What: An ‘experimental modern spice bistro’ on London’s Haymarket. Farzi Café launched in India back in 2014 and now has nine locations in the subcontinent and a further site in Dubai. Farzi means fake in Urdu, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the restaurant's playful and modernist take on pan-Indian cuisine. It’s well regarded back in India and is considered a pioneer of molecular gastronomy there. But in the UK in 2019 that’s a problematic term to be associated with and this - combined with some dated-looking and occasionally outlandish food images doing the rounds online - caused alarm bells to ring when the restaurant was announced last year. However, the London outpost is more reserved and straight-forward, and arguably all the better for it.
Who: High profile Indian restaurateur and Indian MasterChef judge Zorowar Kalra. His Massive Restaurants holding company operates 30 restaurants in India (other brands include Made in Punjab, Masala Library and ingeniously named modern Thai concept Bo Tai). The kitchen is currently being overseen by the group’s most senior chef Saurabh Udinia, who was recently named India’s best young chef.
The vibe: Within the ground and basement floors of a large building that was once home to a Prezzo, Farzi Café has a modern look with no obvious references to India. The up-tempo muzak won't be for everyone, and suggests Massive Restaurants is looking to attract a young, style-conscious crowd (think Chotto Matte and Hakkasan).
The food: Stylistically, the food is broadly comparable with Indian Accent: a modern take on Indian food that plays around with traditional recipes while keeping all dishes recognisably Indian and authentically spiced. Indian Accent - which launched up the road in Mayfair a year or so ago - is a fine dining restaurant through and through but, true to its name, the dishes at Farzi Café are conceived, presented and served in a more relaxed manner. Food quality is high: Farzi Café’s offering feels fresh and distinct from any other Indian restaurant in London, which is just as well given its slightly offbeat location and the saturated nature of the capital’s Indian restaurant market.
The menu: The brasserie-style A3 menu is lengthy, comprising seven snacks (billed as ‘nano plates’); 15 small plates; around 25 larger plates and a dozen or so sides. Key dishes include dal chawal arancini (pictured above); tandoori goat shoulder; venison Irrachi pepper fry; and snails with the butter, garlic and black pepper dressing you’d normally see paired with crab. Kalra says 90% of the menu is brand new and there’s a menu section of ‘#FARZIFIED’ British classics, including steak and ale pie with tempered dill leaves and Amritsari-style halibut fish & chips.
And another thing: Kalra recently secured an £18m private equity investment and has his sights set on a New York opening. He wants to do more in London, too, and has previously stated that he thinks his Bo Tai format could work in the city.