Ask the average Londoner what they think of Tooting and they’ll probably look at you blankly, before asking you if it’s that place down the far end of the Northern line. Ask someone who has lived there, however, and they’ll immediately tell you that Tooting is the home of the best curry in London – cheap, authentic, and better than Brick Lane by a mile. The stretch of high street between Bec and Broadway tube stations plays host to a vast array of excellent curry houses – and here is a restaurant review of one of the best, Mirch Masala.
As we sat down to browse the menu, my dining partner and I were given a plate of what I initially thought looked like poppadums, but which were crispily fresh and shot through with caraway seeds, and were not at all greasy, accompanied with little bowls of hot chilli sauce and cooling mint raita for dipping. To start, my dining partner and I decided to try the fried mogo, which the menu alternatively referred to as sweet potato, but which turned out to be a generous serving of cassava chips. These were wonderfully textured – soft inside with a light crisp coating – and served with a liberal sprinkling of mild curry powder which gave the chips a pleasant kick of flavour. We also enjoyed a portion of excellent lamb samosas – it was clear from the fantastic flakiness of the filo-like pastry that they had been freshly deep fried (as opposed to pre-prepared and re-heated), and the ample amount of minced lamb filling was delicately spiced and extremely moreish.
My main course of Karahi Corn Chicken looked like a classic chicken curry, save for the addition of a plentiful portion of sweetcorn that had been stirred into the sauce. The chicken was beautifully tender and the sauce was cooked just to my specification (medium-hot). I’m not sure whether it came from the corn, but the sauce had an unusual, slightly sweet taste to it – though this was really quite pleasant and was tempered by the fresh, citrusy bite of the raw coriander that was sprinkled over the top of the dish. A large plate of pilau rice was eye-catchingly colourful and plenty for two to share, while a giant naan bread was brilliantly light and fluffy. My dining partner’s main of Karahi Chicken Keema, a comparatively dry dish of spicy minced chicken with a slight hint of cinnamon, made an interesting change from the usual curry house fare and was definitely worth a try.
Although a variety of ice creams is available for dessert, including some Indian Kulfis, my dining partner and I couldn’t quite manage any after all that curry. As for drinks, like most curry houses in the area Mirch Masala operates on a BYO basis, meaning alcohol is cheap – but a more interesting option if you’re not set on bringing a bottle of Cobra is to try one of their fresh mango lassis. Thick, smooth and fruity, these tasty yoghurt drinks are excellent for taking the edge off a spicy curry sauce. Personally I found Mirch’s rendition a touch on the sweet side, tasting almost more like honey than it did like mango, but it was still a pleasant experience.
With its glass frontage, harsh fluorescent lighting and formica tables, Mirch Masala won’t win any prizes for décor, but that doesn’t deter the curry hungry locals, who flock there in droves, even mid-week. The service was generally competent and not unfriendly, but it took a couple of reminders before we received our requested jug of tap water. The bill was slow to arrive, but pleasantly low when it did, coming to just £12 per head. Overall, Mirch Masala offers good, authentic curries and excellent value for money, and is well worthy of my three and a half Forks-Up.Mirch Masala 213 Upper Tooting Road London SW17 7TG T: 020 8672 7500