14 October 2021: Kennington Tandoori - Not hit for six
Kennington is the location of three significant London landmarks: the Oval cricket ground, the Imperial War Museum, and Kennington Park. The significance of the latter is debatable, not least with a couple of local curry houses in the mix.
Sadly, this blog's previous visit to Kennington was a wholly disappointing one - a curry that host, Pete Morris, has failed to live down ever since. On that occasion it was Gandhi's we visited - a restaurant great in name only. We did, however, have a pre-poppadom pint at the Prince of Wales on Cleaver Square then and did the same on my return, this time joined by Emma and Niall of Hyderabadi Zaiqa ignominy.
Not content with his poor behaviour last time, Niall turned up half-cut and spoiling for more booze-based, poor curry house etiquette, but more on that later. On this occasion it was Kennington Tandoori, the most hotly anticipated KT since Tunstall or the Arsenal and Scotland left back, Kieran Tierney. But would it be a glorious charge reminiscent of Tierney or would it record an average tune a la Tunstall? Read on and, you'll see...suddenly.
Unless you live nearby, or mistype Kensington, I would hazard that Kennington isn't high on your list of must visit London areas. However, there is a lively pub scene on the bend where Kennington Road leaves the A3 and merges into Kennington Lane. And this is where Kennington Tandoori can be found - a smart, white-fronted, fairly typical looking curry house. Inside is similarly stylish, if a little characterless, scene. Mood lighting is the order of the day and shades of cream and brown form a palette for all palates. Beyond a skylight notable for its height and depth and a healthy hubbub from the patrons that adds a little levity to the fairly serious surrounds, there is little to say about this perfectly inoffensive, but slightly beige restaurant. This is a safe, noughties British curry house. Nothing more, nothing less.
Starters and sides
The menu – a conservative range of British curry house favourites, but with a slightly elevated edge, is very reflective of the interior. And in many ways reflective of my co-diner, Niall, too; a patriotic, British man with strong views on how curry should be consumed as long as it’s in line with his British tastes and doesn’t involve sharing. A man whose attempts to sound cultured involves debating why they serve Cobra and not the more authentic Kingfisher whilst at the same time trying to order saag aloo 'off-menu', despite there being a dish called spinach and potato already on it. That he used to work in the estate agents over the road feels less coincidence than fate; this curry house was made for him.
And that’s ok; but more about the food…
First off it was poppadoms with an excellent mango chutney (but no lime pickle, to Niall’s distaste). This was soon followed by two starters: the Punjabi samosa and prawn puri, which, despite my comments on the Anglicised bent to the menu, were pretty authentic. The samosa, drizzled in yoghurt, tamarind and pomegranate seed were meaty with a nice thick crunch to the pastry folds, and equal to similar offerings at Curry On Naan Stop and Balham Social that I’ve visited recently (review to follow on the latter). More unique was the prawn puri. I’ve sampled similar dishes elsewhere, but nothing quite as tasty as these. The puri were smaller than usual but as a result formed the perfect taco-esque pocket for the delicious prawn when folded. The lovely warm heat of the tomato and chili sauce topped with a bittersweet squeeze of lemon juice drew further comparisons to a Mexican tortilla, but with more Eastern charm. A truly lovely dish.
Sadly we didn't sample any of the tandoori dishes (Emma's appetite is not the most conducive to extensive sampling), but on the showing of these two dishes quality is likely to be high.
Goan Vindaloo of Lamb
Bombay Parsi Chicken Dhansak
Spinach and Potato
For mains it was three curries, much more in the mold of the stereotypical British curry house but with a slightly higher quality. The Goan vindaloo of lamb and Bombay Parsi chicken dhansak were fancier in name than substance, but nonetheless enjoyable. Both were generous with the meat within and the vindaloo’s rich tomato sauce was well suited to the tender lamb, but I was hoping for a little more from the dhansak that lacked any standout flavours. The spinach and potato was again solid but nothing to write home about. All three were safe but not overly exciting, a fair metaphor for the restaurant at large.
Upon instructing our waiter to 'just tell him [Niall] to stick to the menu', he replied with an understandingly wry smile and: 'you can do that, but I cannot'. The sentiment was clear, as was the formality and respectability of the service throughout. You won't leave as best mates with the waiters here, but they do a solid job.
Value for money
Prices are a bit punchier here to match the slightly posher feel of the place, but I wouldn't say they were fully justified. Yes, the food is good quality, and they reflect similar prices outside of London, but you can get better value food now in the capital so relatively it's only a 6/10 for KT.
As you may have worked out, Kennington Tandoori didn't blow me away. It's a safe bet but I was hoping for a little more. The starters lifted things a little but the curries were just ok. Maybe a wider range might have changed my mind, but it's still a respectable score and worth a visit.
As for Niall, well, let's see if he's invited back again.
Address: 313 Kennington Rd, London SE11 4QE
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Safe bet for a solid British curry