The legendary Indian restaurant Gaylord that was one of the pioneers of Indian cuisine in London and became an institution during its 50 plus years is no more. The site is now occupied by what could possibly become another legend in the making, the fabulous Pali Hill.
Taking its name from one of Mumbai’s oldest neighbourhoods, Pali Hill is an area particularly well known for its apartment ‘building societies’. These are old residential blocks that are filled with people from all over the Indian subcontinent. As a result, their kitchens become a melting pot of regional flavours and culinary traditions, with residents sharing food with their neighbours. It is this idea of a diverse food culture, with an environment of sharing and community at its heart, that is reflected in the atmosphere, design, and menus at Pali Hill.
The eclectic interiors, led by CADA Design, take inspiration from the terrazzo floors of art deco apartments in Mumbai, Pondicherry yellow pillars and furnishings, and tributes to Le Corbusier's Chandigarh. Specially commissioned artworks from India adorn the walls, with folk-patterned cushions and accessories providing warmth and comfort.
Bringing together the regional flavours of Mumbai’s vast culinary communities, celebrated Head Chef Avinash Shashidhara (previously River Café and Hibiscus) has created a menu with a focus on sourcing local, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients combining his classical training and inspiration from his upbringing in Bangalore for dishes that are vibrant and flavourful.
We began with some small plates to nibble on whilst we enjoyed sipping on a playful cocktail named Mick Jaggery, a mix of 13 Mount gay black barrel, jaggery syrup, peach, soda. The crisp and crunchy Papadi Chat topped with spiced yoghurt, red and yellow tomato, pomegranate, mint and tamarind chutney was a deliciously fresh starter followed by delicately breaded and fried Pondicherry fried squid with crispy zucchini flowers.
The grill menu highlights the breadth of inspiration from across India’s vast terrain and coastal influences. Scottish langoustines adorned with wild garlic, ajwain and a lemon dressing are informed by Pondicherry and Goa regions; Grilled lamb cutlets with black pepper, cumin, crispy curry leaves & mint raita: smoky and charred as might be found at Bangalore’s muslim night markets or middle white pork spareribs: sticky, sweet and spicy in a jaggery and chilli marinade taken from the Christian communities of India.
Big plates include Chettinad-style veal shin, black pepper, fennel & chilli, rich and melting ready to be mopped up with their homemade breads and parathas; Homestyle chicken curry, a traditional Saag paneer upgraded with nettles or a Canteen Thali with seasonal coconut broad beans and a classic Slow-cooked Suffolk Lamb Biryani.
Sides come with as much thought as the rest of the menu, carefully curated to complete and complement. There are fermented lentil ‘Paper’ dosas, Spring vegetable & potato sagu, chutneys all of which are made on site, Dal tadka and fresh from Pali Hill’s clay tandoor, come ghee striped sourdough rotis and breads to choose from.
To finish, mithai are given a modern spin: Carrot ‘Halwa’, is served with vanilla ice-cream & pistachios, Alphonso Mango Cheesecake is both luscious and light, or indulge in a nostalgic Passionfruit Gola, a playful upgrade to the street side favourite summer snack of shaved ice.
Head Chef Avinash said: We’ve been busy refining all our dishes and producing some new ones, combining everything I love about India and growing up there. Dishes you would find on your mother’s table, chutneys you would get from a neighbour, grills you would enjoy in the inner-city street markets late night and the traditional dishes that have been passed down for generations, all given a London edge for a taste of India you might not yet have experienced.”
79-81, Mortimer Street
London, W1W 7SJ