It’s a modern affair at Urban Turban, as the catchy name might suggest. Low lighting, low-slung seating and low-fi music all serve as a contemporary backdrop to Michelin starred Vineet Bhatia’s latest concept: street food. With Urban Turban, Bhatia’s aim is to bring Indian street food to the high street (of Westbourne Grove that is).
The menu at Urban Turban is an informal mix of starters, main meals and the expected rice, bread and side dish accompaniments. Our waiter explained how we might best work through it, recommending that we try two of the desi tapas (starters), one Classic Main and either bread or rice to fill in any gaps.
Before we even got as far as ordering our food, we scoured the drinks list and decided on a King Cobra and a Rose & Lychee Lassi. The Cobra, with all its refreshing and full-bodied zing, was appreciatively glugged down, whilst the beautiful pink frothiness of the lassi, complete with flecks of rose petals had to be stared at for a good few minutes, before ruining its pretty presentation and sampling its delicate but distinct flavour.
After some enjoyable sipping of drinks, we decided on the Tangy Spicy Scallops, Aloo Chat, Lamb Seek Kebab, and Home Smoked Honey & Mustard Tandoori Salmon, from the desi tapas to start. Biting into the scallops confirmed their plumpness was just right, and the kebab was full of spice and flavour. The salmon was super soft, but a little undercooked in places, although the dill dip that accompanied it went some way towards redeeming the dish. It was the aloo chat that won the day, with the spice and chutneys giving our taste buds a roller coaster ride.
For our main dishes, we opted for the Bhuna Chicken in fresh coconut and red chili marsala, and the Chicken Makhni infused with dried fenugreek leaves. For a little extra bulk we ordered some cumin pulao rice and chili garlic naan, along with some cucumber and mint raita to quell any culinary fire ahead. As it happens, there wasn’t really any fire – that had all been condensed into the starters, with our main dishes being decidedly mild. The Chicken Makhni tasted creamy with a hint of sweetness, but disappointingly the Bhuna was a little lacking in flavour and probably wasn’t the best choice for a man who has a satanic level of tolerance for fiery food.
Our neighbouring diners were, by the way, devouring a Volcanic Rock Grill Platter. It looked great - the laid out strips of meat, fish and vegetables ready to cook on your own private rock grill, but seemed a little bit like hard work considering that you end up paying to cook your own dinner. We only suffered dish envy for a matter of seconds however, and turned our attention to the dessert list.
Ah the dessert list – a difficult one to choose from at Urban Turban seeing as everything sounds tempting. Crispy samosas filled with coconut, almond and raisins, served with star anise ice cream? Lemon & lavender tart, with a warm coconut milk shooter? Cardamom panacotta, with fresh berries, rose infusion and basil? In the end we chose the apple rice kheer timbale with cinnamon ice cream, and a bowlful of stem ginger ice cream and raspberry sorbet. Both were very, very good: the ice cream and sorbet were cool, refreshing and palette cleansing, whilst the apple timbale was superbly rich and indulgent.
Throughout the course of the night, one thing was becoming apparent: after just two weeks of opening its doors, Urban Turban has become a popular place. Some twenty people were begrudgingly turned away from the fully booked restaurant floor, with a suggestion to re-visit on another night. But all is not lost. Urban Turban is set to open up a second floor at basement level to accommodate more hungry urbanites. Whilst street level at Urban Turban will be a more informal walk-in approach, the basement will offer a less casual alternative, with the opportunity to book. If the night we visited was anything to go by, booking ahead may be the only way to get your hands on some of Vineet Bhatia’s street food.
A meal for two will set you back around £80, including drinks. Service not included (there is a 12.5% service charge at Urban Turban).
Urban Turban: 98 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London, W2 5RU.
Tel: 020 7243 4200
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar