Farzi Café: Head fake

‘No,’ was what I wanted to scream straight out when first I learned about Farzi Café. Everything about it struck me as wrong or offensive. The restaurant is subtitled as being a ‘modern spice bistro’ (what is that supposed to mean?), it is backed by ‘the Czar of Indian Cuisine’ (per the details on its website) and I learned through the Internet that farzi means ‘fake’ in Urdu. Add into this that London’s newest batch of Indian openings (Indian Accent, Kahani, Kanishka etc.) have all met with mixed reviews, and my expectations were certainly low heading to Farzi Café. The good news, however, was that they were comfortably surpassed. Both my comrade and I were impressed with the vibe and food on a recent weekday lunchtime visit. Begin with the décor and the angle here is post-industrial with touches of luxury. Of course, there is an open kitchen and a central bar area. We benefited from a leather banquette which afforded us a good view of the whole venue, but we could not help feeling sorry for the potentially unlucky diners who, at busy times, would be forced to sit at the significantly smaller and more exposed tables in the middle of the dining area. Onto the menu, there is a wide range of dishes available to suit all palates and budgets (within reason). If anything, the problem was tyranny of choice. My comrade and I were forced to ponder exactly how big might a ‘nano’ plate be and how many of these might need to be combined with small plates and mains before even beginning to consider where the paos and sliders may fit it. The branding conceit is also in full effect on the menu, with one section dedicated to ‘#farzified’ British classics. I guess the angle here is that all may not be what it seems; let’s take something traditional and give you a reinvented (or, less charitably, fake) version of it. All of this said, the four dishes we went for – we were ever so boring, opting for just two small ones and two mains – were exceptional, in terms of taste and presentation. Pan-tossed shrooms (their labelling, not mine) with a black truffle haze, served on a bed of dhal demonstrated immense novelty and offered diners an exciting spectrum of flavours and textures. Our other starter of naga pork packed a punch of spice intensity with a nicely contrasting addition of bamboo shoots. Mains of venison combined with stir-fired peppers and smoked aubergine served in its skin both spoke of originality and emphasised the kitchen’s skill. No complaints about service, while pricing was reasonable at ~£30/head (although we just drank fizzy water). Once you can get over the backstory, come for the food – and enjoy.