Indian isn’t usually a cuisine I choose on a night out, apart from Michelin Starred Benares in Mayfair owned by acclaimed chef Atul Kotchar, I’ve only ever been to one other restaurant worthy of similar status, The Spice Merchant in Henley-on-Thames. However, when I got an unmissable opportunity to dine from the new a la carte menu at award winning Bayleaf Restaurant in Whetstone, I had a feeling it would rival both Benares and Spice Merchant.
Whetstone is about a forty minute drive from where I live. Admittedly, it isn’t somewhere I would usually visit for an evening out, Central London being my go-to but I’m all for championing local business, there are real gems to be found local to where you live and Bayleaf is definitely a special find. This time I was accompanied by my daughter who’s never had proper Indian food before, she was really looking forward to it.
Bayleaf was originally a takeaway and after 23 very successful years, owner Toffozul Miah was inspired to open a sit down restaurant, that dream became a reality in 2013 and he hasn’t looked back since. They pride themselves in serving traditional high quality Indian food with a modern twist, fresh and vibrant flavours were definitely permeating the air as we approached the restaurant. Bayleaf is literally just up the road from their takeaway, it seemed a natural progression and in the 4 or so years it’s been open, it’s gained a fierce reputation as North Londons’ finest Indian restaurant. They have won numerous awards and accolades including the Asian Curry Awards 2014, British Curry Awards 2016, The Barnet and Potters Bar Times Newspaper Award for Best Restaurant of 2014 and was featured in The Place to Eat on &TV.
It’s a beautiful restaurant decent in size with a bright contemporary feel and a huge crimson water feature almost dividing the restaurant in two, it’s definitely the centre piece of the restaurant. Adorning the shelves are Indian gods and Arab genie type lamps, so intricately designed, I wouldn’t mind one on my shelf at home. We arrived at 6:30pm and by the time we left two hours later, the restaurant was buzzing and completely full and it’s easy to see why from the array of traditional and appetising dishes on the menu, it was going to be hard to choose!
The Mango Bellini
One of the restaurants’ starters, theatrics on a plate? it’s just as magical to eat.
My daughter and I were welcomed with cocktails, I chose an exotic sounding Mango Bellini and my daughter chose a mocktail full of fruity ingredients called the Bayleaf Passion, mint, passion fruit and mango. Sipping on them was a delight while studying the extensive menu which included starters such as Gobi Tree (a centre piece of a cauliflower lightly spiced with black pepper, coated in semolina, lightly fried, served with a tangy sauce) Kanava Koliwanda (squid rings with ginger, garlic, green chilli, curry leaves, turmeric and onions) Momo (a Nepalese street food delicacy of dumplings stuffed with marinated diced chicken with onions and light spices tangy chutney, served in a surprising way according to the menu) and Jhinga Puri (pieces of king prawn cooked in ajwan seeds, ginger, garlic, tomato and a blend of spices served on light puri bread).
Starting with the customary papadums and chutneys, our favourite was a rather unusual coconut!
My daughter chose the squid and I had the restaurants’ signature starter, visually stunning, it was easy to see why it was their signature dish. Two of the plumpest giant prawns reminiscent of fattened turkeys at Christmastime sitting proudly on a beautiful platter and four king sized scallops accompanying them with the addition of a pretty micro salad and vibrant edible flowers. Just as we were ready to tuck in, our lovely waiter poured a jug of liquid over the dish much to my daughter’s delight, it was dry ice. It wasn’t just for show or theatrics on a plate, as magical as the display was, the prawns and scallops were the stars on the plate. Soft, juicy and succulent, they were perfectly harmonised by the punchy yet delicate spicing put together by the restaurants talented chefs.
We shared the magnificent prawn and scallop starter.
My starter was simply breathtaking and a sight to behold but it didn’t take away from my daughter’s Kanava Koliwanda squid starter. I’ve eaten squid in so many restaurants, horrid rubbery rings resembling car tyres but not so at Bayleaf, delicate butter-soft squid was married with tantalising spicing and aroma, the restaurant source the freshest produce and ingredient’s which clearly shows in the quality of their dishes. It was hard to follow such stunning food but I was safe in the knowledge that if starters were this good, the mains would be equally so.
The butter-soft squid starter.
For mains my daughter chose Tandoori Bara Pasli which is three lamb chops marinated in papaya, green chillies, ginger, garlic, vinegar, peppercorn spice blend and Greek yoghurt. After much deliberation, I chose the Handi Chicken – cubes of chicken breast cooked with onions, pepper, ground mango, garam masala in a thick sauce. When I see “thick sauce” in an Indian restaurant, I’m immediately worried it’s going to be that thick creamy stuff you get in takeaways and that’s ok if you choose to have a Korma or Butter Chicken but this certainly wasn’t. The dish arrived in a beautiful white china bowl with a serving of basmati rice topped with fried shallots. My chicken was soft and tender, my knife so effortlessly gliding through each succulent piece, the sauce fragrant and ever so slightly spicy with a delicious sweetness from the onions, it gently kissed the back of my throat, it was sublime. It was served with the lightest basmati rice and each grain of rice could be identified, it wasn’t sticky at all. I often wonder how you can achieve basmati rice so light and fluffy, it was a pleasure to see it falling of the spoon like snowflakes.
My daughter’s lamb chops were equally juicy and soft, the flavours so identifiable and served with light airy naan bread. We shared our rice and naan and tasted each other’s mains, they were culinary delights to behold. We also had Bayleaf’s recommended salad, thinly sliced cucumber and tomatoes, it was bright, fresh and light which perfectly offset any heat from our mains.
Fresh, light and crispy salad of tomato and cucumber to offset the tantalising heat from the mains.
I had a second cocktail, this time, a mocktail of strawberries, a beautiful vivid red concoction, since I was driving, I didn’t want anything alcoholic. We were eagerly anticipating desserts, always our favourite but we were given enough time by our waiters between each course.
I chose traditional Kulfi with pistachios and my daughter decided on the Passion Fruit and Mango Sorbet which are her favourite fruits. Unfortunately, the restaurant had run out of this popular Indian dessert so I left it in our waiter’s capable hands to choose an alternative which was a cold Chocolate Truffle accompanied by Vanilla Ice Cream. The sorbet was intensely fruity and zingy and very generous in size offering three balls of this delicious iced treat.
I was worried my chocolate truffle would be too rich and heavy but that’s because I assumed it would be a warm chocolate truffle with oozing centre which would have been too filling a dessert after such a scrumptious meal but it was in fact a cold chocolate truffle, creamy and indulgent, not too chocolatey just how I like it and a delicious Madagascan vanilla ice cream, heady in fragrance and flavour. Our desserts finished off our dining experience perfectly.
We were offered tea or coffee, the chai masala sounding enticing but in all honesty, I was too full, I actually regret not having it now. I’ve only ever tasted this fragrant sweet tea from Café Nero, obviously it’s not the same an authentic chai masala, Bayleaf’s would have been delicious I’m sure but there is always next time.
To summarise, we had the perfect time at Bayleaf, friendly hospitable waiters and staff who couldn’t do enough for us and the most delicious, appetizing food ever, I knew we would be in for a treat and I wasn’t wrong. Bayleaf can rival the likes of Benares and any other London fine dining Indian establishment. Owner Toff Miah should be very proud indeed of what he’s achieved in four short years. If you want to be delighted by extraordinary Indian food in a friendly warm ambience with impeccable service, then this jewel of a restaurant in North London is a must, put it on your list of restaurants to visit, you’ll not be disappointed.
We were guests of Bayleaf Restaurant.
1282 High Road
London N20 9HH
Tel: 020 8446 8671