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Introduction

The oldest Indian restaurant Veeraswamy has been revived and is ready to capture the hearts of Londoners again


To be dining in the world's oldest surviving Indian restaurant is a treat in itself, but when it is London-based and serves some of the best Indian food that I have eaten then I sit up and take notice.

"Veeraswamy" (no it does not serve South Indian fare), started 80 years ago by Edward Palmer, a respected member of the Raj and married to Moghul princess Faisan Nissa Begum, hasplayed a pivotal role in London. It has played host to Edward Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill, King Gustave of Sweden, Charlie Chaplin and several maharajas and maharanis. Not to forget Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Recently revamped, it opened its doors to rave reviews. Excitement about it reached me weeks before I visited it. But nothing prepares me for the glamorous and somewhat tongue-in-chic ambience that greeted me. The dramatic lighting infuses a flirtatious mood, embroidering the restaurant with mellow hues. Rich Indian coloured glass handis, majestic chandeliers, candle stands and voila! I am transported into another world. Even as I kept looking at the vividly coloured turbans, Kalighat paintings, the menu was presented. All my senses are pampered and coddled. I love the soft red rose petals sprinkled in the centre of the table. And then my taste buds are blitzed. Succulent tandoori Madagascar prawns, tandoori oysters cooked to perfection and served with ginger lime chutney. I enjoy the full-bodied flavour of the chicken bhajiya, the tangy sweetness of the chicken makhanwalla and then the flavours from the other regions takeover. Outstanding fish paturi and vegetable chorchori mellow and coconutty malai chingdi from Bengal, chicken stew with appam from Kerala. The Hyderabadi and Lucknawi aroma seduce too — nihari, lamb nallis, khichda, chicken nizami with pine nuts and many more. Brilliantly paired wines add zing to the evening. I am sure that I won't be able to fit in any dessert, but when the banana kulfi, kalajamun and muzaffir sevian with coconut custard is served I can't stop eating them. The unusual jellies are a great way to wind up and then totter out happily into London's most happening theatre and shopping district.

Compliments to Camilia and Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani for putting Indian food onto the global map. First with "Chutney Mary", then their fabulous "Amaya" got a Michelin star, their "Masala Zones" are hugely popular and they've succeeded in getting "Veeraswamy" back to its old glory, in everyway!

99, Regent Street, London W1. Ph: 02077341401.

Dial 25025530 or mail us at Good Food Line, Metro Plus, The Hindu, Kasturi

Buildings, 859/860, Anna Salai,

Chennai - 600002 or e-mail to allmypets@sify.com

RASHMI UDAY SINGH

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