I have gone and done it again, despite promising myself numerous times that I wouldn’t. The temptation was just too strong, the stellar track record of the group behind this venture too alluring and the positive reviews all over the internet too enticing. The Sethi trio have a way with restaurants, everything they touch seems to turn into gold. Trishna (1 star) is an absolute delight and up there with my favourite Indian restaurants in London, Hoppers has people for hours queuing on end just so they can tuck into a perfectly shaped hopper, Gymkhana (1 star) may be way overpriced but the fact that getting a booking is still difficult is testament to how much people love it. Not to mention all the restaurants they have partnered with and turned into stars within the London food scene. When news broke that they were busy planning a new spot inspired by the army mess bars of India, I felt I had to go. Set in the heart of the city, Brigadiers is full of different rooms and bars which are set up to accommodate the varying needs of every visitor. There is an ever-increasing need to be different nowadays.
On the Thursday evening that I visited, the tables were packed with young city workers brandishing their hard-earned accessories, think Submariners, Big Bangs and Birkins. The menu is focused on different methods of Indian barbecue and as expected is split into multiple sections. As I read through the menu I prayed that Brigadiers would not operate a ‘it will come out whenever it is ready’ policy, because I really had no intention of pairing my lotus root chaat with chilli cheese naan. Thankfully, our waiter was able to confirm that this wouldn’t be the case, unfortunately he wasn’t able to confirm whether the meat was Halal or not (for my meat eating companion), which is strange given he was the manager. Further, when I asked for the speciality cocktail and the speciality veg dishes, he proceeded to read out every single cocktail and veg dish on the menu. This is by no means an attack on the manager, but to me it was surprising given the flawless service at the three restaurants mentioned above, certainly not what I had expected.
We eventually chose some dishes and started off with the lotus chaat which was great to nibble on whilst sipping on my cocktail (I can’t tell you the name because at the time of writing this review the drinks menu online just shows food and no drinks). Although very good and a containing a great variety, £6 for a tray of pappadums is far too expensive in my opinion, the aubergine raita that came with it was incredible though and unlike anything I have ever had before.
The smoked aubergine missi rotis with burnt corn kachumber were a tasty play on the ever-popular taco, if only I had visited on a Tuesday. These three tiny bites on a plate certainly packed a punch with the smokey aubergine flavor, similar to that of a baba ghanoush. Also on the small bites section of the menu was the arbi tokri chaat. It did everything a chaat should do by being a little fiery but cooled by the yogurt and sweetened by the pomegranate. If you were hoping for any other vegetarian options, you’re in for a letdown as these two are the only choices. It seems the Indian soldiers of old had no interest in being veggie.
Mains came in the form of the wood fired mushroom methi malai naan, paneer shashlik, wild mushroom biriyani, house dal and bread basket. The guys in the kitchen have nailed the art of cooking a naan which is not as easy as it seems. It was soft, bubbly and topped with earthy mushrooms and creamy malai, undoubtedly the dish of the evening and definitely something you won’t find at any of the other restaurants in the JKS group. Perhaps too many trips to India combined with a love for paneer means that I am unbelievably critical when it comes to judging this beautiful cheese, and it is for that reason that the paneer here was just average. It was well spiced, but that should go without saying. Dry paneer with dry naan was crying out for something a little wet, something to stop my mouth from becoming dryer than London in the one week heatwave we had. The aubergine raita was the solution, but at £3 for a tiny bowl of yogurt, it was an expensive fix.
I have always maintained that you can judge an Indian restaurant by the daal, for it is an absolute staple in the country from which it was born. Here it is tasty and thankfully not drenched in double cream, something that is all too common. Traditionally, daal is paired with rice and here I was unbelievably keen to pour some over the biriyani and tuck in. Unfortunately, one bite of the rice and I had the taste of industrial strength lemon flavoured disinfectant in my mouth. It was horrendous, without doubt the worst biriyani I have ever eaten. I hope it was a one off, a mistake in the kitchen by the chefs. My dreams of rice and daal were shattered, I physically could not stomach one more bite.
As our table was cleared, the waiter asked if the biriyani wanted to be packed, a member in the group said yes believing his mother would be able to rectify the horror. I can confirm she could not save it. It was odd we weren’t asked why it was basically untouched.
Thankfully the roasted kheer kulfi and the mango falooda kulfi wiped away that lemon taste and replaced it with the familiar taste of kheer, a sweetened rice pudding and also of fresh mango, potentially the best fruit of all time.
I was on such a hot streak of restaurants in terms of good food, places that I would want to go back to and would recommend to others. Brigadiers came along and put a firm end to this in an emphatic way. Walking out, I happened to meet one of the trio behind this venture and offered my heartiest congratulations on the new venture and wished them the best of luck going forward. A thank you would have been nice, instead he said okay and turned round to continue drinking with his friends and that was the end of that. Do I even need to mention here if I will be back and if I will be recommending it to anyone who asks for a good Indian restaurant in London?