Tel: +44 (0)20 7581 9993
Address: 93-95 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, SW7
Cuisine Type: North Indian
South Kensington (PICCADILLY, CIRCLE, DISTRICT)
A short walk from South Kensington tube station, on a bustling stretch of Old Brompton Road, is the original Café Lazeez (see below for branches) which opened in 1992 to critical acclaim – as evidenced by the host of awards it has won. If the number of diners on the Friday night we visited is anything to go by, Café Lazeez has the punters’ vote too.
Smart, modern décor, thriving bar, live music every Friday and Saturday evening, outdoor tables perfect for summer al fresco dining and even the opportunity to do some star-spotting. And the food just adds to the reasons for visiting. The menu is not as lengthy as many Indians (which are of the repetitive “chicken madras, lamb madras, beef madras” genre), but the options are varied, well thought out and focus on what they obviously do best.
We started with popadums – the mix of spiced and plain is a nice touch – with mango chutney, pickles and yoghurt with mint (£2.50), and Paneer Mint Tikka (£4.90) – chunks of turmeric- and yoghurt-marinated Indian cottage cheese with a mint and coriander filling, cooked in the tandoor. Slightly charred edges create a barbecue feel, perfect for hot weather and outdoor eating. Or choose from Kesari Prawns (£10.95) in saffron and cream with home-made aubergine chutney, Adraki Lamb Chops (£6.90) marinated in yoghurt and ginger, or the Lazeez Barbeque Feast (£14.50 for two) – a combination of prawns, char-grilled salmon, chicken tikka cubes and lamb seekh ghilafi (minced lamb rolls coated in fresh herbs and peppers) served on a sizzling platter.
Main courses are classified as “Evolved” and “Traditional”. The former, a fusion of Indian and European cooking, include Lemon scented scallop and jumbo prawn skewer on salmon kedgeree with mango black bean salsa (£16.95), Coriander and pepper crusted lamb chops with curry leaf and mustard mash (£14.95) and Spinach and fennel dumplings filled with sweet and sour mushrooms with saffron rice (£10.75).
We opted for the traditional which, though prepared using more classical techniques and recipes, feature some less commonly seen dishes such as a braised leg of lamb marinated with a blend of herbs (£28 for half, £49 for whole leg) and Chicken Makhani (£7.25) – tandoor-grilled chicken in a tomato, green chilli and fenugreek sauce.
Our main courses were fantastic: Nalli Gosht, a lamb shank slow-cooked until the meat melts off the bone and is steeped through with spices, and Malabari Red Snapper (£8.75), generous fillets of a fish we don’t see enough of in restaurants, with a creamy sauce of coconut, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Vegetable side orders of spinach and mushroom (£4.25) andAjwaini Lady Fingers (£4.60) – okra with carom seed, peppers and tomato – maintained the high standards. The moreish sauces can be soaked up with a range of rice and breads, though the unusual mango filling in the peshawari naan was a tad too sweet for my taste.
The Bloke was particularly impressed by the wine list, which has been carefully chosen to match the food. Suggestions of suitable wines do not always draw from the top end of the reasonably priced selection, ranging from £10.75 to £39/bottle (champagnes for £155 are available should you wish to push the boat out!) and £3-4/glass. The Pinotage and South African Chenin were both enjoyable.
Indian cuisine is not renowned for its desserts, but make an exception for the house recommendation, Carrot Halva Lazeez, a melting buttery mass topped with vanilla ice cream. There is also a range of Haagen Dazs ice creams, sorbets made with real fruit, summer pudding, strawberry phirni (a rice pudding) and kulfi. And if you need an excuse to chat into the night, look no further than the extensive range of digestifs and alcoholic coffees.
Service throughout was friendly, efficient and well-informed, while manager Nasir Aziz runs a tight ship, seemingly hands-on and taking time to welcome and chat to customers. No doubt about it – Café Lazeez is a class act.
21 Dean Street, Soho, London W1V 5AH Tel: 020 7434 9393
88 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1 Tel: 020 7253 2224