Tom’s tongue is tasered at Guglee

Guglee was bang on form the other night when I needed some late-night sustenance after working long hours and not having had even a droplet of wine for several days (do not adjust your sets)..

Prawn kadai was again a top dish, but the one to note from this visit was the Coastal Goa Fish Curry; described as “a popular, mildly-spiced fish curry cooked with kokum, fresh coconut and chef’s secret herbs”. A tantalising bowl of goodness; I thought the spicing had plenty of heat to it, and the flavours were typical of Guglee – fulsome, layered and balanced. Not sure if my wine-battered palate is showing signs of wear and tear, but I was convinced there were peanuts in the sauce; apparently not, though plenty of coconut.

We were grateful to be given a taster of a second Indian Shiraz from the same Sula Vineyards as the usual one; this isn’t on the menu yet but proved another excellent and intriguing wine.

Guglee remains reliably good, consistently popular, and always with a cheerful, vibrant atmosphere. In fact, bring on the rain and snow so I have even more excuse to be hit for six by such fiery, tongue-tasering food.

Tom finds Guglee very appealing

Excellent impromptu dinner at Guglee the other night. I’d thought I was in need of booze-absorbing pizza but went with the majority and soon got into the swing of things. I like the design of Guglee and its airy, bright feel – a lively, happy place to eat.

First, wine. I’ve babbled on about the remarkable Indian Shiraz previously, and again I wished I possessed the palate to identify the tongue-teasing nuances. My advanced tasting notes are thus: fruit…with some spice, or something. Interestingly, the vineyard is based in Sula, which is in or around owners Sachin and Nikhil’s home town.

As for grub, I was quickly tempted by the prawn kadai. I like curry dishes described as being cooked with peppers, onions and tomatoes, and am particularly keen on bell peppers with prawns, and especially that little twist of flavour that the green ones give out. I like the chunky textures in a dish of this type, and always prefer a Rogan Josh when the tomatoes, onions and things are not cut too finely.

This kadai was faultless; lots of it, with magnificent prawns (huge, fresh and fleshy – possibly the best I’ve eaten this year) and, as usual in Guglee, tremendous intensity of flavours with just the right heat. A side of ‘veggie veggie 5’ arrived; I’m not sure why it has ‘veggie’ twice in its name (if more than once, why not five times?), but I rather like that and might use it as a song title, though it sounds a bit reggae which I’m not a natural at. Anyway, this little veg dish would go well with anything. Rather like Tiffin Tin’s delicious veg curry (which I order as a side), it has its own character and flavour – it’s no token-gesture side dish and is a superb accompaniment.

Not much more to add. Guglee is slick and professional, with real drive and passion behind it. For the many of us who love Indian food, it’s always reassuring to know there are reliably brilliant options just down the road.

All in all, a corkingly good meal – and whilst that might be a word I’ve made up, when you consider how well the wine goes with the food, it seems apt, does it not?

Guglee? Howzat! 

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.

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”.

279 West End Lane
T: 020 7317 8555

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

Tom’s bowled over by Guglee

Just reporting for duty, a little late, on an excellent evening with Jonathan at Guglee, West End Lane’s newest curry house.

Owners Sachin and Nikhil had kindly offered us a meal in order to test out the menu, which was particularly interesting for me as I’d not yet visited their Finchley Road branch.

We got off to a great start with a mixed grill platter. The meats were cooked and spiced with flair and skill, and I would have happily eaten these as a main meal with rice and naan. I’m fond of this type of thing; I prefer leaner, slightly drier cuts than, for example, French cuisine, where “the glory is in the fat” – as more than one big-name chef has put it. Not to knock classic cooking of course, but it’s a nice feeling to be eating wonderful food that’s healthy too.

As for wine – something a little different – an Indian Shiraz. This was good stuff, with spice to match the food, but perhaps rounder and mellower than your average New World version. It also had something in particular which I just couldn’t place. You’d think drinking wine all the time for years on end would result in a more advanced palate; in my case it’s just eroded my memory cells and made me shake violently in terror whenever my wine rack’s empty.

Main meals arrived looking proud and a touch regal, and I was extremely happy to see a seafood dish present, not only because I love this type of food, but also as I’m always keen to see how curry establishments handle such things. Guglee clearly takes prawns etc. seriously, and this was another flavoursome, gutsy dish. It had an earthiness to it and was just all-round pleasing and delicious.

The “Railway Lamb” was brilliant; tender and rich, with various dimensions. When you head out for a curry, you anticipate interesting, bold flavours, and decent portions. Some of the new, modern curry houses have become a little twee and delicate for me; Guglee gets the balance right though; you won’t go home hungry, and you’ll be remembering the flavours and textures.

Also warranting a mention is the aubergine side dish – a tangy, yoghurt base, and appetising in colour; also the sophisticated, thin naan bread, and of course the fragrant rice.

It was a pleasure to chat with the enthusiastic staff and learn more about their menu and vision, and I’m looking forward to a return visit and more intriguing, spicy food – and further depletion of brain cells via that warm and friendly Shiraz. (March 2012)