Brigadiers is a multi chambered 140-cover Anglo Indian tavern that has been doing their thing with big fisted-flavour inside the Bloomberg Arcade since May 2018. There are flat-screen TVs on every wall, some hidden by curtains, some showing live sports. The World Cup was on when I was there. A bar takes centre-stage where cocktails are crafted and beer is served. There is a room with an American pool table and a token operated machine dispensing seriously ostentatious Scotch whiskies. There is another bar with espresso martini or Old Fashioned on tap – in other words, Brigadiers is an unapologetic playground for adults. It is run by one of the most prolific outfits in the industry, The JKS Restaurants group. The three siblings running the show are Karam, Sunaina and Jyotin Sethi. They’re also responsible for Trishna, Gymkhana and Hoppers as well as well as being the backers of Kitchen Table, Bubbledogs, Lyle’s, BAO, XU and the tapas titan Sabor. I can’t pretend I’m not bowled over by this resume, I’m not sure you would either. Read more below on how it all went.
First came the spice packed gnarly looking cheese and onion bhajias £5. It’s the sort of crispy snack that wants to be remembered on the day you ate it and the next, it comes with cooling tamarind and mint chutney.
Ox cheek vindaloo somasas £8.50 are another snack that makes its point with deep melting hunks of cheek and more layers of roasted spice. They make the palate ready for a full-on assault of heat later on.
Telicherry fry are a concoction of prawns, squid and soft-shell crab coated in crisp bronze coloured batter, fresh from the fryer, coated in more spices and garnished fried curry leaves. The flavours are big fisted and deep with umami. I couldn’t stop picking at it.
Sikandra kid goat shoulder £25 was a dark fibrous thing, with more layers of complex flavours that seeped into crisp multi layered whole-wheat lacha parathas. They do the carb really well here. Then there’s rings of spiced lacha onions and a pot of sauce full of deep roasted warm notes which gave it’s moisture. My ring definitely felt spice the next day too. Arguably the £25 isn’t the most modest, but sod thinking about the bill when things taste so good.
One of the must order dishes is the remarkable mixed grill sizzler £45. It’s a scorching iron plate with guinea fowl reshmi kebabs, melting tandoor 5 spice chicken chops, tandoori double cut lamb chops and tandoori masala jheenga – that’s prawns the size of a woman’s fist. The whole thing gets a full-on assault of ground roasted spices, then it’s fired in the tandoor oven until the edges of the proteins blacken from intense heat whilst the centres of the proteins stay juicy. The whole business arrives sizzling, smoke bellows and molten meat juices spit on to the table. The most rewarding for me was the the pile of luscious sticky onions beneath, sodden with pungency, meat juices and umami, they were the prized bits. The menu says it can feed two, I believe them, but I could crush the lot to myself.
Beef shin and bone marrow biriyani £22.50 came with pastry that mushroomed over the whole dish. Inside you get heaps of fragrant rice that is a sponge to all the spicy juices that it’s cooked in. Scoop the marrow from the bone and mix for maximum effect.
Achari beef short rib £17.50 was a pull apart tender specimen with a rust coloured masala punched up with full-bodied aromatic heat.
A mango lassi was needed to cool me right back down to earth.
On to the desserts
Not really being a fan of Indian deserts, these surprised me. The roasted kheer kulfi £7.50 came with a brown butter waffle cone the size of my fellow diners thickest digit. Strawberries, puffed rice and black pepper caramel features.
Chocolate and coconut kulfi £7.50 with candied ginger bits was the happy ending we could hope for and walk away from the meal feeling fully fed.
During my third visit (sorry I lost the pics to the second visit), the raucous smell of roasted spices and testosterone is potent – your aftershave or perfume will not stand a chance. I say testosterone as it seems to be unmistakably cock-heavy here, so ladies please turn up in your hordes as this place will give you a good night out.
We start in one of the bars, this one is more akin to a boozer, albeit in a Raj-esque manner.
We dine in Blighters, the central bar with the screens. It’s more lively.
We kick off with a variety of popadoms £7.50 and chutney’s. There’s crinkled, tapioca and bowl shaped ones.
The compelling ox cheek samosas were replaced with goat belly £10 versions which were fine snacks, even at double digits, ouch.
Of course we had to get the seafood telicherry fry £12 with tomato pachadi that came with a ripe kick of heat and garlic. The sought after bits are the little fried nibs that come with a tonne of roasted spice flavour and crunch.
Lobster kati roll £15 were hunks of the tail flesh from the crustacean coated in sauce with diced peppers and spice, then it’s rolled in a blistered paratha and sectioned in three. It was gone in 30 seconds. They weren’t that memorable though in comparison to the other delights on offer.
Of course we had to get the mixed grill sizzler £60. Up for fifteen quid this time around but no less delicious.
The bhuna goat chops from the sizzler are a salut to the animal that once grazed the grass – they’re scorched, blackened in all the right places from the tandoor grill and are completely engrossing, hence why we ordered more – a double portion is a body wincing £48, but by this time we didn’t care.
Bhuna ghee masala goat chops £24 was a dish of caramel brown intensity that we used the soft folds of the tandoor bread to dredge in.
The bread basket £7.50
Tadka greens £6 were shredded Savoy cabbage that became the palate cleanser before the next tongue assault of fiery spice.
A cucumber salad £3.50 might be good for those who seek temporary reprieve from the heat. You can’t eat Indian food and not expect it to be fiery. Now I can’t stop saying fiery.
Beef shin and bone marrow biriyani £28 was faultless.
We wrapped up the meal with Eagle Rare old fashions £12 before heading off into the night, that would be next door in the pool room where they have the vending machine stocked with seriously ostentatious whiskies.
On to the fourth visit
Lockdown was a serious test of resilience, for months, I craved a heady night out with friends and family fuelling and satisfying my sizeable belly – I made sure Brigadiers was part of the joy that would help me step me back to the former carefree life of restaurant hopping and communal eating. They have done a good job filling this void.
I sip crisp Braybrooke lager £6 that’s brewed in the heart of the English country side whilst crunching down on majestic popadoms £7.50 with chutneys that are glorious and radiant with spice whilst we wait for our table. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said “spice” now.
We order greaseless punjabi vegetable samosas £6.50 with stunning goat belly vindaloo samosas £10. Both are served in brassy singing bowls, the vegetable version is nutty and comes with a dark, sticky tamarind sauce full of tang that’s cooling yet not too sweet. The kid goat versions are so fiery it will make you drip as does the chutney it comes with – there are genital flutters all around, we chose the right starters.
Behold, the mixed grill sizzler – I cannot endorse this plate of food enough. It’s a testament to multiple ingredients that really sing from the caress of roasted spices and the scorching proteins via hot coals. Eating it is like getting out of the right side of bed, mood lifting and I always order it.
Since we had a cause to celebrate, we were given the mango kulfi with puffed rice and macerated berries served on a waffle cone – with a “happy anniversary” embossed chocolate slab for good measure. Life is good right now.
To finish things off, we get the strawberry and coconut falooda – a desert with icy cold noodles, miniature meringues, diced strawberries and pimms with balls of cucumber. This was on the house, more on that in the verdict.
When did I go? June 2018, March 2018, Sept 2020
The damage: Expect to pay £80/120 per head with drinks
The good: Descend here for tongue-tingling spicy brown food, tandoor goat chops and a booze selection worth rejoicing about. The mixed grill sizzler and telicherry fry are must orders as is the bone marrow biriyani. It will be a meal that will stick around your love handles, but will stick with you for life with a lively venue to match with heedful staff.
The bad: I noticed a distracting theme throughout my visits here, the guinea fowl reshmi kebabs are assassinated with a hard kick of salt, to the point that after one mouthful you’re reaching for the water. Does whoever is making them need serious palate readjustment? Perhaps – it is the only time the wheels come off meal though to an otherwise deeply sublime feed. Just like us, we see a neighbouring table leave theirs, they complained – we did the same and got the free strawberry and coconut falooda to cleanse the palate, this was good thing. That aside, the bill will make you wince, it’s a place to splash the cash, it’s the City after all.
Would I go again? It’s a forgone conclusion
Address: 1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, London EC4N 8AR