Curry Shop 1: Anwar’s

October 18, 2008

London may not have many (if any) taco shops, but it does have its equivalents: “curry shops,” and “kebab shops.”  In my short time here, I have already frequented a number of curry and kebab shops, and have come to savor the deliciousness of lamb donners, chicken tika masala, and the numerous other ethnic dishes found at these establishments.  While this site will always remain devoted to crowning San Diego County’s best taco shop, I feel it is appropriate to offer occasional reviews of London’s finest curry and kebab eateries.  I do not plan on having a bracket style tournament here in London, but I will share my thoughts and grades with those interested.  My first review is of none other than Anwar’s:

Anwar’s (64 Grafton Way, London)

Anwar’s is a true hole-in-the-wall that offers reasonably good tasting food at unbeatable prices.  It is owned and managed by Anwar, one of the classiest restauranteurs you will ever meet.  Anwar’s may not be the place to bring a date, but it is the type of place you will find yourself going back to over and over again.

Service/Atmosphere (5/5 Points)

Upon entering the establishment, my party was immediately greeted with the warm smile of Anwar himself.  We were promptly led to our table, and before we even had the chance to sit down, Anwar had returned with two large pitchers of water.  Throughout the evening, Anwar never allowed our water pitchers to empty, providing constant refills without request.  In London, this type of water service is truly extraordinary.  Last week, at a lesser establishment, I asked for water 3 times before it was finally brought to the table.  The pitcher was barely adequate to fill the glasses of the four people at the table, and never refilled.

Besides attending to our water needs, Anwar was helpful in navigated the menu items, and was happy to clarify any questions we had.  Following our delightful meal, Anwar agreed to pose for a picture with me and my friends.  He sincerely thanked us for our business as we exited, and offered an invitation to eat at his restaurant any time. 

Value (5/5 Points)

Tonight, Anwar offered a special: all-you-can-eat for only 5.99.  The buffet spread included at least six different curries, Naan bread, rice, appetizers, fries (or chips as they are called here), onion rings, fresh fruit, and various sauces.  To put the value in perspective: at the lesser establishment I previously mentioned, I was charged 2.75 just for rice.

Freshness (4/5 points)

The fruit was clearly fresh, and the vegetables were certainly not frozen.  It is often difficult to discern freshness in curries, but I have no doubt that Anwar is not held hostage by canned ingredients.  I must also mention that Anwar frequently replaced curries that had been sitting out too long with fresher batches, a serious positive in buffet style eating.

Presentation (3/5 points)

The buffet lay out was very simple, but full of curries with vibrant and varied colors.  The white rice and Naan provided a beautiful contrast to the deeper tones of the curries.  One of my fellow eaters did have a valid complaint though: it would have been nice if the dishes were labeled.

Taste (17/25 points)

The food tonight was a little inconsistent, but pretty tasty nonetheless.  The potato popper appetizers were quite nice, as was the Indian bread which was soft inside, but perfectly toasted on the outside.  The curries though were slightly bland.  The beef curry contained beef that was a little too tough and boney, but the chicken curry was quite delectable.  The other curries were okay, but nothing special.

Concluding Thoughts

Anwar’s is home to pretty good food and unbeatable prices, but the real reason to go is the atmosphere. Anwar brings life to the place, and must be commended for his outstanding management.  Many foreigners come to London and take pictures at the famous sites: Big Ben, Parliament, Hyde Park, etc…I come to London and take Pictures at Anwar’s.

The tasters with Anwar