A new boy on the Indian cuisine block in the shape of the glitzy Farzi Cafe has turned up on London’s Haymarket last month dedicated to confusing your tastebuds. The chefs at Farzi serve not-quite-Indian cuisine and some dishes vaguely allude to the idea of Indian cuisine. Actually, the clue is in the name, “Farzi”, which means “fake” but here they prefer the word illusion. They have even created their own adjective saying that some dishes have been “farzified”.
Farzi Restaurant experience
Some may already be familiar with Farzi. It is part of the Massive Restaurant group that has nine restaurants across India and Dubai. It was launched in 2012 by Zorawara Kalra whose aim is to “evolve” Indian fare.
You might say the restaurant has a touch of the renegade about it. For instance they serve what looks like the distinctly British fish and chips dish, but when you tuck in you are actually tasting Amritsari fish (Halibut), a traditional street food of Punjab, with chips and a pea mash with a kick.
The experience starts with a lovely welcome with a doorman opening the door as you approach followed by greetings from a team of smiling faces when you step in. The central space is taken up with a bar with an elevated shelf with their selection of whiskey bottles (around 60) that jostle for attention in the glimmering orange light.
Tables are spread around the expansive square, some with comfy corner coves and this spills into a lower floor where it is a little quieter but for me less atmospheric.
It’s pretty classy stuff and it’s easy to see how the £4 million investment has been spent.
Food and drink
Part of the fun of dining at Farzi cafe is the expectation of feasting on “Farzified food”.
We shared a couple of starters: The Udupi Paneer popcorn, a dish from the Indian state Karnakata and in particular the Udupi province. It comes as a bowl of fried balls of cottage cheese spiced with karram podi seasoning which contains chilli powder.
My favourite Indian dish of crispy Pani poori shells came filled with quinoa and mash potato. They serve it with small side jugs of tamarind water, coriander water and buttermilk. The idea is to pour a cocktail of the three in each of the shells to flavour as you like.
We followed this with a a plate of Arancini, a traditional Sicilian dish of rice balls, but this was Dal Chawal Arancini which contains dal and coriander and is served with aachar and chutney and amusingly topped with mini rolled popadoms. The concoction makes for a surprising taste of flavours.
The main courses were chicken tikka massala and braised lamb chops and sharing bowl of dhal. The masala came hotter than I had expected yet I still scoffed the lot happily. The lamb had been slightly spiced and that flavour made its appearance as a background note to the maple syrup. No matter – it was a tasty dish.
Desserts are suitably sweet. Srikhand ‘air’ cheesecake with mango coulis was as light and as tangy as it sounds and the Laddoo – a chocolate coconut covered shell with coconut mousse and berries was delightful too. A plate of petit fours was served as well and though they looked sweet, some were tantalisingly savoury. A nice end to a surprising evening.
Verdict: The restaurant offers a spacious and relaxing environment with calming light. Staff are attentive and give the time to explain what they are serving which helps to understand the flavours. The idea of “farzified” food is a great one but from time to time the combined flavours don’t entirely work. But, would I go again? Most definitely.
Price per head: £51
Address: 8 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4BP