Sheraz Bangla Lounge
13 Brick Lane
Tower Hamlets E1 6PU
21/11/2010
My mum knows London very well. My mum has never been to Brick Lane though. My mum likes Indian food and so does her friend. But my mum had never been to a Bangladeshi restaurant. And neither have I. So, what mum, friend, Brick Lane and all this info have to do with the mission??? Well, they were visiting and we decided to have a “my-first-B-group-experience”. Cold-ish November night, bubbly atmosphere, lights, lights and more lights everywhere, spices and songs leaking out the endless rows of restaurant. What a promising start! Our restaurant was right on the corner, quieter than the others, more civilized I suppose, even though seemed better – so much better – on the pictures. We all know that “first times” are risky and in order to contain dangers and heartburns a safety kit is always wise. Our safety kit consisted of: me doing research and printing out a selection from the menu or, in other words, OCD!!! And of course, Gaviscon.

Edo and I tried to look cool and pretended we knew what we were doing, but I’m sure mum and friend didn’t buy it! However they let us take the lead and order for them. When the menu is as long as the Route 66, being more than two is always a blessing: if you make the wrong choice you can always pick from someone else plate!

Mum and friend ate very little but picked a lot! And this is how we went wrong:

STARTERS

Beguni: aubergines with spices and chick pea flour

Chot Poti: chick peas cooked with lentils, cumin, chilli & coriander with tamarind sauce

Dail Puri: lentils inside a crispy puri, with onion salad and mint sauce

Poppadom with selection of four dips

MAINS

Jall Chingri: very hot prawn in green chilli sauce and Bangladeshi spices

Aam Murgh: chicken cooked with mangoes in coriander and green chillies sauce

Prawns Korma

Chicken Korma

Naan, rice water and one beer.

Since the first thing (from the dips selection) I put into my mouth was spicy, I couldn’t taste the difference from Beguni to Poppadom even though I know poppadom very well. So I just chewed and looked at the funny faces my “trio” was pulling! The least scary one was when they tried Beguni.

If you shrug your shoulder and timidly say: “mmmh…mmh…yes…it isn’t…baaaad….mmh” it clearly means you aren’t impressed. There was a lot of “mmmh…yes…etc” going on at the table! But moving on; I was quite keen to try my Jall Chingri and bite into a fat juicy prawn, but no prawns were to be seen in my lucky choice. Tiny invisible, uninviting shrimps were floating in my spoon. And of course the Prawns Korma turned out to be a Shrimps Korma. As much as I love a hot spicy dish, mine tasted of NOTHINGNESS! It was so spicy that it was almost bitter; I guess the special Bangladeshi blend of spices must be called “fire’s ashes”…??? After having carefully scraped my tongue with Naan, I tried Aam Murgh which was “mmmh…mmh…yes…it isn’t…baaaad….mmh”; Prawns/Shrimps Korma was nothing but a yellow coconut mess too sweet even for a pudding and Chicken Korma was actually rather nice and tender. Needless to say no-one touched my Jall Chingri, which in fact was left in the bowl almost untouched. So was its pal shrimps-too-small-even-for-a-shrimp Korma. Naan was good though!

Would I go back? No. Did I enjoy the experience? As any other “first endeavour” it was just OK…and in this very moment I’m shrugging the shoulders, shaking my hand in a so-and-so typical Italian gesture, twisting my mouth down a little and thinking of the springs of the broken chair I sat on all night!

Almost forgot to mention the bill: £56 (excluding service).

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 2
Monica
Clearly, it had to be Brick Lane. You find a place called Bangla Lounge on Brick Lane with good reviews: that’s got to be the one! So we set off on a drizzly November night and made it to the other side of London. Brick Lane is quite charming with its ethnic look, it is the one part of London that feels like not being in London at all, but in a non-existent country which is a curious blend of Middle East and India, and has been invaded by an army of white pretty young people in shabby-trendy clothing.

Anyway, the restaurant is very prominent at the start of Brick Lane, you could almost say it’s a landmark, just by the gate. The soft lighting and pristine white walls make the ambience fairly pleasant. The greeting is kind in the typical Southern Asian way. The place overall is informal but pretty, an acceptable venue for a relaxed night out.

The tables and how they are dressed are a bit of a letdown. The napkin in the glass I had not seen since the late eighties. The nakedness of the tables and the material they are made of look cheap, the cutlery is forlorn and floating on the fake wood, the plates and glasses look a tiny bit cheap. This is the second mission in a row when I strongly feel the table cloth is missing. A naked table can be beautiful, incredibly smart, trendy or rustic, but it requires talent and investment to make it so. More investment than buying, washing and ironing a table cloth, and more aesthetic talent than the average restaurant owner has. The result only gives you the feeling they could not be bothered to wash and iron some linen.

Service is just an IT project with India: vastly exaggerate number of people running around with no apparent coordination, everyone is incredibily kind and apologetic and smiling and sweet, and inefficient and with the planning skills of a three-year-old. The result is you get what you wanted but it takes longer and twice the effort for you, ten times the effort for them.

Because we said we wanted to order drinks after having chosen the food, not having to bring us the pre-order drinks they forgot we existed: I had to get attention 20′ later so we could order. Then when they eventually took the food order, they forgot to ask us what we wanted to drink, so I had to call them again to get the drinks. Basically, we had broken the process, ergo panic and chaos.

Twice we had finished eating for ten minutes, we were surrounded by two or three waiters in their nice black uniforms walking around with no purpose, and nobody was clearing our table! Twice I called someone. At least there were so many staff it was easy to get attention. Anyway, I am nit-picking: they were kind, they were smiling, we never really had to wait too long, it’s not Claridges, what do I expect. It was sort of OK.

Food. Bangladeshi food is only slightly different from Indian. In fact, the region of Bengal includes all of Bangladesh and Eastern India, divided by a border but culturally very similar. I speak as someone who, with all best will in the world, does not like Indian food at all. My general criticism is that everything, no matter what’s in it, what colour, what temperature, tastes exactly the same: it has the taste of the mix of too much onion, too much garlic, cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel, cloves, etc. which Indians put into everything, thus destroying any natural flavour of the original ingredients. I swear to God I have eaten spinach and sweetcorn salad in India it tasted exactly like a vindaloo. Every time I go there, within 72 hours of smelling the same smell every day three meals a day, I just spend the rest of the week eating naan bread and plain rice. I have eaten in Michelin-starred or other high-end Indian restaurants in London (Quilon, Chutney Mary) and only found it just OK there.

So, with these ever so mild preconceptions, we head down into India 2. There were a great many choices and I chose the dishes which were indicated to be particularly typical of Bangladesh. The result was pretty good! So here it goes:

Poppadoms with chutneys: OK

Chick peas mini tartlets, deep fried. Tasty, OK.

Fried aubergines: juicy, delicate, nice balance of spices, you could still taste the vegetable.

Stewed chickpeas: excellent, spicy but with a wonderful gentle warmth and great taste.

Stewed potatoes with cauliflowers: good, again good balance of spices and still recogniseable taste of the core ingredients.

Main course of spicy mango chicken: this was quite good, spicy and in fairness a little bit blurred in terms of working out the components, but the chicken was juicy and with a wonderfully meaty and spicy taste, well balanced by the mango. This was honestly a good dish, yes a bit overcome by the spices, but on the whole tasting great.

We spent £63 for four people including service, with hardly any alcohol, which is tiny by all standards. Indians and the like tend to be very cheap, though, so I was not surprised. Would I go back? No but that’s personal taste about the cuisine, one who liked that style would probably enjoy it.

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 3.5
  • Overall: 2.5
Edo
BANGLADESH