Tel: +44 (0)20 7722 0606
Address: 4-6 Northways Parade, Finchley Road, NW3 5EN
Cuisine Type: Indian
It used to be that there were three certainties in life: death, taxes, and flock wallpaper in Indian restaurants. But, oh, how things have changed. There’s still death and taxes, of course, but go down a UK high street today and you’ll see that Indian eateries are far removed from their previous swirly carpeted design hell.
Out went the flock wallpaper, in came the MDF, bright paint colours and laminate floors with such gusto it would put even the Changing Rooms team to shame. Call me a cynic, but in some cases, while the dining room was revamped to within an inch of its life, what came out of the kitchen remained relatively the same. Ubiquitous curry gravy covered everything from the dupiaza to the vindaloo, pilau rice was still specked with rainbow flecks of food colouring, and the laminated menus still had to carry the frozen orange sorbet served out of its novelty orange shell.
Approaching Eriki you might worry that it is of the same kettle of fish. On an unprepossessing high street in Swiss Cottage, it has all the trademarks of a local eatery, spruced up for the Noughties, with a few extra quid tacked on to the dishes for the privilege.
However, that perception was soon quashed. Eriki fancies itself in a league far higher than that. There’s none of your common-or-garden popadoms here – starters include the likes ofcalamari mirch fry, scallops, and flame-grilled tandoori baby potatoes. We tried the scallops (£5.95) and the dahi batat puri (£3.95). Both were good (despite the curious identical salad garnish), the scallops plump in a curried green herb sauce, the pastry of the puri still crisp despite being rammed with delicious potato and chutneys.
But it was the main courses that really impressed – murgh xacuti (£8.95), a chicken curry from Goa, was so damn tasty with its wonderful fresh spicing. A baked whole grey mullet (£10.95), also Goan-style, was unusual – tangy, hot, spicy – yet delicious. Naan was light and fluffy, the rice delicately perfumed with saffron, and a kadai methi paneer (£5.95) a divine concoction with home-made cheese. The only minor niggle is that there are no actual side dishes so you have to go for a vegetarian main if you want a portion of vegetables.
For a neighbourhood restaurant, Eriki is a little more expensive than you’d pay for your usual Indian. But the citizens of Swiss Cottage don’t seem to mind one bit – the place was packed on a rainy Tuesday night. Besides, the food is no ordinary Indian – well, Indian as we have come to know it in the UK at any rate.