From the food and drink point of view, as well as a few others, I've got a set of rather good choices of walking home from work. One of these takes me past Spitalfields with TeaSmith, Canteen and St John Bread and Wine, past the Story Deli with its marvelous pizzas and up through Brick Lane with its Bangladeshi crowd-pleasers. If you want really good Indian (the subcontinent rather than the country) food you have to be fairly careful though . . . many of the places are catering for drunken City boys and won't really provide your taste buds with an interesting or satisfying experience. One antidote the the Brick Lane standard is New Tayyabs, which we've written about before, that's a bit off my route home though . . . for the past couple of of months I'd been walking past a new arrival, Maida, just nearby the Brick Lane beigel bakeries on Bethnal Green Road.
Maida looked a bit more interesting than usual straight away. Although, of course, not its primary purpose, the strict no alcohol rule at the restaurant does dissuade the inebriated Brick Lane revellers from turning up there. In fact, Maida has an almost contemplative feel to it. The menu is interesting too as it tries to move away from Anglo-Indian cliches towards a more up to date approach. The large grill menu shows the restaurant's North Indian roots, though there is some geographical variation on the menu with, for example, a Goan fish curry being offered.
We started with this 'deluxe' mixed grill. At the back there are some lamb chops, then some Burhansi kebabs. These are chicken pieces marinaded with beetroot and chillies - delicious. Next there are lamb seekh kebabs, tandoori king prawns and chicken tikka. Jay Rayner reviewed Maida in the Observer a couple of weeks ago and he didn't think the grilled food had the fiery power of Tayyabs. I wonder if this is just some kind of perceptual trick though. At Tayyabs one is presented with a huge mound of grilled matter on a sizzling platter, you're in buzzy, noisy place and you almost expect the food to be very spicey. At Maida though I found the grilled food spicier, though also more interesting in some ways. Something's missing compared to Tayyab's though . . . perhaps they just need to alter the presentation?
For main courses we had khade masala ka ghosht, lamb with coarsely crushed spices and roasted cumin. This failed to hit the spot and was surprisingly bland. The coley in hara masala also lacked interest. This was a shame. On a previous visit I've had Daal Tomato Parfu - a fantastically tangy lentil dish with tomato and tamarind. I've also had really good biryani dishes here. On this visit the pulao rice, at least, was very good with a good soft yet firm texture. In the successful dishes the use of fresh, good quality ingredients is noticeable.
Another strong point at Maida are the breads. We tried roomali roti, enormous flatbreads baked on an inverted tawa (griddle) which come out paper thin and very light. We also tried one of these folded and shallow fried. Inevitably delicious.
As Maida is dry, there is a wide choice of non-alcoholic cocktails. In addition, they offer ultra-calorific milkshakes made with the choc bar of your choice. Each time I've been to Maida I've failed to leave room for one of these . . . a shame because I really do like both milkshakes and chocolate bars. Tonight may be different . . . just off for a biryani and milkshake now then . . .
Maida, 148-150 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG 020 7739 2645