25 April 2022: Silka - Not so silka smooth
This is another late review in what was quite a quiet first half to the year. As mentioned in the previous review, Covid and holidays have had their effect on my curry conquest, but new restaurants and old favourites have been visited. On the latter, a few excellent takeaways from Dosa n Chutney and the wonderful Sri Lankan, Jaffna Kitchen, have punctuated dine-ins at Hyderabadi Zaiqa and Mirch Masala. But this review addresses the former, a first time visit to a Borough-based restaurant for a reunion of the original curry crew.
As ever, Louise was late while I was early, and Tom flustered in somewhere in between. We don't get together that often so were hoping for a worthy meal to match the occasion.
It's fair to say first impressions of Silka were not great. It's entrance is situated at the top of the steps to Borough tube on the fringe of the market, but could not be more unassuming. A solitary sandwich board and cursive writing on a fancy art deco lamp are the only, low key indicators of the restuarant within. And it's not just within, but set downstairs in a subterranean basement location. This means a complete lack of natural light and a slightly claustrophobic feel. Sadly, the down lighting does little to elevate the dining space beyond a dingy and dark dungeon topped off with muddy brown herringbone wooden flooring. Indeed, when the brightest part of the restaurant is the bathrooms, it's sadly not a great vibe. All in all, Silka has the feel of a tourist trap rather than the classy restaurant the website begs to offer. Even a bit of wall art would help to liven the rather grey place up.
Starters and sides
Chatpata Paneer Tikka
Besides poppadoms, it was only one dish really for starters, the chatpata paneer tikka - an elaborate presentation of erect paneer tikka triangles. Like the rather beige restaurant interior, this bizarrely displayed cheese was a slight disappointment. Underdone and a touch rubbery with marinade painted on as opposed to infused into it, far better paneer tikka can be found elsewhere.
The lacha paratha wasn't much better - a bit too dry and bland. Fortunately, the peshwari saved some face with nicely retained moisture and an enjoyable bite. Nonetheless it's only 6/10 for Starters and sides.
Lamb Lucknowi Nawabi Biryani
Nawabi Korma Chicken
We shared three main dishes next, the showpiece being the Nawabi Biryani. Traditionally served with a bread skin lid, slicing it open revealed the ricey goodness within. Whilst looking the part, it did lack a little moisture and the richly infused flavours of the best. Similarly, the raita side was a little too yoghurty and nothing more.
Also not at their best was Tom who decided to blaspheme and order a korma. Thus far from the curry throne he hath slipped. When it arrived, it looked like a korma - very creamy, very yellowy-orange, and very tame. Big chunks of cubed chicken completed the prosaic tableau. However, we won't hold this against the restaurant rather against the unimaginative choice of its orderer.
Far better, and the cream of the crop was the prawn chennai; a handsome and firey looking curry with raw chillies on top. This garnish added to a lovely warming heat within the fragrant coconut and mustard seed sauce. Juicy prawns were the icing on the cake of an excellent dish. Saving a few points with this lovely curry, it's 7/10.
Given the relative quiet in the restaurant, service wasn't the quickest but neither was it an issue. A licensed premise means thirsts can be satisfied for the alcholic-ly inclined, but beyond that there was little else to note - good or bad - about the service.
Value for money
Starters are reasonably priced given the central location, starting at £4.50 to £9. Curries are perhaps a touch pricier at around £14 with several tandoori dishes pushing even higher. This wouldn't be an issue if the venue itself was a little more charming and the quality of the dishes a touch more elevated. However, as the opposite is the case, overall value impressions take a knock down to just 6.
Silka, sadly, flatters to deceive. I think there's a good restaurant in there somewhere, but a few tweaks are needed in the kitchen and on the shop floor. Apparently there is a terrace you can sit out on, but even that looks like some tables in a space rather than a pleasant dining experience. With just the one stand out dish in the prawn chennai it's only 31/50 overall - not such a silky performance.
Read our review of nearby Est.India here
Address: 6 Southwark St, London SE1 1TQ
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Unassuming subterranean curry house in the heart of Borough