We moved to Forest Hill just over a year ago. Busy repainting what felt like every wall in the house, we hadn’t ventured 'over the hill' very many times. But with a New Year's resolution to put down the paint brush and get out more, a dark Saturday evening in January seemed the perfect moment to try out Babur - especially with the news that it had recently been awarded Zagat 2013 London 'Best Indian Restaurant'.
On arriving, the first surprise was finding a tiger on the roof of a restaurant in Brockley Rise. (Babur is derived from the Urdu word 'babr' meaning 'tiger', Wikipedia tells me, so a week after our visit, this brilliantly over-the-top ornament makes sense!) The surprises continue inside - this is much more than your ordinary Indian restaurant. Bare brick walls, polished walnut tables, intriguing art - a relaxed, stylish and welcoming place.
We're offered an inventive list of cocktails to kick off our evening. And the menu is pleasingly brief - no compendium of 1001 curries - instead, an intriguing range of dishes which all have something a little different or unusual about them, from South Indian style mussels in a coconut milk, mustard seed and curry leaf broth or tamarind-glazed quail breast as starters, to steamed spice crusted shoulder of lamb (allegedly marinated for 100 hours!) or pan seared bream with black mangosteen, coconut and Malabari masala.
There’s a great choice of vegetarian dishes too. And with main courses, there's a suggestion of the wine that will best accompany your food. It's all incredibly well thought through - the only disappointment of our meal is the clove-smoked buffalo curry, one of the mains, which seems rather heavy handed on the cloves to the exclusion of everything else. We will know for next time – and there definitely will be a next time - Babur isn't the cheapest evening out, but it feels really special, the food is excellent, and the service is friendly and attentive.
Sitting at our table, I found myself already plotting who I could bring back, and when. But before that I need to decide what's next on my list - Le Querce, apparently another of the star restaurants in Honor Oak, The Sylvan Post , Dartmouth Arms or Canvas & Cream in Forest Hill, That’s Amore in Kirkdale, or Trattoria Raffaele in Sydenham—so much choice!
If our evening at Babur is anything to go by, some great nights out at local restaurants and pubs lie ahead.
Review by Catherine Wood