76 Commercial Street, E1
WHAT? This dingy spot in Spitalfields isn’t much to look at, but it’s actually the much-awaited sequel to Gunpowder. The Indian tapas restaurant in nearby White’s Row was a word-of-mouth sensation, but its spicier sibling sets its sights on Himalayan cuisine. Madame D was also awarded a Bib Gourmand – the ‘value for money’ accolade – in 2017’s Michelin Guide.
WHERE? Come out of Spitalfields, head right away from Brick Lane, a bit further, then you’ll see the queue snaking out of the door. Communal wooden tables lit by smokey candlelight give the restaurant the feel of a Victorian opium den.
WHO? Harneet and Devina Baweja brought their love of Indian home cooking to Gunpowder, with the help of head chef Nirmal Save. The dream team have just set up a third offering, Gul and Sepoy, further down Commercial Street, showcasing the food of Kerala and the Punjab.
ORDER THIS... As you’ll know from your gap year research, the Himalayas stretch across six nations, so there’s a mixture of Indian dishes you’ll be familiar with and Nepalese dishes you won’t know from Aladdin. Four or five plates should see you through, with a side helping of crisp, homemade Szechuan prawn crackers to mop things up. The hakka paneer, moreish fried cubes tossed with spring onions and fresh chilli, should be compulsory, and the Himalayan fried chicken, served in strips coated in a delicate, salty batter, is much more refined and impressive than it sounds.
AND ANOTHER THING... Initial murmurings were all about the gobsmacking heat. I didn’t see what the fuss was about, so either Madame D’s taken the hint and chilled out since opening, or my tastebuds have finally become invincible. If you’re taking a client, it’s something to bear in mind.
THE VERDICT: Highly addictive finger food with provenance, it’s sure to interest worldy lunch partners who want a taste of London’s foodie underbelly.
NEED TO BOOK? No need for lunch, but reserve for dinner at madame-d.com.