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,