18 June 2019: New Delis - Delisious
It was another meet up with the original blog crew, Tom, Louise and me. This time, back to where our friendship began, well, on the same road at least.
Our old office was on Gray's Inn Road and on this occasion we returned there to try out a more recent addition to the street, New Delis. And it was quite apt that old met new as New Delis claims to do the same, marrying the two concepts of authentic Indian recipes and the latest trends in street food. But would our nostalgic return be met with a perfect match? We went in to find out.
New Delis can be found at the southern end of Gray's Inn Road, where it crosses Theobald's Road, not too far from Holborn or Chancery Lane stations. It's not prime real estate, having only really caught my eye when walking to nearby Salaam Namaste, but it's always good to explore. Its name also seems a little strange given the apparent absence of the 'H' from Deli, but maybe it's I who've missed something instead?
It proclaims to be a low-key, casual diner and once through the smart, black of the exterior the furnishings are certainly simple and the atmosphere is a relaxed one. Colourful, wooden dining chairs at the front give way to more prosaic black ones towards the rear, whilst blue uplighting adds more brightness to the otherwise grey walls. Mirrors add further light, whilst a faux-marble, wall adds a something a bit different to the restaurants otherwise largely functional space. The result is very chic; comfortable without being cosy.
Starters and sides
Poppadoms and Chutney
Mix Grill Combo
The menu at New Delis follows that of other contemporary Indian diners in London: a short but sweet range of dishes fitting on a landscape sheet of A4 akin to those at Delhi Grill or Soho Wala. The starters, sundries and grills, far outweight the mains, but we didn't go big on starters, in fact Tom and Louise exhibited little appetite all night. The plus side was more for me and to start with that meant more poppadoms and tikka.
Poppadoms may seem a strange thing to rave about but these were particularly good. Well, actually it was the dips that had me singing: excellent raita and even better mango chutney that had a real home-made feel and lovely zingy mango and sugary, ginger taste.
The mix grill was also memorable, despite not being the most sizeable. It consisted of two pieces of paneer tikka, chicken tikka and two seekh kebab. The chicken was deliciously tender and the paneer tikka perfectly cooked (something of a rarity). Both were nicely tender and had a good heat that was countered with a dousing, sour green chilli and mint side. The seekh kebabs were a little rubbery and maybe a touch overdone, but still very good.
As for the breads, it was another solid offering. The lacha paratha was a nice change-up with its buttery crosisant-style, swirly pastry, even if it was a bit dry. Much fresher was the delightful keema, mincemeat filled naan, whilst the peshwari was also solid.
Kolkata Fish Curry
Dum Biryani Lamb
Mum's Chicken Curry
For mains we had a range of dishes from biryani to vegetable and meat curries. On first glance, portions were good but none stood out aesthetically, and upon eating it was a bit of a mixed bag.
First up, with only three chicken curries on the menu, we opted for Mum's chicken curry. Whose Mum, we don't know, but she knows how to cook. This was a solid, masala style, tomato-y number that was of good quality if not a little non-descript. Equally decent, but not outstanding was the dum biryani lamb. It had good moisture and a sizeable, yoghurt-based, raita-style side, but lacked the menagerie of flavours found in the very best.
The good but not great theme continued with the punjabi chole. This dense, chickpea-laden dish was topped with a layer of chopped onion and infused with cumin and other spices, but satisfied more than impressed. Equally the, rather fishy flavoured (you know what I mean), fish curry, did the same.
More exciting was the aubergine salan (curry) which had a superbly rich and spicy tomato flavour matched with a sweetness and creaminess of coconut. This was arguably the best aubergine curry we've had - up there with Salaam Namaste's sesame baby aubergine - but couldn't quite do enough to tip the scoring above a 7 for Curry.
By their own admission New Delis offer relaxed dining. The service reflected this, but without being inattentive or impolite. Expect standard central London waiting as oppose to Tayyabs or Tooting style casualness or carnage.
Value for money
The curries here are around £10 and the lamb biryani is the most expensive item on the menu at £13, so not too bad overall. Obviously things still add up, especially if trying as many dishes as we did. For us this meant, with wine, a total of £123 between three. However, we probably over-ordered and were well satiated for our money. With good quality food (and therefore value for that money) it's another 7 to complete the clean-sweep.
New Delis doesn't quite reach the heights of the best of them, but comes very close. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcoming one and the reasonably limited menu doesn't leave you wanting for either variety or quality. Some dishes stand out, notably the aubergine salan and the mixed grill, but some lack that little extra something to make them more memorable. However, there are also many I'd like to go back and try and certainly hope to do so soon. As such, and with a competitive total score of 35, I certainly recommend a visit to you too.
Please now check our review for nearby Salaam Namaste
Address: 35 Grays Inn Rd, Holborn, London WC1X 8PG
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Casual eatery priding itself on fresh, traditional Indian street food & curry favourites