18 July 2018: Ravi Shankar - Sitar round and have some curry
Ever tried to organise a holiday with mates? Nightmare isn't it? Turns out the solution is to take a laptop to a pub and get it all sorted in one quick hour and then have a curry afterwards. Well, at least that's what we did on this occasion.
Ravi Shankar was a sitar maestro who famously influenced George Harrison and The Beatles. I can only assume this restaurant was named in his honour, but, either way, it gives me a great excuse to litter this review with Beatles references...just because.
The restaurant can be found on Euston's long and winding Drummond Street, alongside a host of other curry houses. In fact, this is our fifth restaurant review in the Euston area, which is proving to be a real curry hub.
Ravi Shankar brands itself as a 'bhel puri' house; other than knowing that bhel puri is a popular Indian street snack, I don't really know what this means. However, I do know that it's a vegetarian joint with mostly south Indian dishes, so north Indian meat lovers get back!
I've had my mind set on Ravi Shankar for a while, wishing to sample the vegetarian wares on offer. First impressions were good with the green, flowery frontage and sign particularly pleasant. Inside the verdant exterior gives way to a light and airy, rustic, cream interior with wooden flooring and glossy, red-painted tables here, there and everywhere. The overall effect is one reminiscent of a primary school classroom, similar to that in nearby Agra, but this time complete with child-like paintings on the wall. The welcome sign upon entry fits this theme perfectly, although the ethereal background has more of a Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds touch to it than finger paint.
In general, the inside is a little tired, but still very functional and hosts a good number of patrons, many of whom were there on our visit, despite it only being a Wednesday. So perhaps it could do with Maxwell's silver hammer to fix a hole or two or maybe a little help from their friends to spruce the place up a bit, but as it currently stands it's only a 6 out of 10 for Venue from us.
Starters and sides
The menu here is nicely divided into sections, like 'Mumbai's Chowpaty' (traditional tasty snacks and chaat) and 'Chef's Selection from South India', based around regions and types of dishes. As such, it's not so easy to discern starters from sides and mains, so I've grouped and rated them as I see best. However, all come on metallic dishes and plates giving an authentic feel.
First up, given this is a bhel puri house, we had to give the dish a try. It's a savoury snack, or chaat, made from puffed rice and sev (a fried noodle shaped snack made from besan flour). These are usually mixed with onions and other ingredients like tamarind to give a blend of flavours and textures. Ravi Shankar's version generally tastes like rice crispies with mango, but the blend of tamarind, onion and coriander means the combination offers much more than that; indeed the result is a lovely, zingy, magical mystery tour for the mouth, crunchier than a glass onion.
The lime pickle that came with the poppadoms was equally tangy and the lime pieces nicely pickled, but the raita was a little lumpy. However, it was the green coconut chutney that carried most weight, getting better with every mouthful. The idli sambhar - spongey rice cakes served with sambhar, a kind of savoury sauce - also came with coconut chutney, but whilst I was a fan of the idli the vegetable sambhar was a little too sour and soupy for my tastes.
Otherwise, the peshwari naan was solid but not the best by any stretch and not as moist as others around, while the rice raised no eyebrows. Unfortunately, despite shades of greatness, I've had better elsewhere and so it's again only a 6 for sides and starters here.
As mains we had the okra (bhindi), tarka daal and chili paneer, all served in traditional karahis on wooden rests. The tarka daal initially caught the eye with its mean mustard yellow colour and oily red, helter skelter, chilli swirls. Despite being a little bit runnier than I prefer it was probably the pick of the three dishes with good cumin flavours.
The chilli paneer and okra were chunky in texture with the main components a little on the chewy side. Both also had a touch too much onion and whilst the paneer was nice and spicy with a generous helping of cheese, the heat was overpowered by the vibrant, tomato sauce that resembled Campbell's soup more than curry .
Service here was very quick and efficient, so much so that there was barely any interaction to make note of. Perhaps most memorable was the strange zig zag, crossing off of our order on their yahtzee-scorecard-esque order form. Otherwise, they only wanted to take one card payment rather than split the bill which was a little odd. Anyway, it's a steady 7 for Service.
Value for money
With vegetarian only dishes it's always likely to be a carb-loaded and filling affair. Our final bill came to £53.60 with two beers between three, so value is definitely on the cards. You won't be bothering the taxman too much with an outing here, but it still falls short of top value marks on account of the generally average food.
I enjoyed my visit to Ravi Shankar even if it didn't hit all the right notes. I'll never say, you won't see me here again, but having since been to Diwana next door I'd recommend that over Ravi Shankar if you're looking for some nice vegetarian fare in Euston. However, they do do a lunch buffet so that's almost certainly worth checking out.
So it's a fairly lowly 31/50 for Ravi, but 15 Beatles references, so enjoy finding them.
The end. (make that 16)
Address: Ravi Shankar Restaurant, Drummond St, London NW1 2HL
Cuisine: South Indian Vegetarian
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Busy bhel puri and vegetarian curry house on Euston's Drummon Street