Chor Bizarre
16 Albemarle Street
Mayfair
Westminster W1S 4HW
20/01/2013
As we all know, finding an Indian restaurant in London is probably easier than finding a pub. But the thing is I have always known exactly where I wanted to go. Even before starting the blog. I had been waiting for this for ages and we were finally going: Chor Bizarre in Mayfair. It’s a little over the agreed budget, but almost negligible. I was full of joy, having spent many, many months asking Edo to take me there and I finally had the perfect excuse. How satisfying! The restaurant is beautiful. I know it sounds like an over statement, but this place is full of charme with all its Indian decoration and furniture and dimmed lights and candles and mirrors. Just beautiful. Just as I imagined it would be. Edo was positively impressed too and happy to be greeted at the entrance where they took our coats, etc, etc, etc. No need to say: no reservation = no eating. The challenge though started when we sat down in front of the menu. It was looooooooong, as it usually is in any Indian restaurant in the world, but despite having eaten, read, seen, smelled Indian food in any shape or form (including being in India) I still don’t know what is what. Vindaloo, Biryani, Tandoori…yeah, yeah, I know all of that, but there’s no proper rule. All the dishes end up having the same name and the same ingredients and I end up choosing randomly and regretting the choice. Edo on the other hand, despite having always shouted his HATE for Indian food, was flicking through the menu with the happiness and the confidence of a Bombay born man. In desperate need of guidance, I agreed to share two starters he highly recommended: Aloo Tikky Chaat and Purani Dilli KI Papri Chaat. God, this takes long to type! And the full list of ingredients takes even longer. So, for everyone’ s sanity: http://www.chorbizarre.com/newsite/CBLFoodMenu.pdf
The food arrived, very nicely presented and inviting I must say, but did I like it? NO, NO, NO. It was fucking sweet like my mother’s Tiramisu. I still think they ran out of plain yogurt and used Mullers Corner for the sauce instead. Edo loved it and scoffed the supposedly savory patties in less than 30 seconds. Moving on,
I was absolutely determined to have Chicken Tandoori, but being a huge fan of spicy food and lead by Edo’s suggestion to have something a little less “obvious” I settled on Konkan Prawn Masala. He had Shehnai Gosht. Again, link above, thanks! My wet, squishy, brown-orangey prawns proved me yet again absolutely incapable of ordering from an Indian menu. And my several hours long heartburns proved yet again I’m no good at handling “pickling spices and succulent sauce”. I loved the cheese stuffed Kulcha and steamed Basmati though. Edo’s lamb shank was described as “heavenly” and the entire experience at Chor Bizarre as “delightful”. Now, despite of what I said above I too think it was a great night out and I would highly recommend the place. I, in fact, would even go back. Whether with my home made packed lunch or a luckier pick from the menu I still don’t know. While waiting for our coats, the gave me a nice little bangle as a “thank you” with me which makes feel even guiltier about my stomach ache! Damn! .

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 5
  • Service: 3.5
  • Value: 3.5
  • Overall: 3.625
Monica
This has been the best restaurant we have been to as part of this weird experiment we are doing. It was truly great. And I don’t mean great compared to the average we are finding around London for the tiny budget we have set for this mission. I mean great as in a comparable league to many of the places we like to eat in when we really go out. It is demonstration that Indian food is tremendous value for money and that the phenomenal choice existing in London means you can find gems like this for the price of a pizza. We are doing this blog in the hope of finding places like this, so I feel doubly satisfied.

I ought to start by saying I am not a fan of Indian food. I have been going to India four times a year for the last four years, and each time I really struggle. I find 90% of Indian food tastes the same because any original flavour is totally drowned by spices - typically the same 10 or so spices on everything. I can’t even hear the words coriander, cumin, and turmeric without recalling unpleasant food memories. There are Indian restaurants I like in London (Chutney Mary, Quilon), and others I like in India in some of the hotels (Taj Mahal Palace and Leela Kempinski in Mumbai, Westin and Marriott Conference Centre in Pune, Rambagh Palace in Jaipur). However, I will never choose to eat Indian if I can have something else.

Monica is an altogether different story. She likes Indian food. Which brings me to the choice of restaurant she made - one where she had always wanted to go to but I had resisted. To achieve her objective I have a feeling she may have turned a blind eye to the fact the menu was not exactly in budget for the mission. . . I mean, it was really cheap but the average price of a starter + the average price of a main was very, very close to £25. Possibly above that. I am not going to complain - I have spent the last two years whingeing that our budget is too small!

Anyway. . . It is in a very nice area, in fact one of the most civilised places on Earth, and very easy to reach - £7 and 4 minutes taxi for us, which is a great start. It’s also a great place to have a walk around after dinner and stop at a bar in the summer, but not for us this time, given the temperatures (0C).

The ambience is lovely. It is super romantic, wonderfully decorated, just the right blend of vibrant and subdued. Perfect for a date, or for a chilled night out with your wife it turns out!

I had a starter of aloo tikki chaat which was lovely, gently spicy and sweet, with lots of textures and colours. I also ate most of Monica’s purani dilli ki papri chaat, which is the wheat version of the above, as opposed to potatoes and lentils, and was equally gorgeous - in fact, perhaps even better, as it was crunchier.

As a main I had one of my Indian favourites: lamb shank (shehnai gosht). It was gorgeous. They do a similar version at the Westin in Pune which is hotter. This one was gently spicy, melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sauce was amazingly meaty and with this gentle smell of cardamom that made it irresistible. I had to accompany it with cheese-stuffed bread, another of my favourites. I did not try Monica’s masala prawns.

I felt the food was generally much less loaded with spices than what you find both in India and in many lesser quality Indian restaurants in London. This is no doubt to appeal to Western palates, which really works with me.

Service was excellent. The (European) waitress was efficient and extra kind, the (Indian) manager was warm and just the right level of friendly. They even gave Monica a couple of bangles as a souvenir.

We spent £123 but I ordered a £50 bottle of Chablis (the most expensive white they had on the menu), which with service etc. means we would have got away with about £65 for 2 starters, 2 mains, a side, a coffee, water, and service, which is cheap as chips. Amazing value for money.

  • Food: 3.5
  • Ambience: 3.5
  • Service: 4
  • Value: 4
  • Overall: 3.75
Edo
INDIA