It seems I often start these reviews with a question but then there are so many that apply to the hospitality industry. For example, what makes you go back to a restaurant? Why do some places shout about every anniversary while others, who’ve been running for years, just shut up and get on with it? How do so many places get everything right and still fail? How do some places do everything wrong and still succeed? And, in the case, of Pure Indian Cooking, how can a restaurant this good, this creative, have been running for six years and stayed off my radar?
I’m assuming the answer to the latter is a hint of global pandemic mixed with the “good” people of Fulham and West London making sure Pure Indian Cooking remained their little secret. I get that. I’m writing about it now because I want them to be even more successful than they clearly already are yet also don’t want you to know about it in case I need a table in the near future. Scratch that. WHEN I need a table in the VERY near future.
If you haven’t worked it out by now, PIC is a little cracker. From the outside, a short walk from Putney Bridge Station, it looks like your common-or-garden local because, well, it is. That feeling won’t change as you go in either. I mean, there’s no flock wallpaper, or clichés like that, but it’s the sort of functional dining room you’d expect, with a little bar / takeaway counter, the background music you’d anticipate… and then you open the menu and you realise you’re in a very different sort of place.
PIC is the culinary baby of chef-patron Shilpa Dandekar and husband Faheem Vanoo, who started their careers at the Taj group in India. If that wasn’t CV enough, since arriving in the UK, Shilpa has worked for the likes of Raymond Blanc and Sriram Aylur at Quilon but it’s her personality, not theirs, that shapes and colours this menu – although the existence of a PIC Tasting Menu suggests something of the two has rubbed off. But I know, right? A local Indian restaurant with a tasting menu? That’s a gesture that tells you much of Shilpa’s, and PIC’s, ambition and ability.
It’s tempting to choose that as a shortcut to what one assumes will be PIC’s greatest hits but, instead, we roam a little around the a la carte, starting with a pre-starter called Taste of Mumbai – a little selection of neatly presented, crispy beach snacks – and the Pulled Lamb Hara Pyaaz. We moved on to the Halibut Fish Curry (I mean, you would, wouldn’t you?), Asparagus and Pinenut Poriyal (asparagus tempered with mustard and curry leaves, with pine nut and coconut), Khatte Baingan (aubergine with sesame, coconut and tamarind), the almost inevitable Dal Makhani, Chive and Brown Garlic Pulao, and a Butter Naan with garlic, chilli and coriander. We were, in fact, by our standards, rather well behaved (even so, dessert was an impossibility) although vows were made to return for the likes of Mussel Soup, Tandoori Duck, nutmeg-marinated Venison Steak, Lobster Pulao and, frankly, around 17 other dishes the likes of which I’ve not seen before on a London menu. Flavours were bold, ingredients were, clearly, of excellent quality, spicing was, as it should be, unapologetic. All in all, it’s pretty damned faultless. They even serve Harviestoun Beers, an unexpected treat and, almost inevitably, a sign that the people here know what they’re doing. I think I finally understand why property in SW6 is so expensive. You get Pure Indian Cooking as your local.
Pure Indian Cooking
67 Fulham High Street