Celebrating 50 years this year, the long-standing restaurant Gaylord is one of London’s most authentic Indian restaurants. It’s weird; eating here genuinely feels like you’re in an upmarket Delhi or Mumbai eatery, transported to Fitzrovia complete with its of well-heeled Indian families and international-expat types.
This is no run-of-the-mill curry house. Gaylord is lively, sophisticated, and spacious, with big, pale paintings of voluptuous blushing brides and tickled-looking musicians. The house cocktail is the saffrontini, a saffron-orange-red martini. It sets the scene for a sophisticated take on North Indian cuisine, with a few twists, but with lots of favourite, home-comfort staples, from rich butter chicken to spectacular golgappas.
Floatingly light yet crispy poppadoms, with condiments such as a refreshing and zingy chilli-mint sauce bode well for the rest of the meal. Street food-style starters are a rare treat. I started with golgappa shots, bite-size puffs of wheat, where you pour water infused with cumin and tamarind from a tiny glass into their hollow centre, before eating it in one bite (they’re also available with Grey Goose vodka).
Bhelpuri comes in little paper cones – squint and daydream, and you can imagine you’re taking a stroll down Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach, where this mouth-tingling melange is the evening snack. Here the puffed rice is mixed with fresh coriander, pomegranate, and red onion, the perfect balance between salt and sweet, with a chilli bite creating that tingling aftertaste.
Unusual departures on the menu include the Indian-influenced tacos. With chicken, lamb, or kidney beans, these tacos are built up with ruby chard and mint or aubergine dip, which feel like an attempt to satisfy youthful tastes.
However, if you’re in the mood for traditional indian, go for the speciality lamb shammi kebab: lentil mixed with lamb paste then deep fried and served with a creamy mint-scented yoghurt sauce on the side. They vanish quickly from the plate. Next up are crab Dakshani, served in little glasses, on sticks like lollipops. They’re rolled in sesame seeds and although flavour-packed, feel a bit dry after the silky kebabs.
Of the mains we dither over a litany of favourite dishes, including chicken tikka and barbecued lamb chops. We plump for tandoori shrimp. They’re a good choice and come sizzling as they arrive. These shrimp are big, tender, and meaty, marinated in saffron. Gaylord’s sensational butter chicken is as delicious as that served in Delhi’s best restaurants. It’s accompanied by saffron pilau rice and a slow-cooked lamb shank that falls off the bone.
Dal Bhukara is another house speciality, a velvety black lentil dhal that’s simmered overnight on charcoal to produce a creamy, earthy taste. Baingan ka Bharta is baked aubergine, sensuously smoky, cooked with chilli and plum tomatoes, which sharpen the taste.
To finish we have a icy cool, creamy kulfi, scattered with sliced almonds and gulag jame, spongy balls that are doused in rum and set alight after they’re brought to our table — who doesn’t love a bit of theatre with their dessert?
With home from home cooking like this from a team of Indian chefs, it’s unsurprising that throughout our visit Gaylord is packed with busy tables full of chattering families and expatty-looking groups. And although prices are higher than your bog-standard curry haven (mains are £8.50-16.50), they’re worth it to enjoy some upscale Delhi dining in central London.
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