Monday 16 April 2012

Sarashwathy Bavans, Wembley - review

I made my first trip up to Wembley this weekend since my walk-about three years ago. This time we went hunting for a meal out - some prior research seemed to point to a couple of potential places at the top end of the Ealing Road: the popular chain Chennai Dosa, Palm Beach, and the one we opted for, Sarashwathy Bavans. It's a Sri Lankan/South Indian restaurant which has a second branch in Tooting.

If you're the sort of person who's bothered by the decor of a restaurant then you're unlikely to be the sort of person considering a trek up to Wembley for a meal, but suffice to say it's basically a white-walled, strip-lit diner. Not first date material unless your date is in the top percentile of interestingness and/or open-mindedness.

On the Saturday evening we were there, several Asian families were dining, some with young kids; to our left seemed to be a large family party with about fifteen people, mostly guzzling dosas, which the restaurant professes to specialise in. We've ordered dosas the last few times we've been in South Indian places (although a mate and I ordered a couple of lovely spinach dishes recently for a home delivery from Kovalam on Willesden Lane) so this time decided to go for different options.

To start we went for idly (a light ground rice/lentil cake) and methu vadai (lentil doughnuts) which came with a selection of chutneys. The methu vadai, in particular, were delicious: a strong nutty flavour - possibly a mixture of cumin and mustard, but I couldn't be sure.

The wreckage of an idly with various chutnies in the background. Far left: salt lassi

Crucially, though, the waiter (who perhaps detected a little hesitation when we came to ordering) confidently asked "May I make a suggestion?" EXACTLY what I like to hear. He suggested reducing the quantity of idly and adding some "mushrooms 65". We had no idea what these were but were happy to place ourselves in the hands of the expert - wisely so: the mushrooms were excellent. Fried in a mixture of spices, they were very dry and packed some proper heat - mango chutney provided relief. Apologies for the appalling photography.

Mushrooms "65" hidden somewhere underneath the onion rings!
To follow we went for mutter paneer which was spectacular: cheese and peas in a subtle rich sauce. . Aloo jeera was really a side rather than a main - basically potatoes in cumin seed. Once again, when I asked for chapatis, the waiter swiftly suggested that we run with a combination of chapatis and parathas. The chapatis were excellent, the paratha a little greasy for my taste.

Mutter paneer: fantastic food, not-so-fantastic photography

Aloo jeera - potatoes in cumin seed

We shared an excellent gulab jamun for dessert and finished with masala tea.

Something hot, sweet and delectable...and Rachel.

All-in with drinks, the bill came to £30.50 minus service - fantastic value for one of the better meals I've had in London. I burst out laughing at the note on the bill, presumably for the chef, underneath our starters, which stated ***ALL VERY MILD PLS*** !

Overloaded with carbs and clutching the paneer and cinnamon bark which we'd picked up in Fruity Fresh on the Ealing Road, we stumbled back out, stuffed and happy. Highly recommended and worth the trip.

549 High Road, Wembley

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