Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it actually leaves you speechless? Well, that’s what happened to us when we visited Colonel Saab, a fancy Indian restaurant within the very grand surrounds of the former Holborn Town Hall.
The aforementioned stunner is what greets you inside: a canopy of glistening chandeliers, emitting a gorgeous golden glow, against a backdrop of fine art and colourful plates. As you’re taken to your table, you soon realise that not only is this destination kinda like a museum with hundreds of historic artefacts, but it is also a homage from the owner, Roop Partap, to his parents - Indian Army officer Manbeer (the eponymous Colonel Saab) and his wife Binny. After travelling throughout the country, the Choudharys built up a decent collection of priceless paintings, hand-woven Persian carpets, vintage furniture, gold-leaf religious keepsakes and glass decanters from the palaces of Punjab, not forgetting sampling mighty fine grub along the way. As someone who adores shiny things (yep, similar to a magpie) this 100% sings to me.
The restaurant was absolutely packed come 7pm and we decided to take a break from gawping at the interiors to drink two signature cocktails. The Colonel Saab (£18.95), named of course after the top dog, blended Bulleit Bourbon and Bombay chai to go down silky smooth but end with a bitter coffee wallop. I opted for the frothy but fragrant Mr Puri (£18.95), served in a martini glass and garnished with dainty yellow flowers. A somewhat reimagined pisco sour, the notes of jasmine and yuzu certainly hit the spot.
We left our meal choices in the hands of our charming host Atul, who gave us a fascinating insight into each dish, including background stories and hilarious anecdotes. Each chef specialises in ingredients from an area they know well, whether that’s where they grew up or visited frequently, and this is reflected in each plate. The Mall Road's Dahi Sev Puri (£7.95) flew out of the kitchen first: a sphere with a fruity inner layer, peppered in tangy tamarind and juicy pomegranate, lying on a bed of puffed rice. A perfect morsel that exploded in your mouth after you’ve bitten through the delicious poppadom-like coating.
As a bona fide cheese devotee, I was buzzing to try Kandhari Paneer Tikka (£17.95), delicately stuffed with prunes. The heat from the chilli in the garlic mustard salsa smacked the tip of my tongue, which I enjoyed, plus the tomato provided a nice contrast. Touted as something never before seen in London, Jaipuri Baby Aloo (£12.95) was a sensation. Triple cooking the humble potato (boiled with spice, steam baked, then roasted in a tandoori oven) elevated them to the next level, and we simply couldn’t get enough. The sour cream was a great accompaniment as well. The Anglo Indian Chicken Chop (£10.95) followed: an unusual yet delicious plate that took three months to perfect, featuring siracha-doused pulled meat in a crispy coating. He wasn’t wrong in giving us a spice warning here, it punched the back of your throat for sure.
For a comforting main, order the Sunday Lamb Curry (£25.95). Served alongside naan bread (£3.95) to soak up the sauce, this carefully prepared firm favourite was rich, indulgent and the meat blissfully fell apart. Seeking the best vegan Indian restaurants in London? You’ll wanna tuck into my Falahari Curry Kofta (£18.95), a bundle of beetroot and raisin, drenched by a flavour-packed sauce and showered in cress. The dish was brought together by a drizzle of chilli oil and salty spicy crisps on top, plus the unusual lotus stem was sourced directly from Northern India. I’ve gotta say, the Daal Tadka (£8.95) was the unsung hero of the night, probably because of the lashings of ghee blended with earthy yet nutty lentils, mopped up by a perfectly charred tandoori roti (£3.50) and basmati rice (£5.95). I really wanted to take it home with me.
My date couldn’t resist ordering a dessert, and after hearing a funny tale involving the inspiration behind it, he chose the Malpua Waffles (£10.95). This pud ticks all boxes, comprising a fluffy base, sprinkled with pistachio, berries and rose petals, covered in sugary rabri. I physically couldn’t fit in another bite, so chose a fruity, Vermouth-laden Punchu cocktail (£16.25) to close the evening (to be honest, it was needed to extinguish the flames still hanging around in my mouth). Sweet but not too overpowering, the finale benefitted from a burnt mango crunch topper alongside cooling shreds of mint.
Before we left, we made sure to browse through the building, past the mezzanine and private dining spaces, to check out any objects we haven’t looked at yet (there are over 450), some one-of-a-kind that took decades to make...
The DesignMyNight Digest
You’ve probably seen the decor at Colonel Saab all over Insta, but trust me when I say it’s prettier in real life. Yes, the experience might not be kind to your wallet and some elements leaned on the hearty side rather than looking refined. However, in my opinion, it's definitely worth it as the restaurant puts a lot of soul into each plate, plus we loved the Central London location, great atmosphere and the gorgeous trinkets. Lastly, Atul is a treasure trove of information, so if you get to meet him, make sure to pick his brain.
💰 The damage: £182.15, plus service charge.
📍 The location: Holborn Town Hall, 193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD.
👌 Perfect for: Treating your other half to something special.
⭐ Need to know: Stop by the bar area and appreciate the cute, personal mementos.
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