Naming your restaurant ‘Bollywood Brasserie’ seems like an odd contradiction of terms. Similarly, this restaurant is a fish-out-of-water, offering standard Brick Lane fare in the shadow of the mighty ExCeL centre on a lonely DLR stop you may not have heard of. Still, the staff are kind, friendly and welcoming – exactly the sort of people to relax you after a long conference or stressful work meeting.
Whoever designed Bollywood Brasserie had clearly never heard of Browning’s famous maxim 'less is more'. Gaudy lights that would not be amiss in a nightclub adorn its walls and make the windows look somewhat schizophrenic – thankfully most of the dining area is located away from this. A large flat screen television displays Bollywood classics, and a huge buffet and cooking demonstration area takes up most of the inner floor space. Huge extractor fans stem down from the ceiling – presumably to take the smoke away from sizzling dishes, although on closer inspection they don’t seem to turn on. Even more oddly, if stripped of its trimmings, the pale walls and square, deep red, angular columns hint at the humble Chinese takeaway, rather than the sub-continent. Everything is comfortable, and you are spoilt for choice – perhaps a little too much, as there seems to be something here for absolutely everyone.
A Thursday evening in a Brick Lane curry house such as Tayabbs would see queues outside the door; however being out in the proverbial sticks means Bollywood Brasserie often has one waiter to each guest. An odd mixture of clientele reflects the positioning of the restaurant; suited and serious diplomats rub shoulders with tourists from the nearby Novotel, all of whom are looking for a convenient meal. It is quiet, but not unpleasantly so – one can imagine that it would be quite relaxing to be away from the busy streets of London and the noise of the hotels. The staff are friendly and helpful, with the hostess being particularly warm and welcoming. Jingly-jangly music sets the mood and despite the buffet creating lots of clanging, the overall effect is relaxing.
The menu is long and veers from traditional Indian cuisine to bizarre fusion dishes and even Chinese noodles.
Avoid the starters. The gol gappa pani puri chaat - highlighted by celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver on a recent visit to India - is less ‘pukka’ than expected. The cold casing, chick peas, spicy water and tamarind chutney is a far cry from the traditional (and warm) dish, and a real disappointment. The lamb seekh kebab chaat is strangely flavored with Chinese barbeque sauce, sweet onions and pieces of cucumber – far more at home at the Chinese restaurant next door. Apart from the normal starters available at your local supermarket, strange Chinese inclusions and even more bizarrely, fried calamari rings, the starter menu has disappointingly unappetising pickings for what are quite high prices (around £6-£9).
Mains are a completely different story. Although expensive (curries ringing in at around £12-£20), you are served a very large portion – so large, in fact, that two could share. Karahi chicken is delicately spiced, creamy yet light, and able to please the pickiest of palates, whilst the lamb madras is fiercely hot and delicious. The ‘Maharajah’s speciality’ biriyani dishes are aromatic and will not disappoint, with the meat tender and cooked in traditional tandoori style. A single serving of pilau rice would easily serve two, and the garlic naan and poppadums provide the ideal accompaniment. Again, avoid the Chinese noodle dishes which have no place on an Indian menu.
If you have enough room for dessert, ask the friendly hostess what she would recommend. The falooda (what can only be described as an Indian-style coke float) would please children and curious adults alike, whilst the host of Indian desserts on offer are sticky, sweet and incredibly calorific – not exactly what you might need after a large curry, but still delicious nonetheless.
For an Indian restaurant there is a surprisingly good selection on offer (one wonders whether this is the influence of the stream of diplomats who frequent the restaurant). The house white is really rather lovely and not unfairly priced, and there is a good range of soft drinks, beers and spirits on offer too.
The Last Word
With such lovely service and traditional roots, it is a shame that Bollywood Brasserie can’t seem to decide whether it serves Indian food or Chinese, when it clearly does the former in a much better fashion. With a buffet, cooking lessons and those Chinese dishes on the menu, this is a restaurant clearly concerned with pleasing its mixed bag of guests and as such the vision is a little confused. You'll get a nice main course here, but nearer the centre of town there are other Indian restaurants which are more reliable.