Restaurant review: Hazara Indian restaurant in Belsize Village
PUBLISHED: 06:55 22 May 2014
As Britain’s diners increasingly demand authenticity – be it organic produce, quality ingredients or regional tradition – Hazara stands at the forefront of a revolution in Indian cuisine.
Situated in Belsize Village, this restaurant was opened two years ago by businessman Tajinder Banwait with the aim of serving top-level, locally-sourced food that, while modern in aesthetic, captures the freshness, flavours and heritage of India.
I tried out the restaurant one Friday night with a friend and was immediately seated in a packed out room, which features simple, stylish modern décor made intimate through hanging lanterns and pastel walls.
Immediately unusual was the presentation of a substantial cocktail list, from which we indulged in a couple of impressive Old Fashions before moving onto the obligatory Cobra beers. Our early expectations continued to rise with the arrival of Hazara’s chunky, square-cut popadoms. Delicious and crispy, they were notably served with Tamarind sauce – a tangy change from the usual relish suspects.
When Banwait put the restaurant together, he assembled a team of chefs who trained at the renowned Taj group of Hotels and some of their innovations are just stunning.
My Dora kebab starter comprised of lamb ground 12 times before reassembly and the result was rich, salty meat so smooth that it pre-emptively melts on your fork. While scallops aren’t an immediate choice for an Indian, my friend found them easily the best he’d tasted and indeed they are a key reason for Hazara’s upcoming inclusion in the Michelin guide, which demands every fish dish stands up to the quality of their meat.
As a staple test, I had to opt for the Chicken Tikka Masala. Alongside came Nali Nahari (lamb shank), Palak Paneer (spinach with cottage cheese) and a curious, creamy dumpling dish called Makai Malai Kofta.
The Masala was wonderful, with more spice and texture than your average fare, while the lamb shank was slowcooked over 12 hours and so tender it was purple. The real curveball was the dumplings, which were moist and startlingly bitter. It was hard to stomach the lot, but they were quite unlike anything I’ve ever tasted and well worth a try for the more adventurous.
The care put into this menu consistently cries out, though it doesn’t come without effort. Banwait travels weekly to Billingsgate and Smithfield markets for the best ingredients, but evidently it’s paying off and broadening many cultural horizons along the way.
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