gunpowder, spitafields

19th August 2016

CHEAT SHEET

FULL STORY

Approx £30 a head without alcohol.

Review updated October 2016.

In an area jam-packed full of mostly rubbish desi restaurants, Gunpowder is a diamond in the rough. A twinkly little family-run gem, joint boasting an ex-Tamarind and ex- Zaika head chef. We were lured to the east by what was the most drool-worthy instagram feed and menu in the London restaurant scene at the time.

It's tiny and packed, with fewer than 30 covers. They've not spent much time or effort on the decor which is day-and-night-neutral,  but what does it matter when the food is this good?

Expecting a long queue at 8.30 on a Saturday on our first visit, we lucked out with just a 20 minute wait, which we mostly spent at the bar at Discount Suit Company, gleeful and gloating. The second time round we rocked up ambitiously at 6.45pm, during cocktail week, and waited 90 minutes, also at DSC.

The menu has some fabulous regional touches - sigree mustard broccoli was a delight. On a second visit, I declared the chettinad pulled duck with homemade oothappam to be the best dish on the menu. Rasam ke bomb didn't disappoint either. Forget the bomb actually - the classics are explosively good. Aloo chaat delivered on all fronts, saag with tandoori paneer was veggie, rich, silky and tender, a little bit like a tender hug from the one-that-got-away.

Here are the vulnerabilities. Karwari soft shell crab was juicy and generously battered, just fine. Porzhi okra fries disappointed us - dinner buddy AL said her mum's homemade version is better, and it's true - you can do this at home with some chaat masaala and an Actifry. I spent weeks imagining what a spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut would be like - the reality didn't live up to the dream.

Never mind. I want to tell you about the showstopper, the lamb chops. The first bite of lamb chop still lingers in my mind - it was so flavourful and tender that it actually beat my childhood memory of the best lamb chops I've ever had - marinated at home in yoghurt and masalas, and grilled on the barbeque on a glorious summer day. It beats Lahori's marinade easily, and at the very least, matches Gymkhana's. Small note - on the first visit, the second chop was thicker and slightly overcooked, but both were bang on point the second time round.

There's plenty more to tempt on the menu, like wild rabbit pulao, and nagaland house crispy pork ribs with tamarind kachumber. This has become a regular spot.