Hattie Lloyd 30/01/23
Babur | Stellar Indian Cooking in South East London
Babur is an Indian restaurant that’s full of surprises.
On arrival at this neighbourhood legend – presided over by a rarely encountered suburban tiger (surprise number 1) – you’ll be ushered into one of two spaces. The first is a cosy sleeve of a space with soft lighting and exposed brick walls, laced with delicious scents wafting through from the kitchen. But if you find yourself being led down a small passageway to your left, you’ll find yourself faced with surprise number 2 – a vast Rajasthani marquee tent born from the necessity of the pandemic, and now a beautiful, unexpected permanent addition.
Having taken your seat, you’ll be presented with surprise number 3 (things calm down a little after this, we promise). For the past ten years, the team at Babur have been experimenting with infusing Indian flavours into classic cocktails, and it’s a labour of love that has now produced a small booklet of signature drinks – and they’re absolutely exceptional. Take the Old Fashioned Old Monk, spiked with banana liqueur and clove bitters, or the Lavender and Cardamom Daiquiri with its herbal garnish pegged to the glass. Or try the Pineapple Hookah, a cachaça-based cocktail infused with roasted cumin and caramel, which arrives in a stoppered bottle topped up with a fragrant plume of clove-scented smoke.
Fantastically inventive cocktails aside, Babur is first and foremost a restaurant – and if you’re wondering how the food can measure up to a drinks list that good, trust us when we say this is some of the most delicious Indian food in London.
See, there are restaurants that serve food you want to savour, one morsel at a time, acknowledging the many complex layers of flavour that have gone into each bite; and there are restaurants where the food is so moreish you want to devour everything in sight as quickly as humanly possible. Babur somehow manages to be both. There are flourishes of fine dining elegance: the crab bonda – warm, yielding dumplings filled with spiced blue crabmeat – sit in three neatly contained pools of mint & coriander purée; the smoky Kasundi king prawns arrive all in a row, tails perked up in the air like a line of synchronised swimmers. But most crucially, the food at Babur is just exceptionally delicious. The baby aubergines with spinach border on entering the liquid phase, they’re so gloriously soft and pulpy. Spices add fire and piquancy without blowing your head off. And the breads – paratha, roti, nan – are baked to perfection; a crucial tool in mopping up the last dregs of tangy, fragrant sauces.
Kasundi king prawns
Inevitably, you won’t have room for their cumin & chocolate fondant with salted caramel gelato; or their black cardamom kheer (like rice pudding) with caramelised figs and topped with silver leaf… but you’ll want to squeeze one in anyway. After all, it’ll build up your ability to make the most of their Sunday buffet – an all-you-can-eat feast of fluffy naan, saffron rice and mouthwatering curry.
After which, it’ll be time to head back to the overground station – because Babur’s biggest surprise is the fact that it’s not a flashy restaurant in Mayfair, or rubbing shoulders with other inventive cocktail bars in Soho. Nope, for the past 38 years it’s been sitting pretty in Honor Oak Park, just past Brockley and New Cross on the overground.
You should go and pay a surprise visit.
NOTE: Babur is open daily, with a buffet on Sunday afternoons. You can find out more, and book a table, HERE.
Babur | 119 Brockley Rise, London SE23 1JP
Looking for more inspiration? Peruse our pick of the best Indian restaurants in London
119 Brockley Rise, Honor Oak Park, SE23 1JP
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0208 291 2400
8.8 | Great
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