There are curry houses, and then there are curry houses – restaurants where people come not for the atmosphere or service or to have a romantic meal but to eat authentic Indian dishes, pay the bill – which is surprisingly cheap – and go home again, only to come back a week later to do it again.
Needoo Grill in London’s Whitechapel is one such restaurant. It’s unlicensed which means you can bring your own alcohol, and there is no corkage charge, which helps keep the cost down. The dishes are also very reasonably priced, but I find that meals in Indian restaurants really add up by the time you order poppadoms, chutney, naan bread and so on. Even so the cost was still pretty good.
I went with work colleagues just before Christmas so the restaurant was very busy, but from what I’ve read I think it’s often like that. Long tables were laid out with benches on each side, so our group sat next to another group – and it was a bit awkward climbing in and out of the benches every time someone sitting further down wanted to use the bathroom. The noise was almost deafening and the waiters were clearly run off their feet. They were perfectly friendly, but I was missing a fork and waited 20 minutes for one, by which point I’d decided to eat my starter with a spoon (and fingers) even though it was a bread-based chicken tikka roll.
I am predictable and to be honest a wuss when it comes to spicy food so I ordered my usual chicken korma for the main course. But unlike the kormas I normally have, this one wasn’t bright yellow. It was more of a reddish-brown and I wouldn’t have known it was a korma based on my previous experience – I couldn’t really taste ground almonds or coconut for instance, and at least one of those two is usually present in a korma. But this was authentic Indian food – I know from having visited India that curry generally isn’t bright yellow or red like it is in many British restaurants!
It tasted good but I have to admit I’ve been conditioned to prefer the taste of the yellow korma you find more commonly in UK Indian restaurants. The peshwari naan was lovely and the rice a very generous portion, but we had so little space on the table that I ended up piling each dish on top of the other and hoping they wouldn’t topple over.
Needoo’s is very popular and frequently listed in articles on the best curry houses in London and in some ways I wouldn’t disagree, but as it’s a bit out of the way (unless you live or work in east London of course) and the décor and service wasn’t fantastic, I don’t think I will be hurrying back. They definitely did a good job on the food though and I think ‘purists’ – those who love really authentic Indian food – won’t be disappointed.