Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ragam, 7th February

It is a sad fact that Stephen and I have bad luck when it comes to opening hours. Many’s the time I’ve taken a special trip to a street food stall only to find it shut, or we’ve taken a random Monday off and everywhere we’ve wanted to eat was closed. So it was when we first tried to get into Ragam, in the limbo time between Christmas and New Year. As we advanced on the front it became clear they too had decided to shup up shop for the holidays, but it luckily provided us with an opportunity to go to Honey & Co.

It also made us determined to try again. The sole reason I know about Ragam is because I follow Ben Goldacre on Twitter and about 3 years ago he raved about it. He’s a pretty sensible, logical guy – always tweeting about evidence – and so I considered him trustworthy even on food. I was right to do so.

Stephen had been doing PescaJanuary (no meat, fish allowed) and we decided to celebrate him rejoining the carnivorous fold by going for a curry with a few friends. Having a few of us gave the perfect excuse to have a smorgasbord of starters before getting a main dish each. Some of these weren’t the easiest thing to share but we just about managed.

So, what did we have?

Stephen had a lamb vindaloo which, strangely, didn’t seem to have any potato in it. This was rather vinegary and, I thought, really, really hot. He begged to differ but I think he was just trying to be macho. I don’t know whether I liked the taste all that much and I know I couldn’t have eaten much of it. I just dipped some paratha in every now and again.

Paratha is all they serve on the bread front but that’s fine with me as I think they’re as good as, if not better, than nan breads. As with nans elsewhere, these came in lots of different flavours. I almost ordered the chilli but as I’d asked for extra heat in my curry I thought that may be foolish and instead had a garlic one. This was so garlicky it was verging on bitter. I think a plain one would have been best.

My butter chicken curry was delicious and there was plenty of it. It is not traditionally a particularly hot curry so I asked for extra spice and they got the heat level just perfect for me. Noses were running but the flavours weren’t masked. It was exactly what I want when i have a curry – good consistency, spicy, plenty of flavour and plenty of meat. 
Butter chicken and stack of paratha
My friends have a favourite curry house in London – Gopal’s. They’re almost regulars there. But after visiting here their allegiance was certainly wavering. While the curries were good (they also had the butter chicken) I think the starters were what was swaying their loyalties. So here’s a run through of them:

Cashew nut pakoda – cashews dipped in spicy batter and fried. Amazingly moreish, just takes a nut to a completely new level. They disappeared in seconds and I haven’t stopped thinking about them.

Sambar vada – doughnut in a lentil gravy – this was incredibly savoury and deeply flavoured, reminding us of the dipping curry at Roti king. Not the easiest dish to share, as it is one doughnut but we managed to cut it up so that everyone could have a bite.

Onion bhaji – these are easier to get wrong than you might think but we were really happy with the ones we had. They weren’t too greasy and heavy and came with a raita-style sauce to dip them in. 

We also had pappadums of course and even these were a little bit special as some of them were not just plain pappadums but seasoned.

And we’re not even done yet. We also ordered some poori masala – puffed bread stuffed with potato masala. These were a little dry and not our favourites but easily tasty enough, especially when dipped in the sambar vada gravy.

Finally we also had a side of bhindi which came with onions and tomatoes as we wouldn’t have felt healthy without a bit of veg!

Apologies for the quality of the photos, I was too excited to get stuck in to worry about being arty, or even in focus!

The food is ridiculously well priced even for Central London – curries were around the £7 mark, the other dishes ranged from £3 to £6. Book ahead if you can as the place is pretty popular and yet not that big so was all but full when we went on a Saturday night.  

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