What: A modern Indian restaurant with a glitzy, vintage decor, which has taken over the former Holborn Town Hall site.
Who: Colonel Saab is the first London restaurant from hospitality entrepreneur Roop Partap Choudhary, who grew up working in the industry in his homeland of India and continues to manage a number of hotels there. Named after his father Manbeer, who was known as ‘Colonel Saab’ during his many years spent in the Indian Army, the restaurant is an ode to Choudhary's parents and has been almost a decade in the planning.
The food: The menu takes inspiration from Choudhary's travels through India with his parents, and has been developed in partnership with Indian food writer Karen Anand and Colonel Saab head chef Sohan Bhandari. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the food offer is extensive and contemporary, combining a varied mix of dishes from around India. 'Signature' breakfast dishes are available until midday and include caramel and banana paniyaram with jaggery sauce; and an 'Indian fry up’ featuring a masala omelette, chilli chicken sausage and curried baked beans. Lunch, on the other hand, features a selection of salads like watermelon, feta, rocket, tamarind and jaggery dressing; and smoked duck with mango mayonnaise, radish, red pepper and water chestnut. A range of Indian egg paratha with fillings like butter chicken, and Rajasthani lamb is also available. While the dedicated dinner menu is available and includes an additional selection of soups and chaat, the à la carte is where the bulk of the curry dishes can be found, served alongside a range of traditional side and rice dishes. Highlights includes the Kerala-style beef with coconut and roti; Andhra-style baby aubergine with curry leaf and tamarind sauce; cottage cheese in 'royal creamy sauce' with gold leaf; and hake in Bengali sauce. Prices across the board are pitched in the same high-end bracket commonly associated with Indian restaurants in Mayfair, with curries to share starting at £16.95 and topping out at £29.95.
The vibe: Decadent would be a fair description. Colonel Saab's interiors indulge in a vintage vibrancy, and have been created by Choudhary in collaboration with his mother, Binny. The design takes its cue from the colours and patterns of the late 1970s and 80s, as well as the family’s own dining and living rooms back in India. In a touching nod to his parents and their relationship, the bar area features a collage of photos and letters sent between Choudhary's mother and father during their courtship. The ceilings are covered in chandeliers - 40, to be exact - and the walls are laden with oil paintings (including separate ones of Choudhary's mother and father) and Indian artefacts, many of which are hundreds of years old. Notable pieces include a vintage Asprey drinks cabinet dating back to the early 20th century, which is located in the restaurant's sizeable private dining room. Spread across two floors, the dining space is huge, with around 100 covers in total.
And another thing: Colonel Saab is the latest in a long line of restaurants to try and make a success of the Holborn Town Hall site. Previously there was Shanghai Blues; then Burger & Lobster, briefly; and, most recently, Gezellig. Choudhary tells BigHospitality he is confident the restaurant's comprehensive menu of Indian dishes will be enough of a draw, but the location coupled with the high price point is likely to prove a tough sell given the abundance of more centrally located, popular high-end Indian restaurants.
193-197 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BD