Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brick Lane, Curry Again


When it comes to Sunday dinner there are three choices I favour. The good old roast, when you’re feeling traditional; a barbecue when it’s too hot to contemplate lashings of gravy and Yorkshire pud; and a curry for all other occasions. It may not please the purists, but in a country where tikka masala is our national dish why not slather a bit of tandoori marinade on your chicken dinner before falling asleep in front of Songs of Praise.

Of course many may think that filling up on ghee-laden mountains of rice and bread and spicy platters of charred meat, all washed down with fizzy lager, would be a disaster come Monday morning, when you’re slumped back in the office battling with the gastric consequences of that extra bhaj, but alternate weekend working means Mondays are my Sundays. Ergo Sunday evening is my Saturday night.

Stealth probably doesn’t know what day of the week it actually is, but is always up for a good curry, so after a sunny afternoon stocking up on beigels and drinking glasses of fresh watermelon juice and avocado smoothies on Brick Lane we met her at Needo Grill, the final missing piece in my quest to try the Whitechapel trilogy that also features Tayyabs and the Lahore Kebab House.

Needo was set up by the former manager of Tayyabs, so you have the pick of their lauded dishes without the mile-long queues.  Inside the red and black decor is smarter than Lahore and brighter than Tayaabs, although constantly spying yourself in the mirrored walls isn’t conducive to ordering yet another round of naan bread. Drinks are BYO, so we stocked up with large bottle of cold Cobra from the nearby corner store en route.

To start we shared the mixed grill, a platter of sizzling lamb chops, seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and grilled onions. While I’m not sure these were the best incarnations of the classic that I have had - the lamb chops particularly lacking the requisite fat and char ratio - they possessed a pleasingly fierce chilli kick that went well with the sweet yoghurt and mint dip that had appeared with our plate of poppadums.

Since our previous trip to Tayyabs had been marred slightly by Stealth claiming she had been struck by a gastric ulcer, before lying sweating in the corridor by the loos (never a dull moment) I took this opportunity to reorder the stalwarts, plus the pumpkin, that we had been too stuffed to order before. There was also a buttery nan for me that was mostly eaten by Stealth (no, no, I don't want one, really) plus two roti that were mostly eaten by Stealth, too.

Firstly we have the worst picture (not a single effort to capture this was in focus) of the best dish, the fabled dry meat. Never has a moniker been less appealing and, thankfully, less deserved, the ‘dry’ describing the lack of gravy rather than the texture of the dish itself, reminding me of a rendang, with soft shreds of sticky mutton in a thickly reduced and well-spiced sauce.

Accompanying were two vegetable choices.  The first was the Dal Baingan, a mixture of nutty lentils and smoky baby aubergine – although I notice singular, rather than the two we were served at Tayyabs. The consistency of lentils was also slightly looser. 

We also tried the Punjabi Tinda, or baby pumpkin, curry, with a pleasingly grown up sweet and sour flavour and, again, lashings of ghee (in case you fear veggies are actually good for you).

Overall I’d pick the dry meat at Needoo and the grilled meat at Tayyabs, but I’d give either a firm recommendation (the Karahi Ghost at Lahore Kebab House also deserves a mention) without much hesitation. 

Going at an off peak time, we arrived at about half five on a Sunday evening, also means  less hurrying and harrying by the waiter, who graciously lent us their bottle openers and provided jugs of iced water long after we had finished our main meals.

As always after a curry, pudding was a stretch too far. We had, however, bought Stealth a present, in the form of a Cinnamon Tree Bakery biscuit from our visit to Wapping market, to nibble on later.

In fact both Stealth’s gingerbread elephant and the Ewing’s shortbread owl were most appropriate, forming the first instalment of a new series ‘owners who looked like their baked goods’ - even featuring the adoption of an cigarette trunk for extra added likeness.  

A cheering Sunday night scene of friend swapping biscuits (Stealth bought us some earless rabbits lovingly baked by our friends Claire and Kam) and certainly one that was worth missing the traditional joint of British beef and golden heap of roasties for.

Needoo Grill on Urbanspoon

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