Farzi Cafe Review: “I tried the chic Indian restaurant in West London and it was as beautiful as it was delicious” – Tom Capon

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Eating with the people we love is one of life’s last pleasures; the one who hasn’t been strangled by a hard day’s work. The magic of sharing meticulously cooked food transcends generations so much that it’s fundamentally in our DNA. And nothing evokes the primal love of food more than eating at a beautiful restaurant.

But as the cost of living tsunami hits our shores, this is something that could be brushed aside. For those of us on more modest incomes – believe me, local journalists are so far off Piers Morgan’s salary that you might as well compare the Queen to an ant from Buckingham Palace – we may need to be more selective about where we eat. The restaurants that take our money must be worth it.

Cafe Farzi is worth it. The Indian bistro stunt in the middle of Theatreland would, to a more cynical eye, look like its style rather than substance. The chic venue contrasts metallic brass elements with deep ocean blues throughout. This is exaggerated by the healthy amount of huge mirrors, opening up the space even further and, to that more cynical person, might give all the trappings of a ‘place to eat’, with plenty of space for social photos .

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I am cynical person, of course. My East London brain is more inclined to eat a deconstructed burger under noisy railway arches than to sit in blue velvet chairs, cocktails in hand, looking like the most attractive people in the whole world. But that was my first sight when I entered the Michelin-award winning Piccadilly restaurant – beautiful people, eating good food. The cynicism faded and a level of insecurity crept into my bones.

I was joined by my friend from college and as we caught up on the different ways we had sold over the decade since our debut, our server turned around with the first plates. We opted for the £48 Silver Set Menu, which offered quite an eclectic mix of dishes. Small plates to start, Farzi stormed the door with arancini dal chawal, served with archaar (South Asian pickle, usually made with sesame seed oil), papad roll and chutney .

Farzi is actually quite famous for these little balls of delight and for good reason – the breadcrumbs were beautifully golden, the pickle tangy, the daal inside a wonderful change from the usual parade of mac and cheese balls served in every other restaurants. Deceased but compact; in lesser hands it would have been a gimmick, but Farzi pulled it off like a cool sportsman scoring a basketball (I don’t know anything about sports).

Not all dishes knocked it out of the park. The Manglorian Rava fried prawns were good, a bit overcooked but I ate it all anyway. The tomato chutney added an interesting combination that kept it from being boring. The Zafrani Murg Tikka – a chicken tikka dish – was again, a dish I enjoyed, with the cute little rooster masal scratches to add extra sparkle. I didn’t think of it afterwards either – unlike the Tandoori Paneer and Mushroom Butter Masala.

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Oh boy, if I could open my throat like a pelican and pour it down my throat, I would have. Having been brought up in Essex, I will say that I neglect vegetarian options in favor of big chunks of meat (much like my love life). However, you are a fool if you do this in an Indian restaurant, and I would have been even more foolish to overlook this dish.

Quite modest compared to previous small plates, the masala was earthy and the paneer cut to create an incredibly unique dish. It’s the kind of Indian food you crave on those wicked winter nights when the wind blows its way through your uninsulated windows, begging it to wrap its mushroom-warm arms around you.

The contrast between this and the other two dishes was quite striking: the Koli Varuval, a superb bright orange chicken curry, made even prettier by the red and green leaf garnish on top. Meanwhile, the lamb shank vindaloo arrived in striking colors of red and brown – the dishes were truly so beautiful it lit up my face.

However, they blew my whole mouth, especially the lamb vindaloo. Normally I would run to a lamb shank like Coyote in Roadrunner, but this slapped me harder than Will Smith in Chris Rock. I’m aware that’s probably not the case that spicy. I’m a weakling who needed to use her own tears to cool her hot tongue.




It wasn’t until the main courses were cleared from the table that I took stock of the restaurant another time. Where before the bright colors and striking mirrors – a pattern that continues from the island bar to the chic restrooms – seemed to scream “this is not for me”, the joy of the meal has brought me back.

Sure, fancy people go here, but that’s because the food is good, the service is great, and you need a pretty backdrop when you’re as pretty as this lot. It’s one of the greatest things about food; the part of your DNA that connects you to your ancestors, from cavemen around campfires to feasting in a pub, to a delicious Indian bistro in West London. When it’s done right, when it’s cooked with care and treated as much of a visual affair as it is a tasting affair, it doesn’t matter who you are anymore.

My friend and I finished off this already gargantuan menu with coconut rice kheer – a sweet rice pudding dish – and a very, very naughty fig and ginger pudding. It was one of those dishes where I insisted I couldn’t eat anymore and still managed to knock my friend’s hand off as I sucked it down. Leaving the restaurant, the cover of modern, delicious and pretty food wasn’t the only comfort. I also left knowing that dinner can be an event, that it’s worth dressing up and spending a little extra, and that good food makes good company a perfect evening.

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