As a general rule, I don’t go out to eat in Mayfair unless someone else is buying. This is because it is practically impossible to dine in Mayfair without basically emptying your bank account. But when a Bollywood insider suggests you go to an Indian restaurant, the sensible thing to do is immediately agree, because this particular Bollywood insider usually knows what she’s talking about. On this occasion, however, not so much.
Friend J invited me to Chor Bizarre, a venerable old Indian restaurant on Albemarle Street across from posh five star Brown’s hotel. Chor Bizarre is a successful franchise, with restaurants in Delhi and Noida. In London, it’s frequented by wealthy Indian travelers and suits striking deals. It’s a cute concept: a sly wink at a thieves’ market with tables like jewelry cases filled with found objects. But Chor Bizarre doesn’t deliver, either on concept or on food. It’s a bit depressing, really. This may have once been an excellent restaurant, but now it seems to be resting on its laurels.
J said with authority that the thing to order here is the Maharaja Thali (£26). Whilst I love South Indian thalis, I tend to stay away from them in North Indian restaurants because I feel they’re often a greatest hits chorus line. At the same time, however, they’re a test of the kitchen; rightfully, these items should shine because they are what the restaurant has chosen to represent itself.
The gazab ka tikka appetizer (comes with the thali) was three pieces of reasonably juicy, flavourful chicken (as should be expected in a restaurant that advertises its tandoor), accompanied by a decent but unremarkable coriander chutney and a salad with an unpleasant, chalky dressing.
The thali itself was a terrible disappointment for both of us. The Zeera Aloo (potatoes) looked and tasted like they’d been prepared hours earlier and reheated. The lamb in the Kashmiri roganjosh was chewy, not meltingly tender as it should have been, and the sauce was muddy. The palak makkai (spinach and corn) and the sharabi kababi (chicken) were uninspired. The dal makhni was tasty, but not better than the dal I had earlier that day at Mooli’s for a whole hell of a lot less money. No single dish stood out. Nothing sang, nothing popped. No thought seemed to have gone into presentation.
We did have two good dishes from the a la carte menu. The baghare baingan (aubergine prepared Hyderabad-style, in a sauce of peanut, tamarind, and sesame, £9) was truly delicious, and the kurkuri bhindi (fried okra chips with mango powder and chili, £7.50), was satisfyingly crunchy and salty, even if I didn’t get enough of a hit of mango powder or chili.
Although the servers were friendly and polite, it took forever to get someone to take our order, bring our drinks, or get the bill.
When the bill finally came, it was staggeringly expensive. It may seem like I’m griping a little too much about Mayfair prices, but the bottom line is when I’m spending as much as I would at Tamarind or Benares everything should be bloody spot on.
If I am crankier than usual in this write-up, it’s because thinking about this meal makes me cranky. In a city bursting with great Indian restaurants, I say give this one a miss.
Chor Bizarre, London
16 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HW
Price per person: £57.75 (including wine)
The verdict: Meh