2XA
Alcohol Policy: BYO
Summary: Cheap and cheerful, BYO curry house in Vauxhall.
We had just enjoyed a few German beers at Zeitgeist whilst watching the Gunners pull off a surprise victory against Chelsea and needed some grub to soak up all the schwarz bier. Having not had a curry in Vauxhall before, I relied on a recommendation I'd been given a while back. I say recommendation, I mean my boss had once met Ian Wright in there so that was good enough for me. Less optimistic of meeting an Arsenal legend given it was Saturday evening and only a few hours til Match of The Day, we headed to Hot Stuff anyway.
On arrival we were told it would be a 20 minute wait so headed to Nolan's on the corner - a find in itself. After we'd sunk another beer, stroked 'Harry Kane' the cat and admired our 1970s Irish pub surround, we headed back to the curry house to find out if it would turn out to be hot or not.
Hot Stuff isn't your typical curry house. Well off the beaten track and in the middle of an estate shopping parade, it's neither found where or looks like you might expect. From the outside its black frontage is a little ominous, especially on a cold winter's night, and frankly feels more budget take away than cult curry house. In reality, the latter is true.
Hot Stuff benefits from a reputation that proceeds it as well as a loyal customer base that stems from the restaurants cheap and cheerful, community feel. Indeed, Hot Stuff has been rooted in South Lambeth since 1988 and inside a heartfelt tribute to 'Mama', the restaurant's founder, takes pride of place. Also in the right side of the restaurant is a fake-brickwork wall of various reviews, lovingly framed and which exemplify the hype around the place. In the main dining area is a buzz of a different sort: young, boozed up diners enjoying the bring your own policy, in a no frills, fairy-lit area.
In general, the vibe is hipster-ish, lively and more converted office than Indian diner. Our seats were also at the mercy of an icy draught coming from the door. So, whilst a fun environment, being so rough and ready it isn't one we can score highly.
Starters and sides
Large Pilau Rice
The menu here is very Anglicized and fairly limited. From top to bottom it's British curry house favourites which raised a few eyebrows from me, but fair enough if it hits the right notes.
To start with we went for the traditional poppadoms and dips. The mango chutney was a bit runny, but the lime pickle and raita were spot on. A decent start.
Following this came sizzling, mince meat, seekh kebabs that made all the right noises, but were a little bit more chipolata than authentic seekh kebab. The pile of onion reflected the slightly over zealous onion within. Tasty, but not the best.
As for the sides, we had a large pilau rice and a peshwari naan that was very fresh and came piping hot with subtle coconut and whole sultanas within.
With nothing special it's only a 6/10 for Starters and Sides.
Two of my go-to, standard curries were on the cards for mains: chicken jalfrezi and lamb dhansak. The jalfrezi had a good heat and the chicken was tender, but altogether the dish had a rather average reheated feel to it. Large crunchy green pepper and onion gave it some texture, but far better can be found elsewhere.
The same was true of the lamb dhansak: not bad, but average. They apparently had run out of 'normal' lamb (on a Saturday evening?!) so this came with tikka lamb which was slightly odd. The meat was fairly tender as in the jalfrezi and the dhansak also had a nice heat. However, both dishes felt like average takeaway orders rather than restaurant quality which isn't what you want really.
The manager here (the founder's son) was extremely affable. Rather than keep us waiting to begin with he told us to get a pint round the corner and save he'd us a table when it was ready. He was generally very chatty and down to earth, treating customers as friends rather than patrons. It's little wonder this place has a loyal following as a result. Good service.
Value for money
With the most expensive item on the menu being a prawn curry at £9 you can certainly find cheap eating here. Add BYO with no corkage into the mix and there's certainly good value to be had. The quality of the food does knock our score down a bit though, but with the total coming to £28 between two it's still a solid 7/10.
Upon sitting down we were told the curries here were better than the ones we'd had in Tooting. Our amiable host even said 'prepare to be dazzled'. Whilst it's obviously his job to talk up his restaurant, we were far from blown away. There is a genuine charm to Hot Stuff and prices are good, but the curries certainly weren't better than those in SW17. Our overall score is pushed up by the warm welcome we received (despite the draught), but I'm not sure we'll be rushing to come back. Nolan's on the other hand...
Now please check out our next review: Taste Of India, Euston