Thursday, 27 September 2018

Dip In Brilliant, Fulham Broadway

The Brilliant, in Southall, is some people's favourite Indian restaurant in London. Of course being the hopeless restaurant spod I am, the moment, nearly eight years ago now, I learned that it was at least someone's favourite restaurant I persuaded a friend to take the train to Southall one evening to check it out.

Long story short, I wasn't that impressed, but then the mid-range of Indian restaurants is a very competitive market. I know where I am with top end Mayfair joints like Jamavar and Indian Accent, where all the food is spiced and cooked to perfection and costs an arm and a leg. And then at the budget end there's Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House, where the meat is a little more... mysterious but you can feast until you're all chopped out for £15/head. The problem with the £25-£35/head bracket is, in a word, Dishoom. Can anyone really do better than Dishoom? If you were going to spend £12.90 on 3 lamb chops, instead of £7.60 for 4 (Tayyabs) or £28 for 3 (Jamavar), would you really risk anywhere that wasn't Dishoom?

Dip In Brilliant, a more casual, proto-chainy concept from the Brilliant owners, is, I get the very strong impression, trying to mustle in on Dishoom's corner. From the quirky, casual menu descriptions ("Top dips", "Brill Grill") to the mid-range (though by no means top-mid-range) price points, it's a restaurant aimed at people who know they like black daal, and lamb chops, and comfort-fusion things like "Desi Chilli Cheese Potato Skins" (have you ever had Dishoom's "Chilli Cheese Toast"? You should, it's great) but are sick of the queues at Kings Cross.

All of which is perfectly fine - nowhere exists in a vacuum, and there's no such thing as a truly original idea, certainly not in restaurants - but if you're going to start a new, mid-range Dishoom-a-like, you're going to have to make pretty darn sure your product measures up where it counts. And from the very first tray of lacklustre chutneys, the tomato and mango versions of which, sweet and gloopy, tasted bought-in even if they weren't, it was clear this was no Dishoom. Mini poppadums were mixed in with colourful little corn snacks of various kinds, and the mint & coriander chutney was OK even if it was a bit heavy on the vinegar, but this was hardly an auspicious start.

The best thing about the mixed grill - sorry, "Brill Grill" - were the seekh kebabs, which were moist and nicely sausagey and with a very decent chilli kick. Next in order of success were the cubes of tandoori chicken, very slightly on the dry side and needed more spicing, but were still OK. Then the king prawns, again slightly overcooked and in need of some more robust flavouring but still edible. But finally lamb "chops" were just weird, leathery morsels of bland meat - not a hint of spice or seasoning - clinging to a collection of mysteriously-shaped bones. The idea they'd hold their own next to any others in town, never mind the best, is laughable.

Other bits were, thankfully, better. Naans were light and bubbly, slicked with ghee and easy to demolish...

...raita was, well, raita, but there's nothing much wrong with that. I wasn't even that irritated by the pansy on top...

...and finally, fair do's, the black daal was very nice, thinner and less richly flavoured than the best examples but I can usually find something to enjoy in even the most ordinary black daals. I think the effort and knowledge required to cook these things means there's a certain minimum standard - I don't think I've ever had a truly bad one.

But despite that, not much of the above was worth the money they were asking for it. An £18 mixed grill puts you in contention with some serious London curry houses, likewise charging £4 for mini poppadums and dips, which are provided free at most places. There's every chance that in the 8 years since I visited the mothership the Brilliant in Southall it's turned into more my kind of restaurant, but I have to say, if Dip In is anything to go by, I'm better off sticking to what I know. And what I know is that I can get in the queue at any of the Dishooms and enjoy some of the finest Indian food in town for about the same money. Did I mention I just really, really love Dishoom?


1 comment:

tlcukjourney said...

Looks delicious!!! I love Indian food, but I'm always apprehensive about trying something new. I also stick to a few favorite dishes, but looking at this food, I want to explore more! I hope you have a great week, Tammy x