Tom is mesmerised by this Michelin-rated Indian – and there’s one Black Salt dish he can’t stop raving about.
Review: Black Salt
It is the vindaloo of my deepest, most fevered dreams, the sauce – sharp with palm vinegar and fragrant with cloves – a glossy chocolate brown, with pork cheek so soft you could cut it with a grin. There’s garlic there, subtle but essential, and chillies too, bold rather than overwhelming – the dish many miles removed from the brutal, one-note brow-beading heat of its bastardised curry house brother.
No, this is as classic as it gets, a descendant of the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos: pork preserved with red wine and garlic. When it arrived in Goa, packed in great wooden barrels, the wine was replaced with todi vinegar and a fistful of local spices. I’ve never tried the original but have long loved vindaloo. This, though, is simply one great dish among many at Black Salt in Barnes, the sister of the ever-sublime Dastaan. And like Dastaan, the menu ranges all over India and Pakistan, rarely, if ever, putting a foot wrong.
There’s true art at the tandoor – lamb chops, just charred and wearing a deep spice marinade, are great succulent beasts, devoured in three lusty bites, while duck and guinea fowl seekh kebabs – long beige cylinders whose bland appearance belies their deep appeal – are fecund with juice, fat and delight. Even chicken tikka, so often an arid afterthought, is as luscious as it is sweet.
The rice in the lamb biryani is the true star, as it should be, every grain not just gently scented with spice but individually discernible, too. Kid goat keema is regally rich comfort food of the highest order. Heavy on the peas and fenugreek, this divine mince is scooped in great heaps on to blistered, buttery naan.
Oh, and don’t miss the baingan bharta, a smoky, softly seductive stew of aubergine and tomato. There’s no slacking at the deep-fat fryer either. Kerara kekda, or soft-shell crab, are crisp and grease-free, with a tart tomato chutney and splendid prawn pickle.
Black Salt has been open for less than a year and is already up there with the best. Head chef Manish Narain Sharma is a talent to watch. And did I mention his vindaloo?
About £30 per head. Black Salt, 505-507 Upper Richmond Road West, London SW14, blacksaltsheen.com