Being a new vegetarian means there's a cuisine I can now ALWAYS rely on for vegetable-strong alternatives, and that's Indian. But London's Indian restaurant scene has seemingly a remarkable gap between humble take-away and high-end eateries such as Cinnamon Kitchen and Dishoom, with little room for casual and cosy lunch or dinner options, until now, and until New Delis.
Clerkenwell is a space that relies on the mid-week working market, but that of course means there's never a shortage of places to grab a bite from lunch to early dinner, and New Delis seem to have snapped up this opportunity with their plot on Grays Inn Road. A humble space with about 50 or so covers to its name, New Delis isn't in-your-face Indian styling per say. With cutesy typography that charms, minimalistic interiors with a spotting of varicoloured furniture and dining tables, New Delis is unassertive in all the right ways, letting the space fill with people and plates rather than gaudy interiors or unnecessary plumage.
The Food and Drink
We only own the one (and oh so special) bowl in our house, so were we to adopt the New Delis bowl stance our meal would be a shambles, but they hone in on it just right. Rather than ordering starters, mains and desserts at casual whim, eating at Indian restaurants encourages an all-in kind of affair, so we adopted just that.
While our sides were a selection of the hunking, chowpatty style Bombay Slider (£3.50), a chaat style Punjabi Samosa (£5.50 and the chargrilled BBQ Broccoli, our mains were a mixture of chef special, the Hyderabadi Dum Biryani curry (£10.50), and a curry bowl for myself that came courtesy of the 'Make Your Own' menu: A Butter Masala Paneer (£7.00) at medium temperature with basmati rice and a classic naan. Now, that may seem like a lot of food for some, but the portions at New Delis were not only perfectly proportioned to their price range, they don't choose stuffing over sensibility. Not only was the Bombay Slider a great introductory heat, with perfectly plump potato wedged between patty, the Punjabi Samosa was an incredible suprise, as not only were spices laced with accompanying creamed spurts to soften the edge, the samosa is in itself deconstructed, and perfectly weighted with differing vegetables. Another vegetable that claimed fame? That broccoli was out of this world. Not only a floret rather than cut, the piece itself was tender and wedged so perfectly with softened, cheese bites, cumin seeds and a subtle BBQ trim.
Continuing to promise casual and comfortable bowls, my paneer curry was not only a rare tradition in itself with a rich tomato sauce that hinted at the savoury cheese just right, the plump rice was at my disposal, as my boyfriend's Hyderabadi Dum Biryani came rife with its own. While my boyfriend loves a cocktail with fruit and umbrellas, he'd have to leave his Ab Fab lifestyle behind for a roster of interesting and Eastern led cocktails here. While he opted for the Darjeeling Mojito (£9.50) with Masala Tea and cardamom pods that not only proved the classic drink can be accompanied by a friendly dose of spice, my Jewel Thief was a fresh and pert side to the meal with lychee and rose petal royal for a floral edge.
Clerkenwell on a Saturday night doesn't have the same social buzz as many other places owing to its mid-week working world, but New Delis just didn't give a damn, clearly still pulling in punters and locals that were propped to try out the new space. Not only a charming atmosphere, I can't fault the staff for their enthusiasm of the brand, with the owner of the restaurant consistently buzzing on menu emphasis, dish traits and informative, Indian dining knowledge through-out our meal, and helping us pick dishes along the way. I like this, and I like them.
As the (favourite) child of a family who celebrated curry night on Wednesdays without fail, it's also New Delis that I can't fail. Fresh, exciting and promising dishes that i've yet to come across in many other Indian restaurants in London, not only does the bowl stance make their food accessible, New Delis panned out a meal for two now very happy, and very stuffed vegetarians.