We all know how much Queen Victoria loved a curry, and therefore the new Curry Room, belonging to the luxury Red Carnation Hotel property The Rubens at the Palace overlooking Buckingham Palace Mews, is a fittingly regal tribute to the British love affair with Indian food. If only she was still around to pop across the road for a Vindaloo. A tribute to the South-African ownership of the Red Carnation group, The Curry Room’s three course menu (£45) draws inspiration from both Indian and African cuisines to offer curry lovers something truly unique, all within an atmospheric dining room evoking the days of the Raj, with wing armchairs, red leather banquettes, traditional Indian prints and priceless Rajasthani hand embroideries. The astonishingly courteous front of house meanwhile greet you by your name each time they address you, further enhancing the ambiance and warmth of this homage to Indian hospitality.
Chef Arun Kumar collaborated with Executive Chef, Kevin Joseph of the famed Red Carnation Oyster Box in Durban, South Africa, to create an exciting yet authentic spectrum of flavours and spices a world away from a typical Indian restaurant. Joseph, a respected master of the curry who created the famed Curry Buffet at The Oyster Box and assisted with the launch of the acclaimed Curry Room at The Old Government House Hotel in Guernsey, is an acknowledged guru of spice, with years of experience experimenting with the way spices work together, the sequence in which they should be added, and how long they are cooked for.
This latest curry celebration is sister to The Rubens at the Palace flagship English Grill and promised to be just as memorable as our recent dining experience elevating favourite British dishes to a new realm. It’s fair to say you’ll never taste a more sublime Korma due to The Curry Room’s quality ingredients including prime cuts of meat from the renowned butcher Aubrey Allen, Royal Warrant holder to Her Majesty The Queen, fish sourced daily from Billingsgate Market and the finest spices direct from India.
Commencing with a fun sharing starter of Keema samoosas made with handcrafted pastry and home-ground mince, three varieties of mini poppadums (tikka, black pepper and plain) with exceptionally well prepared sweet, sour and cooling mango chutney, lime pickle and raita. Whilst you will not be frowned upon for ordering a Cobra, the flavours proved a winning combination with one of Red Carnation’s own wines Bouchard Finlayson, Hannibal, 2014, a complex blend of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Nebbiolo, Mourvèdre/Monastrell and Barbera with spicy tones that are an inspired match with such aromatic food.
We were equally happy to sample one another’s chosen mains of traditional Natal lamb curry, prepared medium or hot as per your liking, and Northern Indian butter chicken, accompanied by rice, lentils and home-made naan bread, to enjoy with or without a knife and fork on a traditional Thali dish; showcasing the generosity of Indian food and the playful way of sharing and experimenting with different flavours and textures. This is curry fit for a Queen. In fact, I love the idea that our very own Majesty might send one of her tail-coated footmen to collect a carry-out. For all I know she might just do that every Friday night.
Taking a walk on the wild side, we ended the evening with a nightcap in the hotel’s new Leopard Bar, a glamorous concept which owner Mrs Tollman has introduced to Red Carnation hotels around the world, all individually designed but always featuring the statement bronze leopard sculptures by Donald Greig. Comfortable safari-brown leather seating and tactile Leopard print cushions further make this new space an inviting addition to the Victoria bar scene. Serving a range of Champagne and whisky cocktails and ‘Leopard’ classics, alongside an impressive list of over 200 whiskies and 30 fine Champagnes, live jazz musicians who perform every evening transform one drink into several.
Although it brought out our inner animal, it’s just a shame we didn’t have the appetite of a leopard in order to try the bar’s “Famous Steak Sandwich” (£40) made with Earl Stonham British Wagyu fillet, wild garlic & chive butter, Parmesan truffle chips – a feast an apparently insatiable couple were enjoying to our left. Whilst you may struggle to sight the elusive leopard on an actual safari this Leopard is waiting to host you and your mate for sundowners.
The Curry Room and The Leopard Bar at The Rubens at The Palace, 9 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0PS. For more information and reservations please visit the website.