Haandi

While in London recently, a priority for me was to have a good Indian meal. Brussels has a handful of half-decent Indian restaurants, but nothing like the variety and quality available in the UK (ahh, the benefits of having once had an empire…). Our first choice was Amaya, one of the few to have received a Michelin star. I called – they had a table available. I mentioned that we had our three-month-old son with us in a pram, hoping that this wouldn’t be a problem. But it was. No children allowed. I gritted my teeth, hung up and switched to plan B (I’ll leave my rant about British restaurants’ intolerance of children, compared to most other countries where we’ve never had a problem taking non-adults out to eat, for another time).

Plan B turned out to be pretty damn good, so my disappointment and frustration quickly evaporated. Haandi is hidden in a side street just around the corner from Harrods. The first branch opened in Nairobi and offers what they call “North Indian frontier cuisine”, with a few Kenyan and Goan dishes thrown in for variety.

I started with the Dahi Bhalla; soft lentil cakes with a  colourful, tangy sauce. Interesting, even though it looked and tasted more like a dessert than a starter. In the foreground, my wife’s Chilli Paneer; spiced fingers of curd cheese with peppers, tomato and coriander. Hers was probably the better of the two.

Mains: Jeera chicken, a Kenyan speciality, Chicken Chennai Special with coconut and curry leaves, with Pudina (mint) naan. Both very moreish. Portion sizes were large, but I had no problems clearing my plate.

For dessert, on the left Pista kulfi and on the right Mango kulfi. Cool and fruity but not too sweet.

One of the better Indian meals I’ve ever had – definitely worth seeking out if you’re in the area. Or Nairobi.

P.S. We had been turned away from Amaya for having a baby, but some guy dining alone on a table near us in Haandi spent the entire meal noisily clearing his sinuses. We gave him several strong glares, to no avail. But I bet he’d have had no problem getting a table at a “grown-up” restaurant, because he’s an adult and therefore knows how to behave in public and not bother his fellow diners, right?

Unrelated but cool P.P.S.: The day before we spotted these in Fortnum & Masons’ food hall. Only the exorbitant prices stopped us buying them.

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5 thoughts on “Haandi

  1. Di December 23, 2009 / 7:51 pm

    Reads delicious and loved the trip down memory lane. Did I never tell you that I ate Huhu Gribs in NZ, just prior to leaving … the food hall story reminded me, but don’t eat the head (as I did) because they live in trees … eating bark, strong jaws, can stick in throat. Sigh. I had to have a lot of West Coast moonshine to dislodge the little buggar, that time at the Wild Food Festival in Hokitika.

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  2. J December 28, 2009 / 3:22 am

    Wow, that looks heavenly. I just ate dinner, which was good, but now I want really good Indian food. Sadly, while the Bay Area has some good Indian food, it’s not as good as in the UK. Though we did discover a dirt cheap vegetarian place in Berkeley awhile ago, which is South Indian. All of the other places here are North Indian/Punjabi in character. Which I like, but it’s nice to have a change as well.

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  3. J December 28, 2009 / 3:27 am

    My MIL says ‘morish’ too. 🙂 She’s from Guyana, but of Indian decent, and lived for awhile in London. So I never knew where the moreish came from…England, India, or Guyana. Sounds British to me, though. 😉

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  4. kerry January 11, 2010 / 4:46 pm

    Strange. When we went in the evening to Amaya we saw quite a few kiddies there. They were a bit bigger than 3 months right enough… You should try to forgive it and go back though, cos it’s lovely. We’ll babysit.

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