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Friday, October 27, 2006








EMNI: MEDIOCRITY REDISCOVERED

It’s obviously been a week for openings in London’s restaurant world with DH visiting three new places in the last few days.

Restaurants come and go, I suppose. They certainly do in Islington. So, it’s “Thank You and Goodnight” Brasserie La Trouvaille. “Hello and Welcome” Emni. Well, “Hello” at least.

After St Germain’s ludicrous comparison to Paris and New York, I thought the hubris trophy for most idiotic boast would have to be retired, but Emni has made a late dash for the 2006 award with its proclamation to be “INDIAN REDISCOVERED” Oh deary, deary me.

When I read those words I couldn’t help thinking of the time I had to tidy up a student flat before leaving so I could reclaim my deposit. I moved a sofa and found the remains of a four year old onion bhaji that had rolled under stayed there when I proved too lazy to move the heavy furniture. That’s one bit of India I certainly wish I had not rediscovered.

Anyway, Emni opened yesterday, so I gave it a try today for an early supper.

There was only one other couple in the place when I arrived and I chose a table at the back of the restaurant away from prying eyes. My server was cheery enough, about 14 years old and had patently never been further East than Lowestoft. When I asked him where the chefs had come from he replied confidently “ Oh, India” I guess you can’t fault his logic.

However, you can fault his training. The restaurant makes much about the provenance of the chefs in the front of the menu. Apparently, they used to cook for the Sultan of Brunei. On the evidence of the food , I suspect that’s a curry house near Chingford rather than the second richest man on the planet. In either case, I expect more from the waiter than just practically pointing in the vaguely eastern direction and going “oh, from that way somewhere”

Anyway, none of this would matter if the food was splendid. It wasn’t. It wasn’t foul either, it just was well, hugely bland. Again, the menu makes a big play about the fact that the chefs insist on churning their own Indian cheese and in making everything from scratch to bring out the true and real flavours. You could not taste any of that supposed attention to detail in any of the dishes I tried. Quite the opposite. All the dishes tasted much the same.

To begin, some slightly chewy papad with three brightly coloured but muted chutneys. The best of them was a lemon mango which was a lurid green. A chilli chutney was cloying and lacked heat.

To begin, “ Chicken Chops From West Bengal”. These should be bursting with clean flavours of the traditional Bengali spices ( ginger, turmeric etc) instead, what I got was drumsticks of chicken in a slightly overpowering marinade of mint and coriander. Not horrible, just not correct.

With this Samundri Khazana which, apparently is a Goan seafood dish. What appeared were two small dishes with a couple of strips of squid and a couple of tough prawns in a sauce that reminded me of that sketch in Goodness Gracious Me “ Bring me the blandest thing on the menu”

The place was beginning to fill up by now and they were obviously caught unawares as the wait for my main courses went from the point where I thought “ I could do with my main course soon” to “ where the hell is my main course?” to “ if they don’t bring my main course soon I am going to go down the kitchen and introduce someone’s knackers to my calf skin Merrills”

Finally, it did arrive. Not really worth the wait. Again, not terrible just, bizzarely lacking in any discernible flavour at all. A Rogan Josh is a dish that is, in theory easy to make, but actually incredibly hard to make well. This was not made well. Instead of a rich, dark sauce thick with hours of reduction, this was thin and watery. Instead of tender chunks of slowly cooked meat which had marinated first in spices and then yogurt, this was small, tough chunks of lamb which was grey in the middle all of which showed it had been cooked separately and too quickly.

A side dish of Dhal Makhani was better. Slow cooked and unctuous urud dhal with butter and cream. I am not sure the skin it had formed from sitting under pass too long added anything though and again no great taste sensation.

For a restaurant that is making its stand based on recreating classic dishes from around India with the help of classically trained chefs ( from Mumbai, I later extracted from another waiter ) this is really uninspiring, insipid cooking. For a standard curry house, it would have probably passed muster, but for a place with the aspirations this restaurants strap line proclaims, it just looks foolish

It’s not cheap, either. The small dish of seafood was £7. The Rogan was £9 and a bottle of Hildon water was a massive £4.50 bringing the total to £35 including service.

By the time I left, it was packed and the staff were scurrying about and far too busy explaining that the chefs came from India to bemused punters to notice me leaving. I suspect in a very short while, no one will notice this place closing. It’s just not good enough to last in a street that has plenty of uninspiring places to eat already
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20 Comments:

Anonymous Islington Sue said...

Thats interesting because I really liked it. I certainly don't recall seeing 14 year old waiters either.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 2:03:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Each to their own, I guess. That's the joy of subjective opinion

Waiter, singular. Amiable young guy but had been given scant instruction as to what the dishes were

S

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 2:44:00 pm  
Blogger ayesha786 said...

having just dined in emni this evening , i tried rogan josh among other things and found it to be just right the meat being tender and served piping hot , maybe the chef has taken on board your comments !!

Thursday, November 02, 2006 11:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hermano i totally disagree with u emni have brilliant food and good service and with time would get better abd better

Friday, November 03, 2006 8:39:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Ayesha, Thank you for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed where I did not.

Annonymous. I would put more faith in your comments if you could put a name to them.

S

Friday, November 03, 2006 7:59:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Interestingly, I have just noticed that there have been lots of hits on this site from the owners of Emni and there have been three comments left from the same ISP.

how curious that there are also three positive reviews of Emni at exactly the same time

Tsk tsk!

S

Saturday, November 04, 2006 10:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just come back from Emni, had a few drinks in their lounge upstairs, and it was full of Barbie dolls and aging guys in black suits. The two owners also work their (I think they're partners, in business and otherwise)and a lot of their friends were keeping the place full. The service was dubious, we waited just over 20 minutes for our drinks as the staff were fussing over some B-grade reality show star who was there. Totally over the top and full of itself, it should be somewhere in the west end where tourists will keep it busy before real people discover the scam and pretense. We left after 45 minutes, and one round of drinks

Ronaldo Dukes
Islington

Thursday, November 16, 2006 12:57:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This place was horrendously expensive and the food quite simply wasn't that good. There seemd to be more staff than customers, and I point blank refuse to pay £4.50 for a bottle of WATER!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 6:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Minal Tailor said...

Checked this place out yesterday, utterly pretencious - do these guys know anything about Asian food?? And to charge £4.50 for a bottle of water was pathetic.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 11:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Wendy Ho said...

I see a lot of negativity here. I fear that Emni's competitors are having a field day on this site :-) Incidentally 4.50 for a *large* bottle of water is the going rate...

Fortunately I tried this restaurant before reading this review and can only conclude that I enjoyed it very much. If there were issues when los hermanos reviewed it then I guess they've fixed them.

Saturday, December 09, 2006 2:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Thomas....

This restaurant is definately not for the Rogan Josh or Tikka Masala Brigade.

This is evident from the menu I had Lamb Shanks for starters which was tender and full of flavour. For my main I had the Mahi Dum Anari which was the seabass it was well cooked and sunk in a sauce which again was full of flavours.

It is clear that Emni are aiming at the middle to high end market. The food is intended to be tasted with it's flavours. Not like a normal curry house which can leave your tougue burning.

The decor was good especailly upstairs in the lounge. They had some really funky glowing lights on the wall. The ambience was good and relaxing. On the whole I was happy with my meal. This is definately one of the better restaurants on upper street, and i've eaten at most of them.

Monday, December 18, 2006 9:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Minal Tailor said...

***4.50 for a *large* bottle of water is the going rate...***

We're not talking the Ivy here. I don't know much about Asian food even though my parents are Kenyan Indian, but I do understand flavours. There was nothing authentic to be had here. Looks like you were lucky Wendy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 5:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Katrina Allen said...

Hello Minal. You say this restaurant offers nothing 'authentic'. The word authentic is subjectively asserted at the best of times and (in my humble opinion) in particular when used to describe an Indian restaurant.

What is an authentic Indian eatery anyway? I've visited India on a number of occasions and what I've eaten there bares very little in common to Indian food I taste in countries outside of India - perhaps because it is massively diverse and cuisines naturally evolve at different paces to here. I visited this restaurant despite the less than glowing review here as it was recommended by a friend.

Said friends, my husband and I ordered a broad selection from the menu spanning meat, seafood and biriani dishes. I think I'm not exaggerating when I say that these were some of the most flavourful Indian dishes I have ever tasted (no, I don't know the owners). Interestingly, Emni is (to the best of my recollection) the only Indian that we've visited where they tell you on the menu from which region each dish originates. Furthermore and quite interestingly, they don't make any vague claims to being 'authentic'. The fact however that they label each menu item with its region tells me that there's a level of confidence within them about what they do, from which I infer that there is something tangibly 'authentic' about this place - even if I don't really know what it is.

Without blabbing any further, I'd just like to end my saying that this is a lovely restaurant with quite acceptable levels service and really rather tasty food.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 12:20:00 am  
Anonymous Minal said...

"(no, I don't know the owners)"

That's because you are the owner dear... But I fear your your real name isn't even Katrina, and you're not actually female.

Thanks for the essay.

Friday, January 05, 2007 5:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Rina said...

Sample the comments by a certain "Frédéric Rousseau" on www.myislington.co.uk slating other restaurants and recommending EMNI instead... Hmmmmmm

Saturday, January 06, 2007 1:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has to be the worst Indian food I have ever eaten. If my mum says that I need to be able to cook when I get married I am going to take her to this restaurant as proof that I am a better cook. Chutneys with popadoms from a Jar -too sweeet and sticky. They don't have masala chai, instead a cup of boiling water with a tetley tea bag presented on the saucer!!
Milk- What's that
The starter was a potatoe basket with a lentil dumpling that was so hard you could not pierce it with the fork.
The main- saag paneer. Even my paneer is better! This was hard rubbery not the smooth velvety paneer my mum makes or you get at the Punjabin Covent garden
Roasted Aubergine (partha) was literally dehydrated aubergine with tobascoe sauce
My friend tells me the chicken tikka started was good
Well I can see why the chef doesn't work for the Sultan of Brunei anymore
The room was nice and the crockery was from Rackhams
The Punjab is still the best restaurant in London

Saturday, April 14, 2007 1:20:00 pm  
Blogger Where said...

I've recently started writing little reviews of restaurants on my blog Where Alex Eats and before reading yours wrote a fairly similar review on Emni. In fact its surprising how similar an experience we apparently both had. All the more surprising given that I ate there last week and your visit must have been over a year ago.

I guess they are not learning any lessons afterall and are still getting away with mediocrity. Mind you they are in the right area for it. I still can't believe how many restaurants there are in Angel and yet how few of them are worthy of any note!

Saturday, January 19, 2008 4:35:00 pm  
Anonymous huey said...

you guys have got to be kidding me. this place is fantastic. ok, it's not yer greasy spoon curry house (i like that stuff too) but there's so many of those that its great to try a different slant on indian. on one occasion i sat at a table adjecent to alexe seil (spelling?) and grif rhys jones. weird, but fun :-)

Monday, January 28, 2008 11:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Tina said...

I ate there before Christmas, it was arrogant beyond belief! Quite nice and petite, but the food was bland and didn't live up to the blurb on the menu.

Over-priced and under-flavoured.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 4:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well 2 (3?) years later and this restaurant is still here and absolutely HEAVING. you can't get a table for love nor money on a saturday night. I guess they're doing alright. Food really is very good guys.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 4:08:00 pm  

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