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"hajaaron khokhale shabdon se behatar vah ek shabd hai jo shaanti laata hai."
“Better than a thousand hollow words… is one word that brings peace.”–
It was the long hot summer of 1987, I was once again on my grandfather’s plantation in Toba Tek Singh, the days were long and hot,,, the perfect mango growing season.
Each morning I would go for a walk with my grandfather to inspect the mango trees.
The Mango orchard was in the honoured position in the marabas (fields) beside the farmhouse.
The mango trees were lined up in a regimental fashion like sepoys in the parade ground, we would walk past each tree and my dadoo would point out just by his expert eye the prime mangoes at the best time of picking.
His munshi (foreman) would follow behind us with a long hockey stick device that plucked the golden mango without bruising or bumping them.
The mango was then washed in a bath of iced rosewater and then wrapped in muslin from my grandfather’s cotton plantation and mill and placed in a polished velvet-lined Thuya wood box, with the plantation name and date embossed in gold.
Each time I asked my grandfather who the box was for, he would mischievously wink and say it’s for peace.
So a couple of days later I was watching the news that tensions between, Pakistan and India had reached a crescendo and there was talk of hostilities.
That is when President Zia ul Haq did a googly and flew to Bombay, in the pretence of attending the India-Pakistan test match and met Rajiv Gandhi with a peace offering, thus earning the monicker…“cricket diplomacy of Pahli Hill”
Wait a moment…That polished Thuya box looked familiar.
This week we were in the deepest darkest Fitzrovia and came across this imaginatively named Bombay speakeasy/ restaurant called Pahli Hill and Bandra Bhai.
Mokee Foodwala and I were intrigued , so we decided to explore further.
The decor of the restaurant was tasteful Bollywood/Irani chic, with loads of dark polished wood and brass and Connolly leather banquette seating.
Since we were famished we ordered.
The crispy Khakhra were…phenomenal!!!!Khakra is a thin cracker, like poppadom Gujer cousin, common in Gujrat western India, It is made from mung bean and oil.
This Khakra was a wee bit different as it was slathered with spicy mustard and bird eye achar…seriously spicy yet seriously addictive and delish.
Up next were this delicious, morish palak, Cicoria and Rosevale aloo tikki, accompanied by a sweet and sour tamarind chutney.
the tikkis were moist and light, delicately spiced and balanced, like eating clouds of spinach potato tikis.
The Lamb Biryani was delightful, with just enough spice to keep the next bite interesting, and the cornish lamb melted in the mouth.
Delicious, why was it, not 10/10… the £34 price tag was a wee bit rich for this scottush lad.
The Chicken Tikka was expertly marinated using the light of touch of a master, and the breasts and thighs were moist with no crunchiness of saline-injected chicken. chicken tikka can be the easiest tandoori dish to make or the hardest, it all depends on the master.
The cucumber kimchi accompaniment was tasty and imaginative.
The Dal was a revelation!!! the second coming even…it was absolutely delicious, lightly spiced with roasted shallots, it was the closest to my mum’s masoor ki dal…knowing what I know now I would have been happy to just have the dal with the latcha paratha and some steamed rich. I would go back to Pahli Hill just for the dal.
The Pahli Hill food game is on point. lacking pretentiousness
the food is simple yet elegant and expertly made with quality ingredients, when your team is this good you don’t need gimmicks and sleight of hand.
The service was attentive and unobtrusive.
The Star of the Meal?
The Star of the Meal was definitely the Tadka Dall…. did I mention that it was delicious?
Pahli Hill is definitely Michelin standard, they would race in the same thoroughbred with Gymkhana, Jamavar and Veeraswamys.
This is the Champions League of Indian cooking, and London is a different country. Opheem in Birmingham is also in the running.
These restaurants are a busman’s holiday for me.
The Chicken and Lamb are halal
however, Pork is served but segregated
Alcohol is served.
100% impartial Guarantee
Alfie Foodwala visits all restaurants anonymously and pays for the bill like any other customer, Alfie Foodwala does not accept free meals in return for reviews.