KERALA: SOUTHERN INDIAN, CENTRAL LONDON
London needs more joints. It needs places where you can check in any notion that you are going to have the best meal of your life at the door with your coat, but can count upon reliable, solid cooking to be provided at a cost which wont break whichever ailing bank happens to get your monthly pay check. London needs more dependable neighbourhood places.
In short, London needs more places like The Kerala Restaurant, even if its neighbourhood happens to be off Regent St, just North of Oxford Circus.
Family owned and run for over a decade, The Kerala is already a popular destination for its cheap as chapatti lunches and, when I was asked to suggest a venue for a vegetarian friendly, Southern Indian supper last night, it seemed like a better option than the expanding chain/declining quality that is Rasa these days. I made a reservation for 7.30pm just in case and I am glad I did as it was already heaving when we arrived and stayed that way until we left two hours later.
The menu is well priced and split into sections highlighting Keralan coastal dishes, Christian dishes, rice dishes and vegetarian dishes. With four of us in a hungry state of mind, we were able to cover a wide range of the non meat options.
Starters included some well made Vada (lentil doughnuts) in yoghurt tempered with curry leaves, some rather more ordinary spiced fish cakes, fried cashew nut pakoda and slightly floppy dosa saved by an excellent filling of spicy potato.
Main courses all hover just under the £7 and our table was soon being weighed down with plates of Vendakka (Okra) , a meaty whole fried pomfret and a splendid beetroot thoran with coconut, so good that we immediately ordered another plate. Similarly our first tastes of a bowl of meen (kingfish) and mango vevichathu had the waiter rushing back to the kitchen to bring another order. The only weak points came with a bland bowl of chickpeas and appam which, while useful for sopping up the sauces, were too doughy and a little tough.
Two of the group had wine, two of us stuck to beer, which brought the bill, (presented with a plate thick, Keralan halwa made with Jaggery, whose caramel taste reminded me of bonfire night toffee) to £100 for four of us including a tip for service which was very, very friendly if slightly harried and forgetful.
As I said, there was nothing life changing about it and sometimes that’s just what you want. Decent cooking in an honest joint at a price that wont make you feel like your arse hurts as you walk home. The Kerala Restaurant definitely fits into that category and London could do with far more of them.