Rebranding exercises can sometimes seem superficial, but this is not the case with Bombay Bungalow, formerly known as House of Curry.
With a new menu designed by international chef consultant Hari Nayak, the result is a lighter array of recognisable dishes, perfect for sharing for a more social dining experience.
We visit the re-vamped spot on JBR early evening during Ramadan, and are delighted to be greeted and seated swiftly and offered water and dates the moment the sun set.
The place is serene, with a tree and a fountain dominating the centre of the space, designed to feel like a cool courtyard. Let your eyes wander, and you’ll see all sorts of quirky takes on famous paintings – given an Indian twist, and Indian art pieces dotted around the airy venue.
And this hints at the food. It’s contemporary, plated beautifully and blends old recipes with new flavours, old style with modern trends. Expect dishes like ‘guac pani poori’ and ‘calamari bhel’.
Service is keen, but not overpowering. We hope the same applies to the food, as Denzil, the manager suggests a journey through the menu for our party of three. He’s affable, keen and knowledgeable, and sets the perfect tone for what turned out to be a monumental feast.
He’s so proud of his restaurant and his team, he allows me a tour of the kitchen, which of course, donning a hairnet, I’m keen to get in there and hunt for frozen ready-made food and the MSG. Disappointingly for cynical me, this is a place where everything is truly hand-made from scratch, including the bread and spice mixes. The tandoors and bread making stations can even be viewed from the outdoor terrace.
Most noteworthy starter is the raita tray, where a waiter will create a yogurt, cucumber and mint concoction of your choice, from a large tray of ingredients at the side of your table. This is fun, different, and a real crowd pleaser for such a simple dish. We tuck into our version, and it’s light, creamy and delicious. Veggie samosas were crisp, fresh and held just a little spice, while the crispy fried roti roll prawns were simply delicious.
Classic pani puri is given a twist with avocado – making it creamier and lighter on the palate, while the sprouted mung bean salad I insisted on trying didn’t disappoint either, with a good bhel dressing elevating it to a must-have side dish.
Starters – or at least first course – done, and we are full. But the staff are excited to bring us dish after dish, and next up is a selection from the kebabs and tikkas section of the extensive menu.
Zaatar paneer tikka blends Arabic and Indian tastes, and we’re not offended. This works extremely well, and is not too offensive on the palate at all. The tahini beetroot dip that goes with it really goes with it – this is a mind-blowing combination of flavours, and we want more. An incredible dish, given the bland flavour of plain paneer.
Hariyali fish tikka melts in the mouth, and again, is superbly enhanced by a passion fruit chutney. This Bungalow’s side sauce game is on point. The fish is well marinated, and moist, and the flavours – coriander, mint and chili, are there, but don’t over power. Tasty, but not fiery.
Harrisa chicken tikka – again, that superb blending of local and Indian spices – arrived glistening on the plate, and proved to be warming, delightful and delicious, especially combined with the yoghurt garlic dip.
Wising up to the multiple course offering, we tried small bites of the tikkas and kebabs – especially as they arrive in bite-sized pieces.
The signature dish here is burrata butter chicken. The team is very proud of the dish, which is also probably the most famous social media dish here, too. We tried it, and it’s good. The butter chicken sauce has real depth of flavour and richness. The burrata, while excellent, seems almost superfluous, though, floating atop the dish like a last-minute addition. But, the calm spice of the butter chicken sauce is further tempered by the cool creamy cheese.
We also took the cashew-crusted veg kofta, from the ‘signatures’ section of the menu, presented in fun mounds and truly tongue-tinglingly tasty. We specified nothing should be too spicy, and it wasn’t. There’s a slow burn with most of the dishes though, and we like this.
The chef’s subtle hand and immense knowledge of spice craft shows through. Spices and spice blends are proudly made in house, and this level of attention is apparent in the food. The final main course stands as testament to this – barbecue grilled lamb chops. Perfectly cooked, a delight to bite, and thickly soused in a rich coffee/bbq sauce marinade.
We missed out on the gruyere pav bhaji fondue, the fire grilled lobster and the merguez lamb pulao, all of which sound good enough to pull us back to this peace-inducing seaside haven.
We still managed desserts, with a refreshingly light crescent moon of summer berries and ice cream, and, it being Bombay Bungalow, how could we not indulge in the Alphonso mango kulfi or the ras malai?
Worthy of note are the incredible mocktails also offered here – we tried a couple each, and they range from the surprising to the sublime. Mostly sweet, there are some cracking flavour combinations which also complement the food well, too.
Bombay Bungalow might be a single-storey building, but this is private penthouse-level dining, and we can’t wait to re-visit.
Bombay Bungalow, JBR The Walk.