We’re so used to regionalism being part of Indian cuisine in the UK that it’s intriguing to come to Gunpowder, a new contemporary Indian restaurant on the site of an old traditional East London curry house, where dishes are derived not from the specialities of particular areas of the country but from different branches of founder Harneet Baweja’s and head chef Nirmal Save’s respective family trees.
There are clever deconstructions of classic dishes: a rasam ke “bomb” is presented as a crisp shell filled with small chunks of potato, and balanced on a shotglass of the spiced tamarind and tomato broth that represents the more trad version of this dish. There’s a vermicelli donut generously filled with minced venison, and a substantial side dish of a whole head of broccoli cooked in mustard spices. It’s a style that borders on fusion a couple of times: this is certainly the first time I’ve eaten pork belly in an Indian context, but this dish – finished with a tart tamarind salad – is the signature dish of a relative who lived in the Nagaland region where India meets China, and whose cooking took in influences from both sides of the border.
These chops are the tenderest, tastiest I think I’ve ever had
It’s perhaps best to seek advice on the sequence in which dishes are brought to the table: the spice levels in the chat aloo and pork belly dish may not be eye-wateringly fiery, but they did have a cumulative impact on my tastebuds, and the build-up of heat meant that a more lightly seasoned dish of Kashmiri-style lamb chops followed them lost some of its subtlety. Nonetheless, these chops are the tenderest, tastiest I think I’ve ever had.
Gunpowder occupies a tiny galley space, just south of Spitalfields Market, that seats about twenty – almost exclusively, I’d say, young West London transplants to the “fashionable” East End. It’s low-lit, with understated design flourishes such as the use of ornate dark wood chairbacks to form the bar front, and pendant lights that seem to be made of repurposed pots and pans. From the door to the kitchen, bright white light periodically blazes as dishes are brought forth. The effect is of a meeting of speakeasy and sci-fi space station, and Gunpowder’s food is as unusual and transporting as that combination suggests. C
Gunpowder, 11 White’s Row, E1 7NF
020 7426 0542; gunpowderlondon.com