BANGALORE EXPRESS: CONFUSING
HP and I like to play a little game when we are watching football. We try to come up with the perfect adjective for each team taking part, particularly during international games. It allows us the opportunity to drag every possible stereotype from the locker. So the Germans are “efficient” the French “mercurial” the Italians “cunning” and the Russians "ruthless" The English? Well of course the English are “hapless” or if we are feeling more charitable “frustrating”
I wonder if the same game could be played with restaurants? Maze would be “woeful” Anything related to Tom Aikens could be “cynical” and Rules could be “immutable” If I was asked to include in the game today’s lunch at Bangalore Express today, the only word I could come up with would be “confusing”
It’s a relatively new venture, the second branch of the chain, which forms the easy access route to Chelsea’s The Painted Heron. Open for only three weeks, the restaurant is obviously yet to get the word out about its existence or its location, down a small alleyway opposite Leadenhall Market. For the whole of my lunch, I was the only person in the place and spent the meal smiling uneasily at a lot of bored looking waitresses who seemed genuinely surprised when I walked through the door.
The menu, quite frankly is a mess. There is an a la carte option with some very unpleasant sounding dishes indeed. Indian Calzone, anyone? I thought not. There is also a mix and match option called “Big Plates of Curry & Rice” which would allow you to create some equally unpleasant combinations, Duck Vindaloo anyone? I thought not. There is a low fat option, Indian “tapas” option and even a “deluxe" option offering dishes from The Painted Heron. You would need a three year degree, not a single lunchtime to try and figure it all out.
Such a confusion of possibilities would not matter if the cooking were any good. But, as soon as my own choice of a Vegetable Thali arrived (chosen more to prevent bewilderment than enthusiasm) it was obvious that the food lacked thought and, even worse, passion. They had decided to ignore the traditional thali presentation with small steel bowls of each dish to be mixed by hand with plain rice on a large steel plate (or originally a banana leaf) instead cramming all the food artlessly onto one white plate.
The end result is a messy plateful of colours not helped by the fact that none of the food actually tastes any good. Quite why they had to use the Japanese word “tempura” to describe an assortment of oily vegetables in a soggy batter, I am not sure, but if they were meant to be bhaji, they have some real issues in the kitchen. The lurid orange sauce covering some decent paneer was thin in flavour and the same was true of a “dumpling curry” Only a small blob of spinach and roasted chickpeas showed what they could do if they turned their mind to it. A dry and leathery roti was a final insult and left me pushing my plate away and calling for the bill of £15 including service and a flat glass of Diet Coke.
The owners of Bangalore Express seem frightened that by offering “real” Indian food prepared and served as it should be, they are going to alienate their possible audience. Instead they are serving up potentially bizarre combinations of not very nice food with a vague Indian twist. I am not sure at whom this restaurant is aimed. It's certainly not me and, judging from the empty room while I ate my lunch, not many other people either.