Saturday, 19 December 2009

Restaurant Review: Needoos

The only evidence of me eating in Lahore's famous 'Food Street' is a picture taken by my friend Tom with the caption 'Dan eats balls'.  This was his hilarious way of saying I was eating a sheep testicle and kidney stir-fry, funny guy!  Probably hoping for new opportunities to mock me, he excitedly agreed to come to Needoo Grill, a new venture by a former Tayyabs manager who has employed a chef from somewhere on said 'Food Street'.  Another friend, also a Tom agreed to come as he'd heard me bang on about the Lahore Kebab House and Tayyabs a lot and this place was meant to be up there with them.  The three of us arrived at around 1.30 on a Tuesday looking forward to large lunch, I'm not sure everyone realised how large at this point, though I certainly had plans in that direction.  Its actually lucky we were all there at all,  since one Tom had dropped his phone on the way, breaking in the process.  Since we were late its lucky that he was waiting outside.  Thank goodness I thought, there's a much bigger scope for over-ordering when there are three instead of two

Needoos' self proclaimed selling point is great food with great customer service, in comparison to the Tayyabs long, longer, endless queues.  Shame then that the 'free poppadoms' we were given for being kept waiting for our menus (despite being given them within two minutes of sitting) were charged on our final bill.  To be fair this was a minor blip, the service was friendly and generally good (except for being kept waiting for out bill) and the food arrived fast.  So far so good, it's definitely doing what it said on the tin.  What about the food though?  Since this is just around the corner from Tayyabs in Whitechapel all the reviews I have seen compare the and I won't try be particularly original on this front.  The Dos Hermanos and Jay Rayner have already been to this place and liked it as have quite a few Chowhounders.  If you don't want an extended commentary you can stop here, because I agree with them, the food was great.

Excellent, well here we go with the extended version.  The food was indeed great.  Lamb chops, seekh kebabs and shammi kebabs came sizzlingly hot on griddle plates with onions.  The chops and seekh kebabs were good, but not as good as its rivals, which will just be T and L from now on.  One of my friends disagreed with the chop, but I just like the melting soft and crispy fat you get on L's.  The ones here were slightly different in style so maybe its best not to compare too much.  The marinade was the distinguishing feature here having a strong mint and vinegar kick amidst the spicing.  The shammi kebab was great and welcome since the other places only have this as a special some days a week.  I also really enjoyed the paneer tikka, which had a lovely spring to it and was excellently spiced.

We ordered a lot of bread for the main event, and though the tandoori rotis were good, they weren't outstanding.  The same can't be said of the garlic naan.  This was like eating a doughy cloud with lots of butter and garlic and some tasty burnt bits from the oven.  We then got out five curries.  In line with the friendly service the waiter actually came and thanked us for making such a huge order saying it was very good for the restaurant.  I'll start with what I didn't like to get it over with: I didn't really like the Lamb Keema (mince) curry, something that I enjoy making and ordering usually.  The mince was too fine and as the thing didn't stay piping hot for too long got quite greasy.  A few of the dishes would have benefited from coming a bit warmer actually.  This was the one fault that I could level against the baby aubergine dhal dish that we had, which was otherwise excellent, soft aubergine in a silky, rich dhal balancing delicate flavours with big ones.  This is something that characterised a lot of the meal actually. The Butter Chicken was one of the best I've had, smoky chicken with a rich tomato sauce, nothing overpowering anything else.  Also excellent was the Dry Meat curry.  Not as crispy and delicious as the T version, but the meat was meltingly tender with a really fantastic flavour that was perhaps better than its famous rivals.  Hmm sauce v. meat the eternal debate, which is more important is too difficult for me to decide here.  Its also one you can have fun deciding between these two places and I wouldn't want to deprive anyone of that.  The last dish was a pumpkin curry which was good but not great if I'm allowed to be cliched.  It had a nice vinegar note that balanced well against the richer dishes.  Although having said that the three best would have easily stood on there own without the need for this.

With a couple of Kulfi ice-creams, bought mainly to shock our waiter even more by our gluttony, all of this came to £51.  Its BYOB so drink's not included, but we could easily have cut that down to £35 and still been happy and full, as it was our bill looked more like a shopping list.

So I urge people to go here, but maybe not as much as I'd urge them to go to its more famous neighbours.  What's nice though is having a bit more variety thrown in and somewhere that makes and excellent and delicious change of scene.  By the way if you're wondering which Tom dropped his phone, it was Tom.

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