A popular South London spot, the Forest Hill-based Babur has been keeping peoples’ bellies satisfied since it first opened its doors all the way back in 1985, and for good reason. The food at this critically-acclaimed, Michelin-starred gem is absolutely out of this world. No wonder then that it features on our roundup of 50 of the best restaurants in London…
As you make your way to this fabled Indian restaurant from the Honor Oak overground station, the first thing we noticed is the mighty tiger looming above the entrance hall. As one of the world’s most powerful apex predators, we couldn’t have thought of a better welcome to be honest. After all, the food here is pretty damn powerful too… more on that later.
Stepping through the entrance, we were greeted by a lovely member of staff, who showed us to our table inside. In terms of interiors, you’ve got bare brick walls, tiled flooring, low-hanging lights and wooden partitions here – as well as some pretty flower displays and intricate paintings too.
But arguably the piece-de-resistance here is the traditional Rajasthani marquee, which is located just through a curtain to the left of the main restaurant. It’s a beautiful spot with low-level lighting, intricate patterns and bits and pieces of foliage. In fact, wine and dine out here and you’d be hard pressed not to imagine yourself in actual India!
The staff also mentioned that you can book the area for events – worth thinking about if you’re ever wanting to plan a birthday party and the like.
Now, in my mind, every good meal has to come with a good drink or two too, and Babur ain’t exactly short on them. We kicked off with a ‘Mumbai Negroni’ – a delicious concoction of homemade Indian spiced sweet vermouth, Audemus pink pepper gin, campari and pink clove bitters – and a ‘Currytini’ too – a mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh curry leaves, green chilli, dry vermouth and lime cordial too. Believe me when I say that both were absolutely out of this world.
They’ve also got a whole host of mocktails and craft lassis on the bill too, so if you’re not really feeling like drinking, then you needn’t sweat. You’ll be more than catered for here!
Now for the main event. I have to say that I absolutely love Indian food – having lived there for a couple of years when I was a kid – and have eaten in many Indian restaurants both in the capital and elsewhere. But I have to say that Babur really blew me away.
To kick off, we went for the ‘Crab Bonda’ – a melt-in-the-mouth dish consisting of tempered blue crab meat dumplings with a mint coriander puree – and the ‘Goat Shoulder Tikka’ with cumin puffs, black cardamom, green tomato and an aubergine mash. Both were absolutely delicious – especially when washed down with two pints of Cobra (what else?)
Sides came in the form of aloo gobi, pilau rice, peshwari naans – all the favourites – and a ‘Himachali Chana Dal’, which was tempered with fennel, garlic and crushed chilli. All of these were bloomin’ great, but where the real really stood out for me was in the mains.
The steamed shoulder of lamb with beetroot rice and the Lucknowi chicken biryani with mustard raita were absolutely delicious, but the real standout for me was the Kasundi king prawns with Bengali mustard, spiced puffed rice and green papaya murabba. It was completely moreish and I could have had more than just the one helping that’s for sure!
If you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, then you really need to get yourself down to Babur. The food and drinks banging, the staff are lovely and the interiors will make you feel as if you’re in actual India – what more could you ask for?
They’ve also got a special three-course menu this year for Holi, which will be running until March 31. You’ll be welcomed with a radiant Holi Heh tipple- a combination of three cocktail shooters – and will tuck into mouthwatering dishes including a dish of lemon sole rolled with spiced prawn and red pepper sauce and the veggie-friendly ‘Bharma Aloo’ inspired by the holy city of Varanasi. You can grab your tickets for that here.