Empire Empire | Vibrant Notting Hill Indian Restaurant
Some empires crumble after thousands of years in power, others get outmanoeuvred by the rebel alliance, and there’s the one that serves Indian to the tune of ‘70s disco.
About the third…
Called Empire Empire, it’s the latest effort from Harneet Baweja and the crew behind the Gunpowder family, which make up some of London’s best Indian restaurants. After conquering the central and eastern parts of the city, they’ve now turned their attention west to Notting Hill, a neighbourhood that seems to be hogging all of London’s best new restaurants at the moment – Dorian, Akub, The Pelican and The Counter, to name just a few in the last year or so.
Empire Empire’s idea is based on the old-school curry house of the 1970’s, a period that’s said to be India’s golden age of art, music and food, and when loosely-buttoned loud silk shirts were the trend.
The space itself is split in two; a back area with speckled floors and tables dressed in white linen, and a narrower front area with walls decorated in vintage disco LPs and iconic artwork from two of the 20th century’s most respected Indian artists, Jogen Chowdhury & Rabin Mondal. Disco is something they’re really touting here and they take great pride in their big-hitting Bollywood playlist, which comes from a custom-made Marshall Jukebox that sits by the entrance. Dancing is encouraged…
Empire Empire’s menu is inspired by India’s northwestern regional cuisines, stretching across the old Punjab Empire, from Bihar to Afghanistan. Depending on how many people are round the table, it’s best to order a five-dish spread to try and cover everything; there’s kebabs slowly charred over hot coals (the goat seekh with a white cheesy sauce is already establishing itself as a favourite); fragrant curries where the spice stays with you but also doesn’t overstay its welcome (the saag gosht made with Cornish lamb was a highlight); saffron milk cake topped with sweetened cream; and their signature biryanis where the current special attraction is lobster; mostly for its photo-friendly presentation where the crustacean’s head sticks out from the pastry.
Unlike Gunpowder (which was all about the rice), they serve bread at Empire Empire, and there’s tandoori rotis and garlic naans to mop up all those rich sauces. However like Gunpowder, the quality of cooking is uniformly exceptional (which explains why both places have now been garlanded with a Michelin Bib Gourmand).
As for what to drink, it depends on what you like paired with your Indian food, really. You could opt for the ‘Disco Lager’ made by 40ft Brewery, something from the list of wines thought up by Mattia Bianchi (of Berber & Q and Carmel), and for the cocktail crowd there’s a host of whiskey sodas (each £8) and two bespoke cocktails made with gin.
As we said, dancing is encouraged…
NOTE: Empire Empire is open daily until 10pm. You can find out more, and book, on their website right here.
Empire Empire | 16 All Saints Road, W11 1HH
While we’re in the neighbourhood… here are the best restaurants in Notting Hill.