Sunday, 21 June 2009

Light of Gurkha, Balham

We're spoilt in Balham by the Holy Cow. Their curries come up trumps time and time again. I often make the short walk to pick up our food just so I can see the chefs in action as they knock out hundreds of dishes a night. Their lamb achari never fails to wow me. The only problem is, you can't eat in.

And that's where the Light of Gurkha comes in. It has taken up where Nanglo left off. The site has been given a fabulous makeover and is now bedecked with pink upholstery and dark wood that make it seem more like a Virgin Atlantic departures lounge rather than a Nepalese curry house. They have copied the smoking area from the Clarence next door to great effect. It gives the space at the back a purpose. A lot of care (and money) has been invested in bringing this restaurant back to life. And it has worked.

Feeling ravenous after Cowie's triathlon (supporting is hard work too!) we didn't hold back. Tandoori chicken and lamb chops were fantastic starters. The meat was juicy in the middle and crusted with charred spices on the outside. It has inspired us to give them a go in our clay oven. Maybe if we ask them nicely they will give us the recipe...

Cowie's chicken saag was delicious. The iron in the spinach seemed pretty appropriate given Cowie's athletic exertions earlier in the day. A smokey aubergine dish was just as good and has been earmarked for future consumption.

I decided to benchmark their lamb achari against the Holy Cow's where the slow cooked shoulder meat yields and melts like lamby butter. Here, the achari was sharper with a flavour that is very similar to the lime pickle you load onto your popadom. This is far from surprising, given that the dish is based on "achar" which is a way of pickling vegetables in oil. I'm in no position to say whether the Light of Gurkha or the Holy Cow serves a more authentic lamb achari. My hunch is that the Light of Gurkha might be more true to its roots because it has a punchier taste profile than the more rounded version from across the road. They are both good. They are both different. And if push came to shove I'd side with the Holy Cow.

Spiced pumpkin had the potential to be fabulous, but could have done with being cooked until the flesh was more tender and the flavour had a chance to explore its potential.

The service was excellent. We'd heard that they had a few problems with their first batch of staff, but these teething problems seemed to be ironed out now. Whilst it wasn't packed, the people around us were all murmuring contentedly about how impressed they were with the food. I've got a feeling The Light of Gurkha is going to become our regular curry house and am excited about them guiding me through the world of Nepalese food.

The Light of Gurkha,
88 Balham High Road,
SW12 9AG,


Kake said...

Interesting that a Nepalese place turned into another Nepalese place... do you know if Light of Gurka are connected with Nanglo at all?

Browners said...

I think the story is that Mansoor who owns the site got frustrated with with the Nanglo team so took it over again and has created a restaurant in line with his vision. So, yes, in short, I think the two places are connected.

Gourmet Chick said...

I like how you were exhausted after supporting at the triathalon as well - when I ran the marathon my boyfriend had to have a nap on the couch afterwards as he claims he was so tired from trying to get to different vantage points and constantly searching in the crowd for who to cheer for! (Good to hear that you have a good local restaurant as well)

Helen said...

I must give this place a go as it isn't too far away from me. Congratulations to Cowie once again on the fantastic triathlon achievement.

Browners said...

@Gourmet Chick - It's tiring being a supporter. I'm considering signing up for a triathlon myself! Might lose some of my paunch...

@Helen - It's not a million miles from you. But then again you've just discovered a really good place in your neck of the woods.

Anonymous said...

I walk past this place every day but have not yet been inside partly because, unless I'm being utterly dense (which is rather likely), there is no menu posted on the door and, as a vegetarian, I want to know if they do a decent selection of veggie dishes - what do you reckon on this front?

Browners said...

@Anonymous - Excellent point about the menu. They also don't have a website yet... although they do have a facebook fan page...

In terms of vegetarian dishes, they do have a good range... our butternut squash and aubergine dishes were every bit as good as the chicken and lamb curries... albeit the squash was a bit on the undercooked side of things.

Give it a go and ask their opinion on vegetarian dishes. We found the service was really good and they gave us good guidance.

I'm intrigued to hear what you think.

Mansoor said...

Hi Guys.
We have been promised that our menu board will be finally delivered this week. So very soon we will have our menu displayed outside the restaurant.

Our website is also being currently constructed but for now, we have posted our current menu for you to see what we have to offer.

We are also about to do a mail shot of our menu and will let everyone know that we are able to offer free home delivery.

We also do have a good selection of Vegetarian dishes which are very much worth trying. Come in and give us a go. We will welcome your views on the food.

Mansoor said...

Menu board is up now as promised :)


Natasha said...

Hello again,

Finally made it here last week and had a pretty decent meal. Aubergine (brinjal bhaji?) and chick pea curries were excellent. My friends made their lamb dishes disappear pretty quickly too.

Service was friendly but pretty ditzy. My starter went to the wrong table and a new one only showed up as my friends were finishing theirs. We had to ask for extra cutlery a couple of times and the promised dessert menu never arrived, but we were full by then anyway so didn't really mind.

OK, so these are tiny details, but they seemed out of step with the glam makeover the place has had.

Will probably go back, but not befor trying the Kastoori, that place sounds awesome!

Natasha (formerly anonymous)

Browners said...

@Natasha - Glad to hear the food was good, even if the service was a bit ditzy. I heard they have been having some difficulty with this aspect. And in fact delayed their opening as a result. I agrgee with you. Poor service is a major let down.

You'll love Kastoori. It offers such different dishes and has a great atmosphere.


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