While I’m from Australia and find that Chinese Asian is my go-to cuisine whenever it’s up to me, the other half of this site is English and leans quite far into the Indian camp anytime she gets her way. Her having travelled there a few years ago has only piqued her interest more and it now seems I never get my Chinese fix.
But that’s not so much a problem when it’s not all muddy curries with questionable meat in whitewashed rooms that most probably have some sort of infestation happening in the kitchen. We now have the likes of the stellar Kricket down in Brixton (review), Hoppers which is Sri Lankan but I would add that to the multicultural mix (review) and now Gunpowder on the edge of Spitalfields.
This area is (if it’s not already) going to be huge. Situated right next to the building site across from Spitalfields Market, there’s already Hotbox open and Som Saa’s new Thai restaurant opening on April 11th on Commercial Street plus an Ottolenghi and Hummingbird Bakery hidden in the twisting backstreets of Shoreditch. Gunpowder has opened to quiet fanfare and we decided it was about time to try it our after talking about it for so long.
It’s a small 28 seater in a nicely fitted out shotgun style room. It’s all brick, warm wood and a nice use of cup/bowl light fittings – the same sort you would find on the streets of Calcutta being served street food in. This will end up being a restaurant to return to over and over again as there’s a good number of menu items that have recently been rotated though due to the blackboard chalk being rubbed out.
The service here is very personal and I suggest you do ask about any dishes you want to know about (or don’t because after hearing the descriptions you’ll be adding it to your order). They suggest around 3 dishes per person but we were only ducking in for a quick lunch….
We kicked things off with their Gunpowder aloo chaat. It’s the best of both worlds with potatoes roasted in a spice mix before being smashed down and slathered with black chickpeas, onion, tomatoes, tamarind, fried lotus root and a criss-cross of yoghurt. A similar mix of flavours to Kricket’s amazing Bhel Puri but with more potatoes – and that’s not a bad thing.
Dish of the day and one we’ll most likely add to our Foodie Hub East London List – Gunpowder’s spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut part of the new wave of savoury doughnuts like the one we recently had at LeBab on Carnaby Street. Harneet explains that he wanted to make a doughnut using nelson mince and wanted to ensure people didn’t feel ripped off with an insubstantial about of filling. They simmer down the venison, all the while making a thin Indian dough that has vermicelli added into it and also rolled in to make the amazing outer crust. With China just on the doorstep, the elements of this dish just make sense and work amazingly well.
As I’m also compiling The Good, The Bad and The Ugly list of cheese toasties around London, the chutney cheese sandwich was a no brainer. This is a dish that will divide some people but we really liked it. It’s not a traditional grilled cheese sandwich – rather nicely toasted bread with cheese, chutney and salsa to bring the edge off the heat.
The Chettinad pulled duck served with homemade oothappam was a nice interlude and we divided the single serve up between the both of us. I’m not a fan of anything ‘pulled’ as it seems like every man and his dog is doing it somewhere on the menu. The version here came wedged between a soft pillow of oothappam and was all the better for it.
To finish up, a half serve of the Sigree grilled mustard broccoli half was delayed due to extra smoking needed – and something that’s never going to put me out waiting is somewhere taking the time to add more flavour to a dish. This jumped off the plate and into our mouths, though we did end up thinking that since we had finished out other dishes we were just eating half a broccoli. Though that’s not something I would have ever heard myself say which is testament to how interesting this dish was.
Desserts such as old monk rum pudding, molten spice chocolate cake with masala chai custard and passion fruit and mint granita give us reason to return – as does the long list of other dishes we didn’t get to touch. This is well worth putting on your list of places to visit and we won’t leave it nearly half as long to come back a second time.
Contact: Spitalfields – 11 White’s Row, E1. Ph. 020 7426 0542. Website. Mon-Sat noon-3pm & 6-11pm.