Bahadur is a new North Indian restaurant in Wilmersdorf(?) that promises authentic Indian food. We just had to investigate that claim.
Growing up in the midlands of England, if you wanted to eat out you’d go for a curry. It was simple as that. And after five years in Berlin I’ve got an itch that I just can’t scratch. That itch is called having
herpes a good curry house.
Bahadur is young, authentic and exciting.
On entering Bahadur I could instantly tell something was different – the friendliness and energy in the young staff’s eyes told me they were excited about what they were doing. It was a stark contrast to the run-of-the-mill, joyless Berlin Indian restaurant experience. Gone are the cliché golden elephants or kitsch peacock statues, in their place are slight Indian touches and memories from home.
We let our waiter choose our meal for us, and he explained that coming from Punjab, he could highly recommend their selection of grilled foods (which are a local speciality) to start.
You have to try their grilled dishes.
As a starter he brought us their Barrah Kebab (lamb cutlets marinated in ginger, garlic and mustard oil), the Murgh Tikka Karara (marinated chicken breast pieces), Samundari Sher (fried king prawns prawns in a yogurt marinade) and some pakora.
As they arrived at our table, we knew we’d gone somewhere else. Otherworldly. Not Berlin. From the smell to the presentation, we knew it was going to be good. And authentic.
The lamb was a dream, the layer of spices so thick it added an extra texture, a soft satisfying crunch as you bit into it. And the marinade so ingrained it cut through and blended with that rich lamb taste. The chicken was deliciously moist though lightly charred. The dipping sauces fitted the food perfectly – a cooling mint one for the lamb and chili for the chicken – and boy was it reassuringly spicy, hitting hard and then passing, leaving a lingering glow.
The pakora were a revelation too – none of that weird spiraled soggy stuff I’ve come to know pakora as, and instead rivalling my Indian friend’s mother’s recipe back in England (a high compliment indeed). The king prawns were the star though. These huge crustaceans were bulked out with something like spiced mashed potato, then deep fried to golden perfection. The potato offered a delicious wholesome texture to the crunch of the prawns and the batter. These four dishes were all perfect, and certainly some of the best Indian food I’ve tried.
To be honest, we were already pretty full and the meal had hardly started. So we ordered two more Kingfisher beers and signalled to the waiter that we were ready to go on.
Thali, chicken tikka masala and naan bread fresh from the tandor.
I apologise in advance: I ordered the chicken tikka masala as a bit of a joke, knowing it’s Britain’s unofficial national dish – reviled by curry fans and an all-round safe option. I just wanted to see how it shaped up. The joke’s on me though, as the real tikka masala is actually a traditional punjabi dish.
Instead of the neon-orange cream-fest we all know and love, Bahadur’s tikka masala is a much more subtle dish, delicately spiced and aromatic.
The thali was a sight to behold. Many different curries and pickles with perfectly-cooked pilau rice and a bhatoora – that big inflatable bread.
Bahadur aren’t shy of butter/ghee (a secret weapon if you make your own curries), and everything has that vibrant, luxurious sheen and slight sour note to it.
The butter chicken was thick, creamy and comforting with the deep smoke flavour from the tandoor-cooked chicken, and was accompanied by a lamb curry and a dal lentil dish.
The naan bread was exceptional – made using their intensely hot tandor oven (I later visited the kitchen to make sure they actually had one as I think 90% of Berlin’s Indian restaurants claim to but don’t. And yes, it was there). Soft, smoky, and with that pungent scent of ghee, it was the best I’ve had in Berlin by an absolute mile (approx. 1.6km).
There was one thing that struck us about the curries: they’re not like in the UK. They’re not bombastic and over-sexed. The flavours take a little longer to unveil themselves. They linger on the tongue, perfumed and fragrant. Perhaps looking for an ‘authentic’ curry when you were weened on British curries is a fool’s errand, and in fact British curries are a separate beast altogether. We’d imagined more spice, more impact, more fireworks. Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong.
Masala chai tea is the most sophisticated drink in the world.
We ended the meal like two colonial gentlemen, with a kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream) and a pot of masala chai. If you’ve only ever had that just-add-water powdered chai crap, you’ve never lived. There’s nothing more refined, relaxing and god-damn-it delicious than a freshly made masala chai. And Bahadur make a great pot, and present it beautifully. I honestly don’t know why it isn’t sold on every street corner. Warming, gently spiced with cardamom, sweet and thick, with just enough caffeine and theanine to relax you after a large meal (and ours was huge).
Bahadur is a real taste of India. Not of home.
Bahadur is the best Indian restaurant I’ve visited in Berlin. Yeah, I know that sounds like being the ‘best-slept person at an ME convention’, but something’s happening here people. Berlin’s waking up to Indian food. And thank god for places like Bahadur for finally bringing us real flavours from that so beloved subcontinent. I just wish it was closer.
Bahadur – Tandoori Grill & Currys
Sigmaringer Str. 36,
Visit their website.
Photos: Tom Taylor
Camera: Canon EOS 6D