Farzi: A lesson in how to break the humdrum of mediocrity

Among the Spaghetti Houses and Angus Steakhouses in Haymarket is a north Indian bistro with good food and great value that’s well worth seeking out

Lilly Subbotin
Tuesday 23 April 2024 06:00 BST
Good food, good value, good vibes – Farzi has it all
Good food, good value, good vibes – Farzi has it all (Farzi)

It’s been a long old while since I’ve had a meal on Haymarket.

The last time had been a year eight birthday party at Planet HollyWood which, at the time, sounded like it was going to be the height of glamour and sophistication. Spoiler, it wasn’t, but I did see Peter Andre.

Planet Hollywood, for better or worse, is now permanently closed, but just across the road from where it used to be is Farzi, an Indian bistro celebrating “innovation and authenticity”, promising to blend “tradition and modernity”.

The restaurant aims to highlight the flavours of Akhan Bharat, the concept of an unidivided India, encompassing modern-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet.

The first thing that stands out is the value. At £39pp you get a trio of pappadum (served, rather strangely, in wicker picnic-style basket), four starters, a choice from three mains plus rice, dhal, naan and raita, and a dessert. Considering how easy it is to spend sixty quid each in somewhere as middling as, say, The Ivy, I thought this was a good deal.

Rather than your usual mango chutney, the doms came with a gooseberry relish and a red pepper coulis. Both were vibrantly coloured, packed with flavour and set the tone for the meal’s tradition-meets-modernity ethos.

Among the starters of Old Delhi kheema, chicken pakora, amrisari fish and chevre kebab, the latter two were real standouts. The battered and gently fried fish fritters were seasoned well and wonderfully flaky, arriving with a pickled mayo that really made the dish sing. The chevre kebabs were virtually impossible to not like, given the fact they were patties made of fried cheese. Salty, indulgent and drizzled with a fantastic red pepper coulis to (just about) cut through the fat.

The £39pp set menu gets you four starters to share
The £39pp set menu gets you four starters to share (Lilly Subbotin)

The chicken pakora with mint chutney were great, but also fried, and the kheema was comforting, rich and had a depth of flavour you can only achieve with real devotion, but this was also served with bread. What I’m getting as it there’s a lot of food, and this is before the mains. Don’t go to Farzi with a normal level of hungry, because you won’t stand a chance.

The curries themselves were pretty good but didn’t quite impress like the starters; guinea fowl meatballs in the yoghurt-based oshtaba were a little dry and the dhal was pleasant but a bit more watery than I’d have liked. However, lamb nihiri was earthy and splendidly spicy – the ideal friend to a zingy pineapple raita. All this came with the aforementioned rice and naan, too. I think it was at this point in the meal I undid the top button of my jeans.

The main dishes range from kheema to curries
The main dishes range from kheema to curries (Lilly Subbotin)

Our charming waiter insisted we try a couple of things outside of the Taste of Farzi menu as they’re real staples to the restaurant; Golgappa, which most may know as panipuri, were delightful, served with spiced shots to wash down the crunch; and a sort of milky chai drink that I’m still not entirely sure might have had vodka in it – it was delicious but not generally what I’d choose to drink after eating that much rich food.

Desserts were a mixed bag with a rather forgettable cheesecake swimming unnecessarily in masala chai and a fun twist on a tarte tatin – extra cinnamony and dolloped with bay leaf ice cream.

The desserts are worth saving space for, if you can
The desserts are worth saving space for, if you can (Lilly Subbotin)

Overall, Farzi is fab – particularly if an old fashioned arriving in a dome of smoke is your thing; very generous; and there’s no doubt that the kitchen is talented and highly knowledgeable – plus the staff will make you feel more than welcome. Downstairs there’s a room that can be hired out as a private space with a massive flat screen TV for either business meetings or their karaoke nights (get yourself a place that can do both, I guess).

It’s in an area that people who aren’t tourists can be forgiven for avoiding, what with being a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus and many a Spaghetti and Angus Steakhouse, but with Farzi (and Fallow and Zedel just round the corner) I now thankfully know of several very solid restaurants breaking up the humdrum of mediocrity.

8 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4BP | farzilondon.com | restaurant@farzilondon.com | 020 3981 0090

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