Farzi Cafe

Farzi bills itself as a “modern Indian spice bistro”.  These buzzwords certainly conjure up the idea of an eatery which aims to juxtapose innovation and Indian cuisine.  Indeed, a wave of recent openings seek to do so: the kitchens at Jamavar, Jikoni, Bombay Bustle, Indian Accent and Kahani, to name just a few, all seem to successfully reinvent classic Indian dishes.  It’s very refreshing to see such an approach towards a cuisine which, until recently, has tended to be stuck in tradition.  Even Dishoom, though delicious, is somewhat predictable and its menu has remained pretty static since its opening.

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To mark Farzi’s new opening, I dragged my willing companion to its soft launch.  This outpost of Farzi is not the group’s first.  Farzi already has precedents in cosmopolitan hotspots including New Delhi and Dubai where it has proved a hit.  Massive Restaurants’ Zorawar Kalra, the MasterChef India judge and dubbed “the prince of Indian cuisine”, is a co-founder and describes himself as fusing traditional Indian and global flavours with modern “molecular gastronomy”.  Query what this precisely means but even the interiors here set an ambience of modern opulence – with its sleek golden central bar, dark wood, effective mood lighting and very comfy seating, you could be sitting in any Asian metropolis.  The waiters and waitresses are also incredibly attentive and helpfully guide you through Farzi’s very long menu.

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On that note, be warned: the menu is a long read.  Split between Nano Plates, Small Plates, Pao & Sliders, Mains, Biryanis, Sides, Roasts & Grills, plus Farzified British Classics, it’s best to share plenty of dishes. Though being vegan/vegetarian narrows the choice somewhat, my companion and I still took our time to pick and choose.

To open, we went for the intriguing-sounding Hass Avocado Chaat (£6).  Though a small portion, served in just half of the avocado skin itself, even a mouthful instantly offers you the distinctive spicing of chaat, combined with a crunchy kick from the generous sprinkling of (fried) sev beneath and on top of the avocado.  The brilliantly tangy yet sweet beetroot chutney also added a pop of vibrant colour against the otherwise lush green avocado.  The dish effectively elevates a messy Indian street food onto a very well-presented plate (or rather, avocado skin).

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To follow, we went for the luxuriant-sounding Tandoori tossed “’shrooms” (£9), served with black truffle “haze” and walnut dust.  Sitting in a creamy and parmesan-laden sauce, this bowl was a visual delight and full of an array of seasonal, fancy wild mushrooms and some tempura mushrooms thrown in for added crunch.  It felt utterly decadent for January!

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Alongside, we also enjoyed the Potato & Samphire Bun (£7).  Though each bun had a spoon of imli, the bhaji were somewhat dry.  As is mandatory for any bhaji/bhajia, it deserved a good dollop of chutney.

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Onto the mains, we went for the Aloor Dom (£8), served with freshly ground kasundi and the Smoked Aubergine Bharta (£9).  Though the latter is described as a bhajia, in reality it’s more of a very spicy babaghanoush-like curry served in the aubergine skin half itself.  It was an absolute delight: the smokey quality shone through and was complemented by the natural sweetness of the vegetable and the freshness of the thinly sliced radishes and pomegranate jewels.

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The serving of the Aloor Dom, meanwhile, introduced the promised theatrics of this restaurant into the evening.  The waitress – who had recommended this dish – now understandably poured the delicate curry sauce into the bowl at the table, epitomising the “deconstructed” trend of fine (modern) dining.

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Although I had my reservations about Farzi and how much Indian cuisine can or indeed should be played around with, Farzi pleasantly proved me wrong.  An evening here feels like a total escape, transporting you into modern India.

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Farzi London, 8 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4BP

Website: https://www.farzilondon.com/

Rating: *****

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