Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An Ode to Prawn Puri

The Maharani in Soho, London, Slickens Up

photograph picture of the Maharani, soho, indian restaurant prawn puri

You live there and I live here
Come to me, Prawn Puri, my dear,
I miss your texture, yearn for your taste,
Please come to America, quick! Posthaste.

photograph picture of the Maharani, soho, indian restaurant new decor

I have written about my relationship with Soho Indian restaurant, the Maharani, before. But on my latest visit to London I was surprised to find they'd had a face lift. Everything is sleeker without being achingly overdesigned. There are nice wooden floors and plain walls with tasteful pictures. The tables are still all squooshed together and it has lost none of its atmosphere.

photograph picture of the Maharani, soho, indian restaurant new decor but waterfall picture still remains

My heart almost skipped a beat when I first walked in. What had they done with the kitchy, animated waterfall picture? The Maharani just wouldn't be the same without it. Phew, it's still there, at the very back, overlooking the bar.

photograph picture of the Maharani, soho, papadams and cutneys

I can't eat a British curry, without nibbling on a few papadams first. Most restaurants serve plain papadams, which I prefer. In the US, spiced papadams which are more the norm, just don't seem to have the same light, puffy texture as these do. At the Maharani you get a generous serving of condiments to garnish your papadams. Diced onion and tomato with cucumber and a few coriander[cilantro] leaves, lime pickle (hot!), cooling yoghurt and mint and mango chutney.

photograph picture of the Maharani, soho, chicken tikka masala and baghare Baignan, etc

The Motor Paneer, a perennial favourite from my days as a vegetarian was already gone by the time this picture was snapped. In addition to smartening their surrounds, the Maharani have spruced up their menu too. Clear layout, large format, simple but smart design and colour keys denoting whether a curry is mild, medium or hot make the choices more clearly defined. The Maharani has always had room for some South Indian favourites like aloo chat on their menu and now I am noticing some slightly eclectic, more original items too. I couldn't resist trying, for example, the Baghare Baignan dish of baby aubergines cooked in tamarind and thick peanut gravy. It was not what I would call a light dish, but once in a while I am happy to indulge in such rich treats. The boys, kevin and Fred, both of them predictable to a tee, settled for the Chicken Tikka Masala. This was the most tomato-ey version I have ever encountered. Very mild, and really quite like the tomato soup from which this dish was reputedly invented. Not my thing - but they both seemed happy.

photograph picture of exterior of the Maharani Indian restaurant, soho london

Dear Maharani
Thank you for being there for us, every time we need to stop by.
Sending love over to you from San Francisco. Please send some Prawn Puris in return.

PS Thanks to my oldest London friends, Sally and Kevin for coming out for curry with myself and Fred. Thanks also to everyone else we met for a drink earlier, especially to Richard who snuck us into Double Negative for a beer.

The Maharani | 77 Berwick Street | London W1F 8TH | 0207 437 8568

This was also an entry for Dine & Dish # 5 : Asian Persuasion

Archive Alert! On this date in 2004 we dropped into Bobby Flay's for dinner.

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An Ode to Prawn Puri


  • At 6/12/05 09:13, Blogger Monkey Gland said…

    I've noticed the flock wall paper and Indian kitcsh vanishing from a fair few Indian restaurants in London. 2nd and 3rd generation Anglo-Indians getting in a sprucing the places up.

  • At 6/12/05 09:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am gonna try and remember this address for my next trip to London. I'd love to go there... Thank you Sam for this post!

  • At 6/12/05 12:56, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    I was just talking with Jason about two days ago about the new "slickening up" phenomenon. I think it's happening here too, to a certain extent. It came up when we passed an old Chinese place on 9th/Judah that was a staid, old, stale place and has recently had a facelift and looks to be a much hipper place to be. I wonder how far it will go here.

  • At 6/12/05 21:49, Blogger Annette Tan said…

    Hi Sam, Wanted to let you know that I just tagged you for a meme on My Top Ten Favorite Foods. Hope you have time to do it. I'm curious to see what your favorite foods are.

  • At 8/12/05 11:27, Blogger Sam said…

    Mr Monkey - as long as the food quality doesnt decline and the prices dont sky rocket I think it is a good thing.

    Flo - there are so many great Indian restaurants in London, wherever you end up you might not go far wrong.

    Jen - I wonder about the prices. Or if the food will equally improve.

    Eggy - thank you for the shout. I already did a meme that touched on that a while back. I'll put it on my list of things to do.

    Yura Komarov - I think my readers are more interested in pictures of food than of scantily clad women


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