Whampreview takes Guglee for a spin

Guglee seems to have been pretty much a hit since arriving in all its bright orange glory on West End Lane. The clean design and pared down menu makes a refreshing change from old-school curry houses, but there’s no let up in the flavours. It was time to put it to the Whampreview test, so 24 of us descended on it last Thursday.

We’d already agreed that we’d have a set menu with a choice of main courses, but I think both Tom and I were expecting the “mixed starters” to come as a platter or two between each table of eight. Instead, each person received a veritable bounty of Indian delights on their own plate. There was a piece of Hariyali Chicken Tikka – deliciously fresh and green; a piece of tandoori chicken – lovely and succulent; a pani puri; one of Guglee’s famous chat street food dishes; and an Aloo Tiki potato cake. It really was a great selection. Tom, who hardly ever eats chicken, claims he could have eaten “tonnes” of this, while Tony reckoned these were a “very generous portion size for a starter”. Even the poppadums got the thumbs us, being less greasy than is often the case.

As we neared the end of our starters, and already several glasses into the wine and beer, our waiter came round with an extra treat – the Sev Puri Chat. These are “down in one” crispy pastry ‘shots’ that explode with yoghurt and spices on the first crunch. They were a good table bonding ritual, especially for those first timers. Tony was pleased that the waiter had warned us not to attempt to nibble them delicately, as there would have been some clothing casualties otherwise. Some people found them a little large to cram in all at once. 

We were now quite full.

So naturally it was time for the main courses. Guglee had given us a good selection to choose from; my table shared most of them while seven of Tom’s table went for the fish option and six of Nicky’s table went for the lamb. Clearly I chose the more imaginative diners!

Alongside the main courses we got naan breads, rice, tadka dahl, chana masala, and “Veggie Veggie 5″, which is a mixed vegetable side dish. These were generally very well received, the dahl on Tom’s table coming infor a whole heap of praise.

The Indian Railway Special Lamb Curry (aka a Rogan Josh) is what I think of as Guglee’s house special. I had it when I came before and have ordered it several times from the Finchley Road branch. I have to say this time around it wasn’t as good as it has been. The sauce was thinner than usual and although it still tasted nice, it lacked the depth of flavour I associate with it. “Not special enough,” said Jayanti. It was the most popular choice on Nicky’s table, and everyone liked it although Susan and Matt wondered whether the meat might have been more tender. I would definitely order it again – having had it so many times, I think this was a blip.

The Goan fish curry, which dominated Tom’s table, was to my mind a far gutsier affair. Thick with coconut and with the fish chunks still nicely solid it was the hit of our table. Nicky and Claire, however, found it a bit too rich and not spicy enough – better as part of a selection of dishes than on its own. One person’s “not spicy enough” is Dom’s “a nice kick, but not too much”. 

We also tried the Chicken Tikka Massala, that famously British dish, which was also pretty good. It’s never been my favourite, but I would have happily eaten the lot had I been able to squeeze any more food in. There were two vegetarian options – sag paneer and kadhai vegetables, both also got the thumbs up.

Perhaps the universal refrain was that people would have liked to have tried more things but were too full. Ryan just wished he had more room and Tom said he’d have liked starters and mains to have come at once so he could have tried everything.

We all seemed to leave a lot of food. There was talk of doggy bags and Thom and Debbie both made good use of them. Sadly, I was out the next two nights so decided against, but it seemed a shame to waste so much. A bit like with Spiga, the restaurant’s generosity had been its undoing.

A few hardy souls felt it was their duty to test the desserts, which Guglee was kindly giving us on the house. Nicky’s table went for the Rose & Honey Kulfi: “They looked like posh Mini Milks to me. But I like Mini Milks, and I really liked these ones, despite being disappointed there was no joke printed on the stick.” They were a nice, refreshing end to the meal, fragrant with real rose petals. Unfortunately my table’s waiter somehow forgot to order our desserts in the kitchen and by the time we were wondering where they were, it was really time to leave. Tom’s table tried the rice pudding, which was described as “interesting, with a lovely hit of cardamom.” Debbie said the carrot dessert was “hard to explain”!

All the tables opted for the Indian wines – there’s a Shiraz and a Zinfandel for the reds and a Sauvignon Blanc as well. The Zin is more expensive, the Shiraz is much better – so that’s a no-brainer. Non-Indian wines are also available, and some of us stuck to traditional Cobra. Despite their curiosity being aroused by the cheeringly-named ‘Thums Up’, Nicky’s table decided to avoid it when Susan told them it’s a popular Indian brand of super-caffeinated cola. She warned ominously “you won’t sleep if you drink it”.

We’d agreed a set price for the food of £23/head, and the total bills varied from £35 to £40 a head across the tables depending quite how many bottles of wine got consumed!

Overall, Guglee offers interesting Indian food that you’re not going to find in every London neighbourhood. The restaurant is buzzy and welcoming with friendly staff and modern decor. Also, I should reserve a special mention for Sachin, one of the two brothers who run the restaurants. It was both his birthday and his wedding anniversary on the day, and he cheerfully helped ensure everything went well, when I suspect he’d probably rather have been at home celebrating.

Scores:
Jonathan’s table: 7.1
Tom’s table: 8.5
Nicky’s table: forgot to score. “It would probably have been a 7.5 or 8″.

Guglee
279 West End Lane
NW6 1QS
T: 020 7317 8555
W: guglee.co.uk

Guglee West Hampsted on Urbanspoon
Apologies for the lack of photos, mine were all terrible. Thanks to Tom & Nicky for their notes.

9 replies
  1. Phil says:

    Very enjoyable evening! Lovely food, especially the mini platter, and good service that brought a teaspoon of ice cream when randomly asked (long story). And excellent company too, of course.

    Reply
  2. Tom O'Ghoulery says:

    I tried the Railway Lamb on previous visit and it was a delight, definitely worth trying. So indeed, perhaps a blip there.

    Reply
  3. AC says:

    As a guy of Indian origin, I was delighted to finally find a restaurant in London that does authentic North Indian food,as opposed to the generic faux Indian generic curries peddled by the plethora of Bangladeshi-owned curry houses. Street food specials are amazing and authentic (minus the customary salmonella that you might expect from real street food in India…)

    Generous portions are an Indian tradition, and I would hate to see Guglee cut back on these. Desserts are also very similar to homemade. Few in this country are familiar with Indian desserts, so the carrot and rice puddings described, may be an acquired taste…particularly the cardamom infusion. Personally, I’m a big fan.

    Well done, Guglee, and thanks for coming to West Hampstead!

    Reply
    • Ghoul says:

      "Generous portions are an Indian tradition, and I would hate to see Guglee cut back on these."

      - I'm with you on that one; when you go for a curry, you want a damn good nosh-up.

      Reply
  4. Eugene says:

    I was VERY impressed with the food, ambiance and service. I don’t really have a negative thing to say about it. Portions were good, the street food was a (good) assault on the taste buds and the curries were spicy without being chilli hot. The food also didn’t seem to have too much fat in it – I swear those poppadoms were so drained of oil that they tasted baked.

    Reply
  5. GoldieAustin says:

    The food was great and tasted very fresh. I particularly liked the Sev Puri Chat which refreshed the palate between the starters and main course. I shall definitely go back. My only 'complaint' was that there was too much food.

    Service was good but unobtrusive. Good food, good wine and good company – all the ingredients to make a great evening.

    Reply
  6. Tom says:

    The analogies several of the females present at Guglee made, when referring to the sensation of eating the Sev Puri Chat, were clearly too beyond the limit for Jonathan's write-up. I, however, am in possession of documented evidence of this, and heartily raise a glass to the filthy-minded women of West Hampstead.

    Reply
  7. Sally says:

    It was a great evening at Guglee. I had a vegetarian starter platter & the Goan fish curry to follow both of which were really tasty. The service was great, as was the ambience, but the highlight of my evening – along with the fantastic company – was the Indian Shiraz which was incredible. I wasn’t a big fan of the Sev Puri Chat though, the explosion of cold yoghurt came as a bit of a nasty surprise to me!

    Reply

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