Gul & Sepoy: Review
It speaks volumes for the imagination and energy of the team behind Gul and Sepoy that this, their third restaurant in the space of a few years (and all in the same tiny corner of Aldgate), is not only a charming, friendly little spot to have your dinner but also, impressively, has a completely unique menu. While there are certain familial similarities in style and execution, not one single dish is repeated across the three sites, a commendable commitment to originality.
Of course, originality is one thing, success another, so it helps that husband and wife Harneet and Devina Baweja have just as firm a grasp on what hungry Londoners want from Gul and Sepoy that made the original Gunpowder, and follow-up Madame D’s, such popular places. From a short, attractive menu of small plates and sharing platters you choose 2 or 3 per person that take your fancy, alongside perhaps an Indian-tinged cocktail, such as a Margarita involving cardamom.
The food is, at the very least, thoughtfully devised and distinctive, even if in some cases the implementation could do with some tweaking. ‘Three birds awadhi korma’ was a slice of ballotined chicken, pheasant and pigeon in a sweet cream sauce, and would have been a bit more successful had they gone a bit easier on the sugar and heavier on the salt.
And ‘Dabba Gosht (Seviyan mutton fry)’ could have done with a bit more punch too, either via spicing or seasoning, although the tender folds of meat hiding under the layer of baked egg were still very pleasant to work through, as was a final layer of rice at the bottom. While the game bird dish had come from the ‘Gul’ (royal) side of the menu, the mutton was from the ‘Sepoy’ section, compact dishes of heartier fare carried by soldiers into war.
Fortunately, though, the rest of the dishes were far more difficult to fault. Wild prawns, huge, bright red and bouncy-fresh, came dressed in a lovely black pepper/lime dressing (kali mirch) and some sweet house pickles.
When a good Indian restaurant turns its hand to seafood, the results are often wonderful, and it was with the game-changing ‘Hariyali sea bream’ from Trishna in Marylebone in mind that we felt compelled to see what Gul and Sepoy were going to do with the fish. Coated in dark, beguiling tandoori spices and with bright white flesh, it was well worth the trouble – not overwhelmingly spiced but just enough to let the bream itself be the leading flavour.
Clams came doused in a spiced lime mixture called ‘sukka’, apparently from the western coastal regions of India. It was another perfect showcase for seafood cookery, the sharp dressing perfectly framing the fresh clams.
Often Indian desserts can be – and we’re being kind here – an afterthought, but Gul and Sepoy’s take on a rum baba was a genuinely lovely thing, with circles of firm sponge generously soaked in alcohol, and good, thick whipped cream. Saying it’s the best dessert we can remember ever being served in an Indian restaurant is not, perhaps, the greatest compliment ever but it’s one they should be happy to accept.
So yet more success, then, for this annoyingly talented couple, and a fine addition to their clutch of restaurants. Gul and Sepoy is thoroughly recommended, but in fact, we recommend trying all three – Gunpowder, too, with its focus on Indian home cooking, and Madame D’s with its vibrant dishes inspired by the Himalayas and Nepal. Still brimming with ingenuity and hospitality as their empire expands, there’s every chance the Bawejas are only just getting started. London has plenty to look forward to.
JOL was invited to review Gul & Sepoy on a complimentary basis. We retain full editorial control.