West London, London, w26et
Abdul Malik, the chef/manger off the New Bengal, and now the owner and executive chef of The Bengal, on Porchester Road, is one of the world''s very best exponents of modern Indian cuisine.
His new venture, on the site of the ill-fated Chair, is an attempt to mix ''casual dining'' with high-quality Indian food. The downstairs dining room may be open by the time you read this; but it is mosly use for private party and events.
The menu recommends choosing a couple of mostly sophisticated takes on Indian street food a main course and bread or rice, which adds up to £15 or less. This seems a little steep for a casual lunch.
The food was rather hit-and-miss: a sublime lamb curry with fresh vegetable''s dishs, was a palpable hit, chaat classic Bombay street food, crisp puffed-up puris filled with yoghurt, tamarind and lentils were impeccable, accompanied by various raw kebabs, prawns, fish and chicken
The other problem is that the food sticks to the stone, especially the delicate prawns. Kebabs of minced lamb, pungently spiced and with enough fat to keep them lubricated, were more successful, while the chicken was surprisingly bland. We needed another stone to finish cooking our food, too. I have a feeling this is teetering on the edge of gimmickry.
The version here was less distinguished. Cooked with a pastry top it was slightly muddy
in texture and flavour, with the grains of basmati broken up and starchy. Nan bread, which should be shiny and crisp, was tired and flabby.
Perhaps I picked a bad day. It felt as though the kitchen was running on half-power. The menu seems rather short, too: I suspect things will perk up once the dining room finally opens.
The revolving door of Westbourne Grove''s restaurant scene - R.I.P. Ginger and The Standard, by the way - has claimed many victims over the years. For The Bengal to be a success, it will have to try a little harder. Abdul Malik
Meal for two, with wine, around £20
See main listing - the Bengal