Husband-wife duo Harneet and Devina Baweja and chef Nirmal Save have created quite a stir in the South Asian food scene in London with three new openings in the last 18 months. The second of three restaurants offering their signature tantalising mix of subcontinental geography and history (Gunpowder and the brand new Gul and Sepoy are the other two) is Madame D, which celebrates the food of the Himalayas, particularly that of Chinese-Tibetan immigrants to India.
Having ventured inwards in its exploration of the food of India’s regions (Talli Joe, Calcutta Street Kitchen, Gujarati Rasoi), it’s exciting to see London’s restaurant scene now starting to look towards the broader region, including the woefully underrepresented food of Nepal and Tibet.
Admittedly, representing the cuisine of the diverse communities that inhabit the not insignificant expanse of the Himalayas is an ambitious proposition. Still, it is hugely exciting to get the opportunity to experience the familiar, and yet not entirely so, medley of flavours and cooking techniques that make up that gastronomic landscape.
And so, putting my money where my mouth is, I have, over four visits in so many months, eaten my way through the entire menu on offer at Madame D. So here’s the low-down on what to order when you go.
Start with the naga chilli beef puffs (pictured above) – the eponymous chilli, found in north-east India, is one of the world’s hottest. At £7 for a pair, these are pricey, and given the explosive intensity that the naga chilli packs, the spice quotient is a bit underwhelming. Still, the pastry is delectable, and the slow-cooked qeema filling makes for that ultimate comfort food feeling.
Move on to the stellar duck leg which comes slathered in a umami-esque sauce. The hakka chilli paneer, with fried cubes of paneer tossed in garlic, peppers and onions is borderline addictive. The Himalayan fried chicken deserves some sort of commendation in the international fried chicken stakes – between the batter and the chicken is a layer of garlic, ginger and mystery spice mix that takes the dish to a magic next level. The sweet potato and bamboo Kathmandu curry is a hug in a bowl whose earthiness complements the boldness of flavours of the other dishes.
Look out for the fabulously moreish duck momos – they’ve been conspicuously absent from the menu during my recent visits – I hope they make their way back soon!
Given the many highlights in the menu, my last but not least tip is to go with a group of friends so you can sample widely. The sizes of the sharing plates are decent (as reflected in the prices) so you’ll get a good share. Thankfully Madame D take reservations now, so you’ll get a table too! Note that the menu is seasonal, and a winter menu will be announced shortly.
Madame D, 76 Commercial Street, London E1 6LY, 020 7247 1341, www.madame-d.com
Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm – 2.45pm & 6pm – late. Dinner only on Monday, 6pm – late
By Rida Bilgrami.
Posted on 13 November 2017
Photos courtesy of Madame D.