The Colonel Saab restaurant is a modern Indian gem from Roop Partap Choudhary, plating up a fashionable all-day dining experience. Located in Holborn, it’s just a stone’s throw away from the underground station, and has rightfully taken pride of place in the former Holborn Town Hall. The restaurant is inspired by the travel tales of an Army officer with his wife across India and with old-style jazz as a soundtrack, beautiful artworks on the walls and a contemporary twist on the flavours and textures of India, Colonel Saab is a modern restaurant with a strong sense of nostalgia.
On our recent visit we are greeted by a friendly member of staff and shown to our table where we make ourselves comfortable as we take in the splendour of this wonderful establishment. Roop, who is presently working as an Executive Director at Jewels Group of Hotels, has created a feast for the eyes here at Colonel Saab, as the décor is a veritable sight to behold. The walls are bedecked with a plethora of ornate and colourful plates, alongside beautiful 17th and 19th century Tanjore paintings. The place is steeped in fascinating family history. The photos on several walls tell the tale of the travels of the army officer and his wife – the Colonel himself and Mem Saab. The sense of nostalgia is heartwarming to say the least.
Other rooms and corridors contain amazing period artefacts from all over India. Amongst this impressive display is the Maharaja of Patiala’s Asprey drinks bar, and a stunning cabinet delicately inlaid with bone crafted from the family’s favourite deceased pets – we are reliably informed the late donors were mostly camels. Inside this handsome cabinet reside none other than the Queen of Jaipur’s decanters (seemingly favouring a morning gin). It would be remiss not to also mention the gorgeous ostentatious chandeliers from Firozabad that cover the entirety of the main dining room’s ceiling, and the wonderful mezzanine level with its eye catching carved wooden four poster benches. Trust me, it really is worth having one of their lovely staff take you on a guided tour of the restaurant.
And, the food here at Colonel Saab is every bit as impressive as the décor. My partner and I have invited our respective mothers along for the experience as a joint birthday treat for them, so as there are four of us dining we have the pleasure of being able to sample several dishes on this rather special celebratory occasion. For starters, we plump for the Kataifi prawns, the Amritsari fish & chips, the creamy salmon tikka and the Jaipuri baby aloo. Every single one of them is delicious. The Kataifi prawns are a particular highlight with their delicate crispy stringy coating. The Amritsari fish and chips are a clever twist on a classic dish with the addition of subtle spices running through it. The salmon is indeed succulent and creamy and melts on the tongue, and the baby aloo are pleasantly tender in their skins.
For me, the main dishes are the real stars of the show though. We share five dishes between us as we are all keen to sample everything on offer. The Butter Chicken, albeit a classic dish, is the best Butter Chicken I have ever tasted. The chicken is mouth wateringly tender and the creamy sauce is delectable with its mild yet flavoursome spices. The Sunday Lamb Curry is a slice of home comfort, the sauce wraps a warm blanket of contentment around you, and the lamb itself is remarkably tender again. The Beef Ularthiyathu, is most definitely a stand out dish. We struggle to pronounce this dish as we order it, but smile thankfully, as the waiter confesses to us that it took him a week to learn how to pronounce it himself. My insider tip is that phonetically it is pronounced: “ooh-la-ti-ah-too”, so go ahead and surprise the staff with your perfect pronunciation when you order it yourselves. And order it you should, as it is a dish peculiar to this lovely restaurant and as such is a must try. It is relatively dry in comparison to the other dishes on offer, but perfectly succulent and accompanied by invitingly unusual flaky pastry style bread – the Malabar Parantha, which can also be ordered on its own if you so wish.
The staff want us to try a couple of desserts too, so who are we to argue, and I can wholeheartedly recommend the Dark Chocolate Silk Cake with its perfect presentation as it is accompanied by candy floss, fresh berries and vanilla bean ice cream. The Mishti doi cheesecake is also delicious and again a recipe unique to Colonel Saab. Mishti doi is a fermented sweet dahl which they mix with a traditional cheesecake recipe to great effect.
All in all, a perfect night is had by our entire party and we wend our way home in replete satisfaction. Thank you Colonel Saab for an amazing culinary and visual experience. Go and try this wonderful jewel in Holborn’s crown for yourselves.
colonelsaab.co.uk , 193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD