20 May 2021: Taking the plunge post lockdown
Finally, after months of restaurant lock out we were able to eat inside again. And with the May weather raining down punches like Floyd, it was about time too.
After braving the elements for two outdoor curries at the excellent Booma, Brixton and the highly recommended Balham Social (will review properly soon), it was time to finally tick another local off the list.
This time, my good friend Pudding and I took the plunge into Indian Ocean, a restaurant that up to this point had passed me by, despite being situated on the edge of Tooting.
By my reckoning this would be my 30th Tooting curry house (including some no longer standing); but would it make waves or end up a damp squib? There was only one way to find out.
If you've ever driven down Trinity Road from Tooting Bec to Wandsworth Common then chances are you've seen Indian Ocean from your vehicle as it flounders painfully slowly in a tide of traffic. Far more diminutive than its namesake, this almost fish tank looking restaurant is seemingly caught adrift from the local curry scene. It's location, arguably more Wandsworth than Tooting, doesn't benefit from the wash of footfall or reputation of the High Street. It definitely feels more Wandsworth too, with a far more traditional, suburban, British-style curry house vibe than the more rough and ready canteens half a mile south. However, the inside is cleaner, more manicured, and peaceful - most similar locally to Kolam, albeit with less of a regional menu. Indeed, as the name can't help suggest, there is a bit (but not huge) skew towards seafood dishes here.
Otherwise this is a fairly generic restaurant albeit with abstract art on the walls that wouldn't be out of place in an A-Level art class and a pretty snazzy sign outside. That's not to be derogatory, more an acknowledgement of the all-round safe bet that Indian Ocean is. For that reason, it cruises to a steady 7/10 for Venue.
Starters and sides
Tandoori King Prawns
It was a good start for Indian Ocean with their chutney selection making a real splash. An unprecedented pentagonal selection of poppadom garnishes were just what this blog needed after so long away. With the usual onions, raita and mango chutney came lime pickle (a rarity in Tooting) and a lovely coconut sambal. The poppadoms themselves were pretty standard, but were soon followed by a sizzling plate of tandoori king prawns. Looking the part with their sprawling butterflied prongs and spicy orange glaze they tasted pretty good too. Not the absolute freshest or quite perfectly cooked, but still deliciously juicy with a lovely kick.
With only two of us, we didn't go big on starters, but did have a keema naan to accompany our curries. Rather unique in appearance, the spiced lamb mince occupied the centre with an almost pizza-tomato look to it. In any case, it certainly floated my boat: piping hot and fresh with a lovely moist chewy centre to the dough - up there with the best. From a limited selection it was still a good showing and 7 out of 10 for Sides and Starters.
Gost Kata Masala
Kerala Fish Curry
Drawn to the seafood mains on account of the restaurants name, our first choice was the Kerala fish curry. From experience, I was expecting more of a coconut and fenugreek number, but despite this tilapia dish being a bit of a red herring, it was still very enjoyable. It still had mustard seed and curry leave flavourings despite more of a tomato base, and the fish was very well cooked. Originally hoping for more of a contrast to the fish, our lamb kata masala was also good. Both traditional British curry house in presentation and both tomato based they lacked a little contrast, even if the lamb was a little spicier.
Our third curry, the saag paneer, was a welcome point of difference and one of the nicest I've had. The cheese was melting around its cubed edges and blended nicely into the onion and spinach dish. It was quite sweet though, no doubt on account of a lot of sugar added to the mix, which is a slight mark against it. It's fair to say the kata masala wasn't exactly seasoned subtly either which leaves the three mains with a middling to good score of 7/10.
Properly attired waiters and a licensed bar add to an altogether more formal affair at Indian Ocean than on the much more hectic high street. With mumbled, yet oddly comprehensible, broken English, our waiter was also very conventional if not overly convivial. Service was perfectly timed though and dishes clean and changed between courses. With all round attentiveness and prompt refilling of our beers it was a good showing for Service.
Value for money
Unfortunately, the more traditional surrounds meant more traditional prices. Pints of Kingfisher at £5.50 each is (sadly) competitive nowadays, but the king prawns for £13.95 and fish curry for a pound more felt pretty punchy. Whilst good, I don't think the food quite justified the higher outlay, especially with far cheaper local options of equal, if not better, quality available.
I'm glad I finally made it to Indian Ocean, but there was probably a reason I hadn't washed up upon its shores before now. Like myself, most locals will have to set a new course to pass through this culinary isle's waters, but regrettably upon landing there isn't quite the hidden bounty to make the trip truly memorable.
A visit to Indian Ocean is still worthwhile, and there is certainly nothing to take away from the food, but it just needs a little more to get us sailing back soon. It's therefore, a middling 33/50 overall, not helped by the locally uncompetitive prices.
Click here to read our last review from Hyderabadi Zaiqa in Tooting
Address: The Bonner Bldg, 214 Trinity Rd, London SW17 7HP
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Traditional British-style curry house serving a variety of sea food dishes on top of the usual fare