19 Aug 2022 - Lahori: Bowled over
It had been a disappointing day out at Lords with my cousin Will. Despite a one-handed wonder catch from England's Stuart Broad early on, the tourists, South Africa, soon put an end to our day watching cricket in the sun, and the first test of the series.
Not content to finish supping ciders in the sun at 4pm, we made our way to The Warwick Castle in Maida Vale for a few more jars. However, once again, things came to a surprise early finish with the bar staff closing the bar for having too many customers. You literally couldn't read about it...actually you probably will in the Daily Mail blaming the EU or something. Either way, it meant we finally set off for our planned, final destination - Lahori in Marylebone - hoping it would be more of a success than the day's events.
Lahori, as far as I understand, is just the refresh/re-brand of the Original Lahore that previously inhabited the old Duke of York on the corner of Gateforth and Church Street. This rather central, yet un-glamorous location is unlikely to be on most Londoner's radars, but does perfectly suit dinner after a day at the home of cricket up the road.
The traditional pub exterior is in contrast to the rather modern refurb inside with the exception of the teal paint on the building's base. Indeed, the colour dominates the interior design with a simple yet smart wall and ceiling paint job. Any risk of the dark palette imposing too strongly on the dining space is alleviated by plentiful light from the many old pub windows, theatre ceiling lights, and the reflections offered by a mirror below the bar.
A blue neon sign behind the bar apparently saying "Don't eat my plate" in Punjabi adds a little more colour, as do a series of bright pictures on the black wall.
It was busy on our visit, with several tables of punters adding a good atmosphere to a generously spaced dining experience. All in all, a pleasant and satisfactory surround.
Starters and Sides and Curry
Garlic Chilli Naan
Like England, our meal started reasonably well. Despite opting (perhaps naively) against plates from the 'famous Lahori grill', our choices of samosa and papri chaat were a nice opener to the mains.
The samosa were perhaps a touch over-fried and crispy, but the vegetable and spice within was moist and flavourful, belying the slightly over-browned pastry. Equally abundant, was the papri chaat, a dish consisting of crispy flour disks in a creamy and crunchy blend of yoghurt, tamarind, mint, chickpea, potato and red onion. Like the samosa, it was perhaps a little over-done in terms of the amount of yoghurt, but was very palatable nonetheless and well presented.
Later with our mains we had pilau rice and a garlic chilli naan. The latter housed the perfect harmony of garlic and heat in a lovely buttery bread without any ingredient overbearing the other. A top top naan, but not quite enough to lift Lahori's Starters and Sides onto the honours board. Another visit, I suspect, would unveil a stronger showing, but on this occasion it's still a respectable 7/10.
The two curries hit us for six.
The karahi machali - a fish curry - was the catch of the day, surpassing even Stuart Broad's earlier effort. This was possibly the best fish curry I've ever had, with generous chunks of flaky white meat in a delicious sweet gravy with hints of tomato, coriander, and ginger.
We were also bowled over by the bhindi gohst, a lamb and okra number with equally large cubes of meat that were outrageously tender. The lady fingers were perhaps ever so slightly under-cooked but it may have just been relative to the melt-in-the-mouth lamb that gave this impression. But that's really nitpicking on what were two excellent dishes.
Our waiter looked like a cross between Ravindra Jadeja and Euron Greyjoy, and cut an imposing figure as a result. Serious yet attentive, he did eventually crack a smile when asked about the neon sign behind the bar. And in general the service was very prompt and efficient, with little waiting time at all for our food.
Value for money
The location probably explains the slightly higher prices here than elsewhere. For example, the samosa for £7.50 felt too much despite rampant inflation at the time of writing. The curries at £13.50 and £14.50 respectively were more fairly priced given their excellent quality, but comparing to my benchmark of Tooting prices they were still a little on the spenny side. Nevertheless, the overall experience was worth the extra few pounds and the curries were worth the extra 10% service charge alone.
Lahori certainly performed better than our test side, and with a mark of 37 would have top scored. As it stands, it is comfortably amongst the top performers of the London curry scene and well worth a visit, even if just for the delectable karahi machali.
Hopefully any future visit to Lords results in a full day's play and a more satisfactory display from England, but regardless of the result, I know I can always come back to Lahori afterwards to celebrate/commiserate.
Address: 2-4 Gateforth St, London NW8 8EH
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Refresh to Original Lahore restaurant with excellent curries