12 April 2012: Vijaya Krishna - Enter Penguin
Undeterred by a weekend of gorging on chocolate, we booked in another curry for the week after the Easter bank holiday. After a break from the balti, we were keen to get tucked into a plethora of poppadum, paratha and pilau pleasures. After a lot of deliberation about the venue and turning down a chance to debut in Chennai Dosa on account of its no alcohol policy, we decided upon the South Indian, Vijaya Krishna restaurant.
Louise ‘Penguin’ Hitchen had the pleasure of joining the ‘Brothers in Naans’ (despite a number of let downs we are humble and forgiving chaps, and didn’t mind giving Hitch ‘The Stitch’ a third chance).
Prior to the curry we had a couple of pints in The Antelope, and – a short spring(bok) to the venue, merely metres away. Louise was waddling, alive with anticipation, she blurted, ‘I haven’t been this excited since the 2011 release of Happy Feet 2!’
Vijaya Krishna, is a curry house held in high esteem by the locals offering light Keralan fare so would it live up to its reputation? Here’s what we thought.
Vijaya Krishna is situated East of Tooting Broadway tube, on the Mitcham Road, and generally considered to be something of a hidden treasure. A small, intimate venue, it is a more conventional curry restaurant than some of its canteen-style neighbours. This is certainly to its benefit in some respects, but it does lack the individual character and idiosyncrasies that make a Tooting curry house a Tooting curry house. This issue was not helped by the fact that there was about as much atmosphere as in the exosphere!
With ornate furniture and South Indian relics (some disturbingly phallic) adorning the walls, it is pleasant enough for a date (if you were maverick enough to suggest a curry based date) or quiet affair, but more raucous, lager-lugging, curry louts would be best advised to go elsewhere, especially as this is not a BYOB venue. Three huge air conditioning units on the ceiling slightly detracted from the charm, but we’ll give it a cool 7/10
Starters and Sides
6 Poppadoms and dips
Vegetable Biryani (with sauce)
Green Chilli Paratha
Sweet Coconut Paratha
We started, as is customary, with the traditional poppadoms, which came with a wide array of five dips – raita, mango, onion chutney, lime pickle and a coleslaw-style number. The raita was slightly too yoghurty, but the lime pickle was particularly good. Last time out the proverbial poppadom bar had been raised, so we were left a little disappointed, as these just didn’t stack up (not literally, but from a taste perspective) This lead to Louise’s only joke (contribution J) of the evening ‘Poppadom Preach’.....................................An awkward silence followed.
We then chose the Mysore Bonda for no other reason other than they came in a set of three. The menu described them as potato croquettes spiced with fresh ginger, curry leaves, coriander leaves, black pepper and dipped in a crunchy batter and fried. These fried balls lived up to their billing and came accompanied with two dips, both of which were a delight and really overshadowed the Bondas themselves. They were coconut based and thick in texture, one spiced with green, and the other red, chilli - a welcome addition to the table as the extra was gratefully mopped up with paratha.
The Coconut Rice was garnished with poppy seeds that added a crispy touch and the Vegetable Biryani, not only included okra, but came with a complimentary sauce that added spiced tomato value and texture. On the other hand, the Parathas weren’t as memorable. The difference between the Garlic and Green Chilli varieties was at first difficult to find, although the chillies, if found, did provide a welcome kiss of heat. The Sweet Coconut Paratha was a step in the right direction, but not as sweet as those in Onam, and generally upstaged by previous bread-based outings. Overall the sides and starters were arguably reflective of the whole experience – not a lot to complain about, but nothing outstanding either. 6/10
Lamb Green Masala
For the mains we chose three from the specials menu, although like in other establishments, the word special was slightly overused (and thus rendered slightly meaningless). We also had to accommodate that fact that our penguin doesn’t eat fish, so we were putting our eggs in the meat basket
Chicken 65 immediately jumped out of the menu, but it read as if it would be dry, much like the fried lamb dish that has been sampled here before. Instead we chose a Lamb Green Masala, a Chicken Malabar and a Chicken Calicut.
The lamb was not the most tender, but this didn’t detract from the dish which lived up to its green billing. The chilli had a mild kick and the sauce was delicately creamy – probably the pick of the three. The Malabar and Calicut were less distinctive, but still solid performers. The Malabar was creamier and quite masala-like whereas the Calicut had a drier quality with crunchy green peppers and a spicy finish.
All in all, the curries were amply portioned and fairly rich in flavour. However, it is our duty to inform, (putting our bodies on the line so you don’t have to) that there were some repercussions the next day that left us feeling a little empty (Louise made no comment; we are too polite to ask, but let’s assume three strikes). Arguably this was a result of a lot of green chilli, but, either way, we’re obliged to take a point off, so it’s a 6/10 for the curry.
It’s often said that children are best seen and not heard, and this adage could aptly be applied to the waiters at Vijaya Krishna; smart and efficient to their credit, but, softly spoken and distinctly lacking in any banter to their detriment. They weren’t that attentive initially either, but almost overplayed this later as one waiter unerringly stood to attention like a soldier at the horse guards parade. Generally though, no real faults, so 7/10 is a fair score, but if you’re looking for personality or an engaging conversation – Stephen Fry these waiters are not!
Value For Money
The bill came to about £22 each, including tip, with the slightly higher price reflecting the fact that this isn’t a BYOB venue (and arguably to cover the electricity bill when the air conditioning units are kicked into gear). You can certainly get a cheaper experience, with more added value, elsewhere so, despite smart décor, efficient service and decent food, it’s a 6/10 for value.
A good time was had by all and, with Louise summarising 'This has been the best night/curry of my life'. However from a curry perspective, the experience was a little non-descript. No real complaints, but on this occasion Vijaya Krishna didn’t live up to the hype found in other reviews or the amount we ourselves had built up after a spell away from the spice. Certainly no X Factor, it’s a 32/50 in total. Join us next time where we will be taking a walk on the 'non meat' side
Address: 114 Mitcham Rd, London SW17 9NG
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: Quieter and more traditional curry house in the English sense. Away from the hustle and bustle elsewhere in Tooting and good food as well.