Oh my goodness, where to start? On invitation to Colonel Saab, I did a quick google to see what I was in for. A modern, innovative, smart approach to Indian cooking taking inspiration from an army officer and his wife’s travels across India. Ok, I was down – that sounded like a bit of me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be spending the evening in a restaurant that could easily be classified as a museum, where the decor competes with the dishes and the food does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a transportation through India depicted by more than perfectly executed dishes, done with love and passion (and some really banging food).
We began our evening with a couple of cocktails – I went for the Noora, a combination of tequila, almond and raspberry beer. I wasn’t sure what to expect but being a creature of comfort, and that comfort being tequila, this seemed like a great option. I was not disappointed, I would go as far as to say, the best cocktail of 2021, and I drink a lot of cocktails. My friend opted for the Colonel Saab – she wanted to to keep things legit with a hit of chai spiked with bourbon and coffee, another sensational drink.
We pawed over the food menu for the best part of an hour, oohing and aahing as other diners’ meals arrived and then trying to work out exactly what they were eating. In the end we admitted defeat, everything just looked too good so we asked the incredible Maitre’d what he would recommend. He was soon telling us all about his favourite dishes and why they were so special – the enthusiasm that the staff have for the food that is created within these walls is unsurpassed – on his recommendation – poppadoms and chutneys but these were not regular poppadoms, these were Colonel Saab poppadoms, a mix of the ones we are accustomed to, their miniature, puffed counterparts and the tapioca pearl version – I am not ashamed to admit I was that person hoovering every last crumb. From here we went to paneer tikka, Kataifi Prawns and Jaipur Baby Aloo. The paneer was the standout dish for me (from this round) generous slabs of cheese, sandwiching a green chilli paste, marinated and expertly spiced, grilled and then served with a warming chutney. The prawns were also divine, wrapped in Kataifi pastry, deep fried till crisp and bejeweled with pomegranate seeds.
Onto the mains – Memsaab’s chicken curry (highly recommended by our pal), there was a small part of me unsure if I had made the right decision. Who goes out and orders a chicken curry when there is so much exciting stuff on the menu? But something was telling me this would be a chicken curry like no other and that something was right – light and creamy, the most tender of chicken, a base level of subtle heat – Memsaab knew what she was doing! My friend, the veggie, went for the Gutti Vankaya – a dish of baby aubergine with a curry leaf and tamarind sauce. I was allowed the smallest of tastes – for which she will be paying the price of never dining with me again – however, from that smallest taste, I could understand why she was reluctant to share. The tamarind and curry leaf absolutely singing to each other to create the most perfect harmony. We also tried the Daal Makhani – one of my favourite dishes of all time. Now we all know of that famous Indian restaurant that does THE best daal… well I think it might have met its match, heavy in butter and heady spices. This is the stuff of dreams. And last but not least, we shared the truffle and parmesan kulcha, a small naan style bread. I thought the addition of truffle to this menu seemed odd but being one of my favourite ingredients I didn’t want to pass it up. It worked perfectly, dunked in the creamy, decadent daal – oh my lord, I can’t even put into words the mind blowing mouth orgasm that occured.
After all this we were too full for dessert, although it all looked amazing, we got packed up with doggy bags for our respective trains home – the best train snacks ever, may I add. But before we departed we were treated to a tour of all the artwork within the restaurant,all of which had been transported from India and lovingly curated and rehomed in the repurposed Holborn town hall. Every artifact had a story: doors over 400 years old, paintings commissioned for the most special of celebrations, chairs and tables that had once stood in great Indian homes, now making for cosy dining nooks on the upper floor of the space. The stairway to the bathrooms is something to get lost in all on its own (and a great photo opp). Colonel Saab is so much more than a restaurant. It is a love letter to India and I for one am in love.