Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > U.K./Ireland >
Oct 2, 2013 03:08 AM

Vir Sanghvi and London

Vir Sanghvi is the editorial director at Hindustan Times. His is one of the more prominent voices re: food and wine in India.

Here is his take on London

I pine for the days of Busybee.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was at the end of a row of tables at Balthazar. It didn't seem crowded to me at all, but maybe other areas are really squeezed.

    I wish he hadn't mentioned Deux Salons. Unless they've picked it up a bit, I didn't enjoy the food there at all last time I was there.. unexpectedly.

    3 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      yes, i'm not terribly impressed by our friend vir sanghvi

      1. re: howler

        I rather enjoyed the one comment posted to his article: -

        "No-one gives a shit about London".

        It could become a slogan.

        1. re: Harters

          Sounded like someone with a bone to pick with London. Anyway, not surprised that he/she quoted Singapore or Dubai as the more accessible global cities - the Indian population in Singapore has risen from 7% (1990) to 12% (2012) mainly through emigration from India (IT professionals and bankers).

    2. I am not sure that his point on Hakkasan in NYC is true. I have not been there (no point as I go in London) but my friends over there go on about it and it is mentioned loads on the New York board.

      Although true the price of a taxi here is nuts.

      1. I do appreciate Vir Sanghvi's writings though - for example, take this excerpt from his article on "golgappas"

        "Because I grew up in Bombay, my favourite version was always pani puri. I did not even know that they called it a golgappa in Delhi."

        I was the same, too - when I visited Delhi for the first time back in 1992, my office colleagues there introduced me to "golgappas", and I actually thought I was onto something new - until I realised they were similar to the "pani puris" I had in Bombay. I'd attributed my ignorance to the fact that I'm a non-Indian, more attuned to Indian-Tamil culture back in Singapore, and only a sometime visitor to India - it was an indeed eye-opener for me to find out that *even* Mumbaikars like Vir was in the same boat as I was.

        P.S. - Then, a few months back, my Bengali friends told me to try what I thought was yet another new Indian food item for me - "fuchka" ... which I found out later to be "pani puri" aka "golgappa" under yet another different label :-D

        10 Replies
        1. re: klyeoh

          yes, sometimes he's ok - for instance, dahi batata puri is a personal favourite too.

          but he lacks busybee's willingness to explore the vast panorama that is on offer. golgappas/paani puri are sooooo main stream, for example.

          i think we indians are seduced by chef-ing up our cuisines. that sort of thing is fine in its occassional place, a mop for all the black money sloshing around.

          but as a result, we overlook the glories all around us. we indians want to claim fine dining for ourselves, but the results are often ludicrous, the equivalent of wearing suits in bombays pre-monsoon heat.

          i'd be impressed with any of our newer cheffy chefs if they would demonstrate mastery of the roots. but i have never eaten - for example - a dhansaak made by cyrus todiwalla that compares even slightly with anything i ate growing up.

          1. re: howler

            I'd always felt that UK-based Indian chefs, even good ones like Cyrus Todiwala, somehow tweaked their cooking in the UK to suit local tastes/palates.

            Even Camellia Panjabi, so dependable in India, could not (or chose not to) offer *real* Indian cooking in her chain of restaurants in London. That Masala Zone chain is a case in point.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Oh sure they do. It's sad but true - and the reason i suspect is simple economics. for example, a proper dhansaak is very labour intensive to make correctly.

              1. re: klyeoh

                Surely all "foreign" cuisine, in whichever country it's offered, is tweaked to local tastes. Business is business.

                1. re: Harters

                  I wonder if that's so true of very good French restaurants throughout the world. That's one cuisine that doesn't seem very different in other countries... at least to me.

                  I still laugh at all the products here that are labelled, 'American,' or 'American style.' Usually they are far from anything I've ever eaten in America.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    Re: French. Same with Japanese cuisine, June - all the renditions in various countries have somehow maintained their integrity. I'd had fantastic Tokyo/Osaka-level Japanese cooking even in little European towns like Heidelberg, Germany.

                    I do agree with you - the "American" food in London is really *different*, to say the least.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      Zuriga - I suspect you're right about "very good" French restaurants. The Waterside would be a good example - you'd never be in any doubt that you were in a French restaurant.

                      But I have in mind a place near me. It was owned and cheffed by a Francophone Belgian (until he was killed in a car crash earlier this year). Whilst there were a couple of distinctly classic French dishs on the menu, most of it was pretty much standard generic north European food, gussied up with a French name. Equally, I travel to northern France most years for a few days and would reckon that, with some exceptions, the food is pretty much what you'd get on this side of the Channel. A major exception would be fish cookery where it is much more prevelent there than here.

                      1. re: Harters

                        It sounds as if the Belgian chef was trying to make his audience happy, and maybe he thought he could get away with some faux dishes. As we well know, not everyone is as discerning as you.

                        Speaking of Belgian dishes, I'm headed over there on Monday for a few days. This time we've decided to take our chances, make no bookings and just eat in neighbourhood places that look interesting.

                        1. re: zuriga1

                          You should eat well, June.

                          We visit Ieper fairly regularly and I don't think I've had a bad meal in the town (even in the more touristy places)

                          By the by, there was an interesting contrast between my comments on the restaurant and those of another diner, back in 2011.

                    2. re: Harters

                      No doubt about that, Harters - sometimes, you get some gems, e.g. Chinese roast ducks in London which are the *best* in the world (, or the addictive British-style shredded crispy duck served with pancakes which practically doesn't exist outside the British Isles ( Hakkasan, and later Yauatcha, produce dim sum on par if not better than those one finds in HK or Singapore.

                      However, when it comes to Indian food in the UK, what we find have unfortunately been "dumbed down", compared to the fabulous renditions one finds in India itself - made all the more amazing by the Michelin-star rating given to a number of these places. Considering the long shared history of Britain and India going back centuries, and the large number of Britons who're ethnic Indians, that's too bad.