The streets of Charing Cross are littered with more than just shredded copies of yesterdays Metro and empty McDonald’s bags puff-balling morosely towards Trafalgar Square. Pink heeled hens cackle up to the goldfish bowls of Covent Garden’s cocktail making classes, swarms of tanned & backpacked continental teens marvel inexplicably at the disturbingly dreadful floating Yodas upon whom stone Nelson gazes down in utter despair and tourist masses decant from ‘Dream Girls’ and ‘Kinky Boots’, clutching £10 programmes and warbling all the way back to the tube.
Every now and then though, something happens that’s surprising and rather special; someone opens a restaurant in the sort of area you normally power-walk through to get to somewhere better, only this time Tandoor Chop House is the something better. Actually, it’s something a lot better and if Indian food in the capital doesn’t equate to thickly clotted sauces, slice-able bricks of boiled white rice or poppadums that leave an oil slick trailing behind them to you, then it may just be what you’re after.
Half height curtains give the place all the unexpected feels of a traditional French bistro from the outside but the grey & polished gold paintwork mark this Adelaide St hideaway firmly in the camp of understated modernity.
Inside, wood paneled walls and tiled floors complement a glass fronted kitchen where chefs can be seen working oversized tandoor ovens while red leather booths for two are pitch-perfect for butterfly inducing weekend dates. Regular readers will know how much I firmly salute anywhere with the assured confidence to present a single page menu and this place nails that with nary a dud in sight on our overloaded table.
Bhaji onion rings are the size of gloriously golden brown, moon craters. There’s a special place in hell for chefs who send onion rings into the world with a battered shell that splinters to let steaming strands slip out and scald the mouths of unsuspecting junk food junkies. These spiced beauties are flawlessly cooked, light without oiliness and spiced beautifully – hands down, one of the best dishes on offer.
A seekh kebab roll comes dappled with green chutney, dotted with pomegranate seeds & red onion and is fat, juicy and fragrant and I’ll head out onto the shortest, safest, lowest limb in the world here to hazard a guess that any pick off the snacks menu would be a winner.
Part of the joy of tandoor cooking should be its simplicity. Quality meat marinated in herbs and spices then cooked over the highest heat, traditionally in a clay oven, should require no further embellishments if it’s done well and in this chop house, the hands at the tandoors are impressively safe.
Masala rubbed ribeye comes splayed alongside wedges of roasted lemon. Charred and tenderly sliced into baby strips that fall apart in the mouth, it’s especially good when paired with the curry leaf béarnaise whilst crispy lamb chops firmly completed my metamorphosis from the vegan diner I’d found myself being just 24 hours earlier. Smoky, spicy and warranting the sort of neanderthal bone gnawing that destroys a tree of paper napkins in the process, bring a carnivore here and leave as their BFF.
A generous bowlful of Jenga ready gunpowder fries is gorgeously dry, piping hot and smothered in a crumbly, terracotta spice mix while bone marrow naan is fragile, floppy and full of luxurious savoury flavour.
Nutella naan may sound like the kind of outrageousness you wanna get involved with – especially after several trips down the cocktail menu rabbit hole – but malted kulfi is a dreamily light way to end dinner on a sweet note with creamy scoops wildly scattered by a floral garden of pistachio, jaggery & rose.
FYI, it’s proved wickedly delicious when spooned down alongside a Punjabi sour or two; this cinnamon spiked riff on one of the most timeless things to ever emerge from a bar is effortlessly easy to put away .
The dining room here at Tandoor seems as though it should be much bigger than it is with the general feeling that because the food is so good, it should warrant a barn of a building to take residence in. Thankfully this isn’t the case because too often this sort of spot in lesser hands would end up being twice the size and half the delight.
The fact that it feels intimate even during a Friday night when no table remained unclaimed for long is testament to its lovely, homely vibe and the excellent service from a superb small team of staff. No-one rushes you to drink up and move on and, nearly four hours after we arrived hoping for a fragrant, rich & delicious birthday celebration, we rolled out wholly content, slightly Punjabi pickled and utterly in love with this charming slice of India.