29 June 2018: Red Chilli - Hot peppers, blood, sugar, curry, magik
Gripped by World Cup fever, we arranged another meeting of the old work football team around key fixtures. Indeed, the 29th June was the first day after the group stages so with a VARst, football sized hole to fill, curry was the only sensible solution.
Perhaps inspired by Russia hosting this year's tournament, Charlie brought proceedings to Red Chilli, in east London, but not before annexing the trip with a pre-poppadom pint at the Princess of Prussia. Reports that Charlie was bribed by the restaurant and pub owners to host the review remain unsubstantiated, but rumours that the review team were doped up on alcohol proved to be true.
Two big names were missing from the line up due to prior engagements (Wakey was on his honyemoon and Jack didn't make the plane), but this didn't dampen the buzz amongst the other players. But would the curry cup be coming home to Red Chilli or would the ratings take a nose dive like Neymar on a scuba trip? Read on to find out.
Red Chilli can be found on Leman Street, a short walk south of Aldgate East or east of Tower Hill. Bold signage indicates there's an award winning restaurant inside the otherwise non-descript Georgian terrace.
Once through the door you leave the smog-aged brickwork behind for an altogether cleaner and more modern, exposed brick and white plaster interior. Musak tinkles on the airwaves and features like elephant-head plaster casts and ornate, golden lanterns adorn the walls. Dividing pillars give diners a cosey, private experience without feeling cramped while plush red leather seats, black leather banquets and roses (fake) on the tables complete the contemporary scene.
Slightly out of place is a Women's World Cup cricket bat signed by the Bangladeshi team, but it nonetheless hints at the restaurants roots. Altogether the place feels quite classy, but without pretense. It's therefore a high scoring 8/10 for Venue.
Starters and sides
2 x Poppadoms each
2 x mixed kebab
2 x chapati
Precursory poppadoms punctuated proceedings with generous dip helpings going down a treat. This was followed by mix kebabs - sort of downsized mixed grills - that were met with equally appreciative nods. The kebab was a bit rubbery in texture, but had a lovely heat as did the lamb chop. The chicken tikka was also of a similar standard; not too dry.
As for the breads, there's little to say about the chapatis, but the peshwari was lovely, striking the perfect balance between bread and filling, in a lovely and sweet style. The keema naan was allegedly good, but I didn't even get a look in! Meanwhile, the keema rice a nice savoury yellow colour and had the meaty flavour to boot.
There was a bit of an 'anglicised' glaze to everything but all told, pretty solid sides and starters. 7/10
Tandoori metta khatta
Grilled lamb Tikka rezella
The curries came in really good portions which were matched in scale by their quality. A lot of green and red peppers bulked things out a bit but all had a tingling heat to them.
The citrus-styled, shatkora mangsho was unusual but a bit too lemony, with the odd bite of lemon rind a touch too much. Similarly, not hitting all the right notes was the palok paneer. It had an unnaturally, red colouring that added no discernible benefit, but this disappointment was offset by rich spinach vibes.
If being picky the chicken tandoori metta kattha was also a bit sloppy with average tomato and spicy flavours, but the sizzling lamb rezella lifted the standard and was probably the pick of the bunch.
All told, the aesthetic and sum of the curries was better than the flavours of the indvidual dishes, but a good showing nonetheless.
Service at Red Chilli is gently paced, but attentive. Orders are taken on iPads by well dressed waiters which fit perfectly with the modern vibe of the place. Further nice touches like hot, rose-scented towels and orange slices to finish proceedings ensures good service from start to end. There's even the chance to give feedback on post-meal questionnaire - always well received by us as market researchers. On this occasion Pete did the honours filling it in in a less than sober state...between mopping his dry eyelids with a moist towels and vaseline (don't ask, I don't know, but it was a strange and troubling sight to behold).
Value for money
At £82 for the food between five its' a decent £16.40 each but the now standard £5+ for a Cobra meant we end up paying nearer £30 each with a tip. Ultimately, in London, this isn't too pricey and the whole experience was certainly good value for money.
7/10 for Value for money.
Like England at the World Cup, Red Chilli won't be coming home with the top accolade anytime soon, but it was a positive showing with glimpses of brilliance. Slotting in towards the top of our rankings, Red Chilli is in far better order than many other restaurants this blog has visited and delivers an extremely pleasant dining experience as a result. Well worth a visit if looking to avoid Brick Lane.
Address: 137 Leman St, Whitechapel, London E1 8EY
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Smart, good value curry house, good for groups and couples alike.