The new year got off to a promising start on the culinary scene here in London, with the opening of Farzi Café in London’s Haymarket in January. The restaurant is promising to change the Indian dining scene by bringing Indian cuisine back “in-Vogue” with a modernist approach, offering diners a tapas style menu in a high energy restaurant space, coupled with a relaxed atmosphere.
The first Farzi Café opened in 2014 in New Delhi and caused quite a stir in the city. It was unheard of to transform classic dishes with then new cutting-edge molecular techniques, served with their rather unique panache and style, squarely aimed at Millennials. Today, in 2019, there are now nine successful sites situated across India and one in Dubai. This new opening in London is the tenth addition to the family.
Following a lavish launch party filled with journalists, Londoners and celebs braving a chilly January evening, it was time to pop back one recent evening for a more leisurely dinner and try a selection of dishes from the extensive and rather unconventional menu.
Farzi Café is the brainchild of Zorawar Kalra, the restaurant’s founder, who says that the new location is an “experimental Indian cuisine restaurant that focuses on avant-garde techniques on really cutting-edge food”. He goes on to say that the restaurant “has a great cocktail menu, the first in the world that is based on astrology and a food menu that is illusion” in other words “you will see something, you’re not going to expect what it is, but when you taste it you will know what it is”.
The thing that struck us from the moment we walked through the door and right the way through the whole evening, is just how welcoming, polite and professional all the staff, which has very much left a lasting impression. This is a restaurant you will want to come back to time and time again.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet, as we started the evening with a superb chilled 1936 lager from the Swiss Alps, which hit the spot, and was a chance to sit at the large bar and check out the extensive cocktail list and take in the ambience.
The large laboratory-style bar takes centre stage in the main street level restaurant area and serves a wide range of unique cocktail creations inspired by India’s ancient Hindu past, all reasonably priced at around the £10 mark. Interestingly, every cocktail from the Venika Menu, which is Sanskrit for “restoring knowledge”, is created using the latest cocktail making equipment as well as centrifugal machines and yes, even a sonic homogeniser! The end result is a mixture of dark rum, pecan orgeat, toasted sesame oil, ashwagandha and jasmine as well as sugarcane crystals.
The restaurant was filled with an eclectic mix of Millennials as well as the chic and more mature diners out for a fun evening. Farzi Café certainly has a great buzz about it and the background music although noticeable, was unobtrusive.
So, what can you expect from the menu? Well, dishes like Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie, made with seared wagyu and Masala scotch eggs and a Bhaji Fondu may float your boat and is not quite what you would expect from a traditional Indian restaurant. But that’s the point. Farzi Café is about the unconventional and out of the ordinary, offering a “a sensory adventure of the traditional fused with the futuristic”.
Peer into the open modern kitchen and you will find award-winning chef Saurabh Udinia at the helm, conjuring up some fantastic dishes along with his team of chefs, creating some wonderfully experimental Indian cuisine for diners in the capital.
We decide to try as wide a selection as possible so as to get a good feel for the menu, starting with a delicious Tuna Ceviche, which has a lovely lemony taste to it and a dish of Flamed Padron Peppers. The Butter chicken Bao with green chilli mayo is served in a baby bap and has a bit of a kick thanks to the chilli, but it is the Braised Lamb Chops with a maple and fennel glaze, that was the star of the show for me.
Turning to our main course, we choose the Massala rub USDA Rib Eye Steak accompanied with an onion and potato mash, which for central London, is reasonably priced at £24, but be warned, we both felt it was a little too peppery, so you might like to ask the kitchen to hold off the hot stuff, if like me, you prefer your dishes a little less fiery. The steak itself though was perfectly cooked and beautifully tender. We also order the Smoked Aubergine Bharta, which is ideal for vegetarians but again, was a little too spicy for my palette, although my dining partner loved it. Speaking of which, there is a good selection of vegetarian options on the menu.
A mention should be given to some of the signature dishes, which include Dal Chawal Arancini, which are Sicilian balls made with dal and chawal and served with aachar, papad and chutney. Tandoori Wild Mushrooms with Truffle and Walnut dust is an interesting sounding one, as is Raj Kachori, which is mini shells with sweet and sour pumpkin topped with chutney foam and a crisp okra salad.
If wine is your thing, and it is mine, then you’re in luck. Farzi Café stocks a really nice selection of labels from small wine producers. Although it was rather young, we really enjoyed our bottle of 2018 Pinot Noir from the Trapiche Vineyards in Argentina and that was one of their house wines! I also spot wines from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Prices start from just £6 a glass and £20 a bottle, which again, is very good for central London.
Last and by no means least, the dessert menu was very tempting. So we choose the Laddoo – shell coconut mousse with berries, which I felt was a marginally healthy end to our meal, whilst our other choice was the rather less healthy Chocolate Forest. All the desserts are priced at an exceptionally good £7, so there’s no excuse not to have one!
Well and truly sated, we bid adieu to the charming staff and made the short walk to Charing Cross to make our way home, planning to return to try some of the other dishes at the earliest possible opportunity.
Farzi Café, 8 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4BP, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3981 0090
The restaurant is located in the heart of London’s West End close to both Piccadilly Circus Tube station and Charing Cross Mainline and Tube station. Open daily for lunch from midday to 5:00pm and for dinner Monday to Saturday from 5:00pm to midnight; Sunday from 5:00pm to 10:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: Modern Indian Bistro
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Arrive a bit early and sit at the bar to soak up the atmosphere before you sit down to eat.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Interior photographs courtesy of Farzi Café and food photographs by Simon Burrell