Address: 111-113 Upper Tooting Rd, Tooting, London SW17 7TJ
Alcohol Policy: No alcohol
Summary: Typical Tooting-style curry diner; spacious and brightly lit and serving Pakistani food.
By my count there have been a total of nine curry house closures in Tooting since we penned our first review back in 2012. Fortunately, some have been replaced or refurbished like Chennai Dosa and Rayyan's (now Sri Chettinad and Afghan Palace). However, others have sadly moved on for good, like Onam, Kabul Darbar and Tooting's very first, Sree Krishna. Luckily, like phoenix from the ashes there are others opening up in new locations and it was the welcome addition of a sister restaurant to Sutton's Lahore Spices that brought me back to Tooting on this occasion.
Joining me again after a memorable game of chess and a couple of G&Ts at the India Club was Joe 'The Colleague' Luetchford. Usually he takes my recommendations and visits them for a curry with someone else, so it was nice to be graced with his presence once more.
Lahore Spices is found on the corner of Lynwood Road and the Upper Tooting Road, just up from the Tesco Express. It's hard to miss at the best of times with it's bold, capital lettered sign, but at night its glow is positively nuclear. The lighting on our visit was brighter than a future sponsored by Orange, with the standard ceiling spotlights boosted by various neon elements around the dining room.
The setup inside is very spacious, more expansive than the likes of Mirch Masala and Lahore Kahari, and a little more stylish. Not as ostentatious as the almost palatial Spice Village nearby, Lahore Spices still has its flair with a fantastic mural/photo-collagey thing on one wall, arty shots of spices on another and plush velvet lined banquettes in the centre. These are complemented by bits of greenery dotted about the place, cushioned wooden chairs (a luxury for a Tooting diner) and the show piece, open kitchen and grill. The result is a pleasant, colourful and airy diner that offers something a little different and fresher to the local scene. And with a number of large bold signs heralding the restaurants name across the room, it's hard to forget where you are. Definitely, a shiny, welcome (and very clean) addition to High Street.
Starters and sides
Mixed Grill For Two
For starters we had a mixed grill for two that was excellent value at £10.95. Loaded with two lamb chops, seekh kebabs, chicken tikka pieces, lamb tikka pieces and chicken wings, this mountain of meat was up there with the best of them. Served on a bed of grilled onions and green peppers and topped off with lemon, this sizzling sensation was a mix of sweet, sour, succulence and spice. The result was a rather different, citrus take on the mixed grill, but a very favourable one.
Equally welcome and unique were the two naans we sampled. Whilst a touch oily, both had an extra aniseed edge, bringing fragrance to their dense, mincemeat and coconut fillings. Sesame seeds added an extra bite to the rich, thick breads which, alongside the mixed grill, were an impressive intro to the Lahore Spices menu.
For mains it was two of our favourite dishes and, as such, a good pair to benchmark against. The karahi lamb was a rich, tomato and spinach number with tender meat on the bone and a lovely, fragrant blend of spices like that of the naans and mixed grill. It was also similarly zingy, with a punchy heat that stood out from the more subtle and mellow karahi we recently tried at Dawat down the road. Overall it was an excellent dish and another reason to visit this new Tooting establishment.
Less exciting was the tarka daal which was sloppier than we prefer and quite heavy on the garlic, but still strong enough to give the Curry here a solid 7 out of 10.
As we sat down a rather agitated lady was arguing the toss with the waiter over her bill. It turns out she was negotiating the price which seems quite enterprising if not a little disrespectful. You certainly wouldn't find us being so rude and luckily the waiter took it all in his stride and reserved good humour and smiles for when serving us. The service was otherwise very quick and the food fresh to boot. As such, it's an above average 8 out of 10 for service.
Value for money
With curries around the £6/7.50 mark, good value is also on the cards. The naans and curries were large and the mixed grill was superb for just over a fiver each. Our total bill came to around £30 for a big feed between two. The only possible downside for some is the lack of BYOB as I believe this is an alcohol free zone, but that's irrelevant to the overall quality for price equation here which is very good.
Overall, we couldn't be happier that Sutton's Lahore Spices has ventured further into London. This bright young restaurant certainly isn't punching above its postcode. The food is great tasting, the prices good and the portions sizable.
Based on a couple of recent trips to its namesake Lahore Karahi, Lahore Spices is certainly up to scratch. In fact, it might even be better, but we'll await a few more visits before cementing such a controversial position. Nevertheless, the scores on the doors don't lie and it's a higher score of 38/50 placing Lahore Spices above its neighbour and towards the top of our leaderboard.
Could this finally be the replacement for Rayyans we've been waiting for?