Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lahore Kebab House: skewered

God help me, go to Tayyabs.

There are now more Indian takeaways in London than there are in Delhi. 

Hundreds more in fact. I doubt they have more fish and chip shops than us, but that's their loss and our gain. Or is it. If we're talking proper photos-on-menus, 70s-style-dining-room, hilarious-menu-typo takeaways, I'm not sure we are gaining much. I'm yet to find a really good one in central London.

There are some great fusion places, such as Dishoom, and some clever and exciting modern ones (try Imli), but they are far from  what you associate with Saturday night curry house. Brick Lane used to be a biryani beacon, but despite all claiming to employ variations on "Curry chef of the year 2002, 2003 ,2004, 2005 and 2006", they all serve the same slurry curries so bland you can't tell the difference between the chicken dhansak and the mango chutney. 

And so the good reviews moved east, to Tayyabs, Needoo, and my destination for a Saturday night dirty curry, Lahore Kebab Shop. I was told their lamb chops were even better than Tayyabs', but they were barely worth mentioning, neither tender, meaty nor intoxicatingly spiced. So I'll skip to the mains, which were also as anonymous as a pixelated face. The Daal Tarka tasted like carrot and coriander soup, while the tikka masala was perversely oily and frighteningly bland. With bigger chunks of onion than lamb or tomato, it swam in a glistening thick sauce that hid the fact there was actually next to no content there. The fact that the most flavourful item on our table was the paneer is a damning indictment on the quality of the food. The idea that a chef could have tasted the sauce and still sent it out is nonsense.

If I were being fair, I'd say that this lack of attention to detail was because Lahore Kebab House is enormous, seating at least 200. On the Saturday night we visited they had two huge, rowdy birthday parties, and at least 150 other diners in the bizarre village-hall style dining room. Even if we had managed to have fun, it would have been eclipsed by how much damned fun everyone else seemed to be SHOUTING ABOUT.

Lahore is so vast and unruly, so full of screaming and shouting that I felt like I was re-enacting the scene around the capsized Titanic. In fact, to get any attention from the yawning, slow-moving waiters you had to wave like Kate Winslet on that floating door, hoarsely screaming for help. Sadly the "closing the menu" trick doesn't work because they spring back open, and the waiters would need a searchlight to see it anyway.

If it weren't for the fact that I'd have to pay, I'd like to go back on a less busy night and see what it's like – and to try more off the grill than the wet stuff. I can't fathom how it could have such a good reputation when the night I visited the only thing it got right was the bill. I expected it to be wrong, because we'd ordered poppadoms that, true to form, never arrived. In the greyest of silver linings though, it didn't make it onto the bill, so our order never even reached the kitchens.

That's the only positive I can find.

Lahore Kebab House on Urbanspoon

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