6 December 2021: Brigadiers - Soldiering on to Christmas
As highlighted in our last review of Mowgli, it has been a heavy December on the curry front. This visit was my third in four days and was followed by a final (I think!) curry of the year at Lahore Spices to make it four in eight. In hindsight, with omicron raging and lockdown looking likely, it was a blessing that I had stocked up so much on the spice before any future restaurant restriction.
This particular outing had been planned as our annual Arsenal whatsapp group's Christmas meet up, coinciding with the away fixture at Everton on Monday Night Football. Historically, we'd visited the likes of Namaaste Kitchen, Salaam Namaste, and Darjeeling Express, often coinciding with a disappointing Arsenal display. This occasion was no exception with a poor result at Goodison Park for the Gunners. But, whilst the football was a let down, the fact we could watch it whilst feasting on Indian fare was not. We were, afterall, in Brigadiers, a self-styled 'live sports venue' with Indian BBQ to boot.
I'd been salivating at the prospect of a trip to Brigadiers for years, so it was a welcome joy that it lived up to my expectations. Read on to hear why.
Brigadiers is one of several big hitters from JKS, the team behind Hoppers, Gymkhana and Trishna, and is inspired by the army mess halls of India. As such, there is space dedicated inside to live sports and socialising as much as eating and drinking.
The restaurant is easily missed at the foot of an office block in the heart of The City, but inside is striking as you enter into a large, hotel-esque foyer. Off this lies a labyrinth of burgundy red corridors and wood paneled rooms housing various open and private dining and gaming areas.
We were sat in leather seated booths around a central bar, fully-laden with drinks for all tastes. Despite the cocktail bar vibe, and roadside location, plants outside the tinted windows give a sense of actual rather than urban jungle, and lamp stands shaped as monkeys add to this illusion. These lights were set to mood lit to contribute to the altogether classy vibe, helped further by high quality furnishings and Brigadiers motifs on the crockery.
If this wasn't a self-designated sports bar, the big TVs on the wall might take something away from Brigadiers' interior charm, but to this reviewer they're a welcome addition that complete the perfect venue for a big curry night out. Oh, and there's a pool table to add to the party too!
Starters and sides
Pappadums and Chutneys
Aloo Tokri Chaat
Prawn, Softshell Crab, & Squid Telicherry Fry, Tomato Pachadi
Tandoori Masala Jheenga
Achaari Paneer Shaslik
Chili Cheese Naan
Onion & Coriander Kulcha
There are a variety of menu options here geared towards large groups and feasting platters, but we ordered a la carte. The a la carte menu itself is split into several sections including snacks, grills and biryanis, and as the socialising and live sport dictate, there are still a lot of sharing and finger food options to choose from.
We started as usual with pappadums and chutneys, but these were anything but ordinary. The pappadums came in a variety of forms as seen increasingly at other venues, but the chutnies were something else. In the red corner was an excellent zesty chilli dip, in the green a wonderfully icy-fresh sour mint sauce, and the third was a jasmine yellow yoghurty number to complete a welcome trio. All three were excellent accompaniments to the gram flour crackers.
Following the poppadoms was a side of aloo tokri chaat from the small plate 'chhota chatpata' selection. A wonderful blend of crunchy sev, tamarind, yoghurt, pomegranate seeds that will be familiar to any chat lover, but arguably tops the standings versus comparable dishes elsewhere.
The big flavour hits continued with a melee of deep fried seafood and tandoori prawns. The sizeable Telicherry fry was simply awesome with tender deep fried, crab, prawn and squid encased in a firey batter. This was paired with a beautiful tomato chili chutney and topped with a crunchy curry leaf and coconut crumb garnish. As if this wasn't enough, the butterflied tandoori prawns alongside were just delectable with a mouthwatering succulence and spicy glaze that gives recent offerings from Kolamba and Gunpowder Soho a run for their money.
Not to be left out, vegetarians can also take advantage of the grill here with the superb achari paneer shashlik equally impressing with its glorious, cheesy smokiness contained in huge chunks of barbecued paneer. Again, this dish rivalled the best tikka paneer we've sampled at the likes of Booma and Hyderabadi Zaiqa.
In sum, the Sides and Starters here are incredible and not to be missed. The only slight let down were the naans which were just good, rather than great on account of being a little dry and overdone rather than having the fluffy, buttery dough of the best. However, this is but a slight blemish on a wonderful set of chart-topping dishes.
Bhuna Ghee Masala Kid Goat Chops
Dum Beef Shin & Bone Marrow Biryani
Brigadiers House Daal
The festival of flavour continued into a second round of dishes despite our already satiated stomachs. This time it was two curries and a biryani. The house daal wasn't much to look at but was still amongst the best we've tried, while the kid goat bhuna was also sensational. Amazing gingery flavours infused the meat that melted off the bone into the rich bhuna sauce.
Last but not least, the dum shin and bone marrow biryani added more meat to the menu in case we hadn't had enough. A pie crust was carefully cut away by our waiter to reveal the beautifully moist mountain of rice, onion and tender beef within. Marrow from the beef shin hidden in its depth fused more umami taste into the already exquisite bowlful that was reminiscent of Asma Khan's offering from Darjeeling Express a year before.
Like the sides and starters, these dishes were near faultless and as close to a 10/10 as it comes. Another visit and a few more dishes might well tip it it that way, but for now it's a 9/10.
Our meal started well with courteous and attentive service, but a few errant drinks orders were soon followed by our waiters own absence. This service didn't quite match the food and in the interest of consistency must be marked down. A colleague of our waiter took over his mantle towards the end of the meal and gave us use of the pool table, but it still isn't enough to raise the score for Service above a 6.
Value for money
This isn't the cheapest establishment but neither is it the most expensive. The dishes are well worth their price tags (some over £20) on account of their outstanding quality and generous portion size. The key to value though is that you don't have to over order here to be satisfied so you can, like us, enjoy a superb meal and drinks for £60 a head, a sum that doesn't feel too toppy given the central city location.
As you may have worked out, I absolutely loved Brigadiers. But for the service score, it would have shot clearly above its JKS partner, Hoppers, on our leaderboard. As it stands it's still on top on level points, but with better food scores. And that's what it's all about really, great food, and you need look no further than Brigadiers for that.
This really is an exciting restaurant both in atmosphere and flavour. The BBQ-style menu may be short of actual curries, but doesn't disappoint. The range of fried, grilled and tandooried options are a taste sensation not to be missed. Let's just hope Arsenal win too next time!
Read our review of nearby Est. India here
Address: 1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, London EC4N 8AR
Cuisine: Indian BBQ
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Indian BBQ and sports bars in the heart of The City