I’m not sure about everyone else, but when I think about curry (*British word sigh*) in the East End, my immediate association would be institutions such as Tayyabs or Lahore Kebab House , or perhaps, dare I say it, clichéd curry houses in the neon lit Bricklane, mobbed with touters, hollering at you to enter their half empty establishments. Clichéd with cream laden sauces, an Anglicised menu and coma inducing naan breads. Poppadom sir? You get the picture. Gunpowder is different, it’s edgy without trying to be edgy. It’s situated in the Spitalfields area, in an intimate bare bricked canteen style family run restaurant, with a kitchen headed up by former Tamarind & Zaika chef Nirmal Save (Mumbai-born). Owner Harneet Baweja aims to bring something different with small plate inspired Indian food, with enough flavour punch to spar with any taste buds.
Chettinad pulled duck served with home-made oothappam £5. The duck so tender, robust in aromatics, made the Tamil way matched well with the oothappam which was like a soft dosa. It was one of my favourites and the spices reminded me of some of the Ethiopean doro wat dishes I’ve had.
Maa’s kashmiri lamb chops £10 for 2 pieces. So called as it’s the mother in laws recipe – spice marinated chops with yoghurt, smoky from the grill – a real crescendo of warm aromatic flavour that wraps around your tongue. A must have.
Sigree grilled mustard broccoli £5.50 is cooked just the way I like vegetables, charred and smoky with an integral crunch – we found ourselves dredging the florets into the rust-coloured mustard sauce that came with the right amount of heat, lactic tang and nasal clearing mustard character.
Kawari soft shell crab £8 was crusted in a spiced rugged crisp batter, the right amount of spice to cheer-lead the inherent sweetness of the little crab. I found myself nibbling the crispy legs before devouring the sweet funk of the body – the most pleasing part, God it was good.
Nagaland house crispy pork ribs £8 were tossed in a generous amount of tamarind kachumber sauce, a sauce ripe with intense sweetness, mouth puckering tanginess and spice. The flesh peeled off the bones cleanly and I caught myself sucking the sauce of my fingers like no one was looking. If you pursue these with cutlery, you are either weird or highly-strung. Roll your sleeves and hunker down.
Wild rabbit pulao £14.50. You can tell that the rabbit is infused with aromatics, then is left to slow braise until the flesh effortlessly peels off the bone. The rice, had it’s own clout of spice too, clinging onto the pieces of rabbit like a mound of ants on an apple on a summers day.
Porzhi okra fries £4.5. Just as tasty as before – it’s criminal to go without these.
Maa’s kashmiri lamb chops £10 for 2 pieces – I’m a devotee of these awesome little things, the sheer aroma when they come through the door would make anyone salivate.
Chettinad pulled duck served with home-made oothappam £5. The same constant awesome hefty flavours full of umami, roasted spices and heat that warms the tongue. The copper coloured oils soak into the oothappam, a crepe like vessel made of fermented rice lentil batter. I could eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner without hesitation.
Kawari soft shell crab £8. Yes you can caress my legs before you eat my crispy spiced body as I’m delicious.
Old monk rum pudding £6.5. I would describe this as a bread & butter pudding laced with rum, cinnamon, vanilla and every mouthful was pure comfort. That ice cream slowly dissolved into the hot melting bread base creating a luscious bowl of muchness.
Molten spice chocolate cake with masala chai custard £5.5. Chocolate button studded gooey spiced chocolate porn. A chocolate fan will revel eating this and the custard exudes enough spice to let you know it’s there. A well balanced desert and my favourite.
Kawari whole prawns £12.50. What makes these so special is that they are delivered fresh on the day and once sold you’ll have to wait until the next day for more. They were everything you’d need from a prawn, the size, the taste, the freshness, the sweetness and deep frying the whole thing means that you’ll get edible shells. (*Eating head is perfectly acceptable here*) However, they’re here to replace the Kawari soft shell crab which I adore and could comfortably name it as one of my favourite things to eat here. The prawns are good and would serve a great purpose as an addition not a replacement. Bring back the crabs please!
When did I go? March 2016/April 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £30-£45 per head with drinks.
The good: The food is stunning, great value too with imaginative ways of delivering classic Indian dishes. It’s a nice change to the neon-lit Bricklane. Gunpowder has it’s own personality that really stands out from the crowd. The service was always warm and on point. I’ve since been back and that review can be seen by clicking here.
The bad: The space is intimate operating on a no-bookings policy, seating 28 and there’s only one toilet, but I don’t care. Some would argue that bigger premises would benefit. Seriously though bring back that soft-shell crab, by all means keep the kawari whole prawns on the menu though as they’re sublime too.
Address: 11 White’s Row, Spitalfields London, E1 7NF
Phone: 020 7426 0542
Closest tube: Liverpool St