25 November 2019: Chutney's - Dipping in for a ney's up
It was time for another reunion of the grad scheme after a highly successful visit to Salaam Namaste a year ago. On this occasion Pete, Luke, Rubie and I were joined by Pottsy and Nicola, whilst Ace was preoccupied following the birth of his first child (congratulations to you sir).
It was also another visit to Drummond Street for me, the sixth curry house now to be reviewed by yours truly on this hallowed road; a road that continues to halt Euston's HS2 expansion, much like billions of pounds of public money.
Chutney's is hard to miss on the corner of North Gower Street with it's two-storey high, red, back-lit sign hanging vertically off one side of the building. High up alongside it are several rhomboid flower baskets going up to the fourth floor, while further greenery hangs over the awnings below. The overall verdancy reflects that of the colourful Diwana down the road, but inside it's a little more austere. Cream walls, laminate wooden floors and maroon covered tables create a rather dated scene, but bold patterned prints and big windows add a touch of light and colour. Despite this less than contemporary environment, it is still busy with patrons tightly packed in upstairs, even with extra dining space downstairs. The result is pleasant enough, and familiar, but not quite up to the style of more modern rivals. As for the name, I think the apostrophe is a grammatical error rather than the restaurant being nominatively determined by the founder, but I forgot to ask!
Starters and sides
Dhai Bhalle Chat
Like Diwana and Ravi Shankar (both vegetarian restaurants) up the road, Chutney's has a good range of non-meat starters from which we chose a few. The obligatory poppadoms were above average along with their accompanying chutnies - a relief given the restaurant's name. A ketchup-style chilli was deceptively good whilst a rogue heat to the raita was not unwelcome. The pani poori were slightly different too. These hollow wheat and semolina spheres didn't have pre-cracked holes for filling with tamarind sauce, but were perhaps a little crunchier as a result. The sauce, with chickpeas, was thicker than usual and created less of a splash when 'shot' whole, but was nevertheless flavourful. More tamarind came drizzled on the paneer tikka pieces which were not as melt in the mouth as the best, but still nicely cooked and tangy with their tikka glaze.
The bhel poori was a similar treat to neighbouring offerings, but arguably a little crunchier, while the pick of the bunch was probably the dhai bhalle chat. This lovely and smokey blend of chickpea, potato and yoghurt was sweet and sour, textured and tasty, and reminiscent of Krickets's bhel poori number.
As for the naans they were unfortunately all a little cold and dry as a result, but probably would have been decent if not; a shame. However, they weren't disappointing enough to take too much of an edge off what were a very enjoyable set of starters and sides - 7 out of 10.
Goan Fish Curry
For mains it was a mix of meat and veg dishes. The first of the three veggie dishes - the bagare baingan was a firm favourite of Pete's, with perfectly cooked aubergine (not too mushy, not too firm) amidst a mix of tomato, green chilli and cumin seeds. The tarka daal, being runnier than I like it and a little derivative, wasn't quite as strong, but the paneer tikka was above average despite not necessarily looking the part. The cheese cubes had a good tomato and chilli infused spice hinting at either marination or slow cooking to soak up the flavour.
The two meat curries were also contrasting. The kadi lamb, a roast coriander, chilli and cumin stew, tasted a little off and was certainly the weaker of the two. Conversely, the Goan fish curry was a delectable dish evoking the flavours of South Indian cuisine with its mustard and coconut notes.
So, all told, a mix of both content and standard amongst the curries, but still a solid showing - another 7.
The restaurant was busy, but there was no real delay or complaint. Neither was there anything notable or stand out to the service. On these terms, 7 is our standard score; so, another 7 it is.
Value for money
We didn't go over board, but for around £18 a head, including service, good value is on the cards here, as at most places on Drummond Street. Add bring your own alcohol at no additional corkage fee and you can have a comfortable dining experience for around £20 - something not to be sniffed at in London these days. However, quality was slightly lacking at times and the restaurant could benefit from a little sprucing up, so a 7 is probably a fair score for value.
In summary, Chutney's continues the tradition of other local curry houses of serving up a slightly different and more authentic take on the usual British Indian restaurant; a tradition that has admirably lasted over thirty years, despite development all around. However, the decades old surrounds could perhaps benefit from a bit of a renovation of their own, even if they may be familiar and comforting to those who have frequented Chutney's for years. What's not up for debate is there are some gems on the menu that keep punters coming back. However, like the interior, some of the food could maybe do with a little refresh to ensure this remains a Drummond Street stalwart for years to come.
An enjoyable, if a little varied experience, it's a solid 34/50 for Chutney's.
Address: 124 Drummond St, London NW1 2PA
Alcohol Policy: BYOB
Summary: One of many houses on Euston's Drummond Street serving solid Indian fare with a large helping of good vegetarian dishes.