Bombay Bicycle Chef
16 March 2023: Bombay Bicycle Chef - Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But Curry)
Recently at the LCB, it's been a case of revisiting some old Tooting favourites, whilst up the road in Balham there's been less consistency over the years with various openings and closings. More consistent of late has been Arsenal's form, so ahead of planned viewing of their (ultimately fateful) Europa League fixture at The Regent, I thought I'd get a few guys together for a pre-match curry. Some of the usual local players - Nate, Spells, and Luetchie - took the field to join me in trying one of Balhams more recent arrivals, Bombay Bicycle Chef.
With sister locations in Battersea and Kilburn, Bombay Bicycle Chef isn't completely new to the local scene, but the Balham branch has only been around for a year or two. Situated towards the top end of the highsStreet, it's not the most ideal location for footfall, but nonetheless grabs attention through it's seemingly shameless plagiarism of the famous Bombay Bicycle Club chain (and band).
Inside, is less memorable, with vibes of a rather generic, modern Indian restaurant complete with garish purple LED lighting running around the top of the walls. Added to this were low wattage Edison bulbs aplenty, hanging from their wiring in a haphazrd way, and contributing to a rather dingily lit dining experience with an odd lilac hue.
More impressive were the plush booklet menus, complete with a very professional food allergies section for the dietarily restricted. Tastefully framed art on one wall was a further nice touch, but bizarre furnished leather squares above faux wooden panelling down the left hand side can only go down under the interior design category of 'only seen in Indian restaurants'.
Still, the whole place was nice and clean and in good order, so anything less than a seven would be harsh.
Starters and sides
Mix Veg Pakora
Controversially our poppadoms came pre-cracked and quartered, but they were still quickly demolished alongside the accompanying dips. Following these were the mix veg pakora which weren't the most authentic in style, but were pretty tasty with a clean, non-oily deep fry adding a nice crunch to the potatoey centre. Would recommend.
Then came the chilli paneer in a fair portion with a heap of onions to boot. It had a decent chilli kick and whilst verging close to rubbery was pretty good overall. Similarly, the chops were neither the best nor worst around, but still chunky and fairly tender.
With the naans following suit, it's another steady seven, even though the peshwari centre fell out in coconut chunks and Spells wasn't happy with the meat in his bread (so to speak).
Lamb Green Masala
King Prawn Bhuna
The mains took a while to follow the starters which put in jeopardy our arrival at the pub in time for kick off. And when they arrived, the curry portions were on the smaller side of average.
The lamb green masala was probably the pick of the bunch; a green chilli number, with a nice creamy edge, pretty tender lamb, and a gentle chilli kick. The king prawn bhuna with butterflied prawn was fine, but, in the heat of the moment, there was little to tell it apart from other generic tomato based curries. Finally, the chicken dhansak was again solid with the lentils well done for a subtle bite.
Sadly, the slow service for the mains has to be marked down, but otherwise the service was friendly, with the smartly clad waiters a break from the usual scruffy norm in Tooting.
Value for money
On this occasion we took advantage of an incredible 50% off food for online bookings which gave us cash to spare for the pub later. With prices normally pushing £10 for meat curries and £14 for seafood, the prices are competitive for Balham, if not quite at the lower levels of Tooting. It's therefore another fair to middling seven... I think you get the picture now.
As the scores suggest, Bombay Bicycle Chef is a safe option that won't disappoint. For those who like their curry houses in the British style, and frequent nearby Indian Room, you may want to switch things up to visit here every once in a while. For me though, my Balham curry of choice remains the more exciting Balham Social, particularly as recent opening Tongi didn't quite hit all the right notes on our visit. But, there are different courses for different horses and I encourage you try them all...or, as ever, head down to Tooting for an altogether different experience.
Address: 88 Balham High Rd, London SW12 9AG
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Clean-cut diner in the heart of Balham in the mold of your typical British Indian restaurant