A classic in more ways than one.
Its location touching on the south-east corner of central but quiet Fitzroy Square is perfect for a visiting sleep. Its building, even though clearly an architectural product of the 1950s, still fits in well with its surrounding premises of student accommodation and office spaces. The spacious, airy and day-lit split-level dining hall - which is open to the public - naturally attracts these surrounding folk.
The building style, muted colours and old-fashioned decor is, and has been, a trademark of the YMCA hostels. It is no wonder it feels like time has stood still. The added element this ethnic subsidiary possesses, however, is the Indian feel to the restaurant: aside from the self-serve tray pick-up aspect, the system is typical to that of restaurants in India with its communal-style dining hall seating. Service staff is minimal here, but the few that are required to linger are smiley and obliging.
The promise of delicious, authentic Indian food rings true; for £5 at dinnertime (pay for a ticket at the entrance outside the dining hall – at lunch the price depends on what you take), one gets doled an enough-for-two serving of the vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or both, dish(es) and a separate serving of dessert. The menu is the three dishes cooked that day, which could be a small-chunked but bounteous spicy lamb curry, a light ingredient-laden pea curry, and a fritter in yoghurt sauce (to be eaten with a sprinkle of sugar). True to its self-operating system, these are to be had with the fluffed room-temperature rice already sitting in big bowls at the individual tables. Delicious and authentic they are, right down to the temperature of the staple. But this being London, the meal could definitely be made more toothsome with warm rice, especially on a chilly day.
The pleasing economical news is: for £5 drinks are included. But there are limitations - the "drinks" are simply self-serve tap water, which is not as bad as it sounds because one would need something to wash all those spices down. There’s also a soda machine should you require something more sugary.
The Last Word
An unelaborate setting, and price, for veritable Indian meals in Central London. Meal time frames are tight though - lunch is from 12 to 2pm on weekdays, and dinner from 7 to 8:30pm.