There are a disproportionately high number of Indian restaurants in East London, which makes the task of identifying the wheat from the chaff are mindboggling affair. For the lucky residents in Romford, they should make a beeline for Caraway Lounge. The little sister to their main restaurant from Gants Hill, it has an unassuming appearance which resembles a neighbourhood pub (little doubt this was the business of the previous owners) with a spacious car park and outdoor terrace space.
Once inside, you really do get a sense that Caraway is about offering a refined experience. There are elegant sculptures and antique drawers and plenty of dark wooden furniture. If there is anything that does detract from this mood, it is the constant flashing images from the plasma screens from some random Indian pop channel. There is also a giant sign outside displaying the fact they offer sky sports.
The menu here is extremely lengthy and there is a clear bias for vegetarians, as most of the other dishes are just labelled as “non-vegetarian”. A top choice for a vegetarian dish to sample is their masala dosa starter. Generously-portioned, the crispy rice and lentil pancake is deliciously crunchy and packed with filling Indian-style mash potatoes. This was a dish ordered by my meat-loving guest who almost always orders a steak for his main course without fail.
They do have alternative offerings which you don’t generally see in other Indian restaurant menus. I ordered mussels which were cooked in a light coconut broth. Apart from being brilliantly flavoured, it was extremely well-sourced, the mussels were plump and tender tasting.
Value for money is a key asset at Caraway; the jumbo kebab platter contains an impressive assortment of meats from succulent prawns to tender pieces of chicken, All came in sizeable portions, so this is an ideal dish to share with a group of friends who enjoy grilled meats along with hints of Indian spices. Most of the selections were a success, although some had room for improvements: the fish was on the dry side.
One fish that was expertly executed was the Machli Ka Salan popular in Andhra Pradesh. The delectable dish lightly spices fresh tilapia with onion, chilli, garlic, turmeric, cumin and other spices. The dish isn’t overcooked and the sauce is great for dipping with plain naan or rice.
Caraway is a hidden gem that stands out amongst the crowded marketplace of Indian restaurants in East London.