Food Review: Est India
IN A NUTSHELL: Despite a name that's bound to irritate anyone trying to recommend its services, this place is worth schlepping to.
"East India?" I'm imagining the caller is saying on the other end of the phone.
"No, E-S-T, E-S-T, Est," the owner hoots with increasing animation at my end. "It's Est India."
With the benefit of hindsight, I wonder whether he and his partners are beginning to regret the naming decision.
That conversation will probably only occur, say 20 or 30 times a day. Besides, what does it mean? Established India? Latin for It's India? A nod to colonialism?
Bum dubbing aside, it turns out to be a little gem.
Sharp decor - complete with disarming elephant wallpaper and the ubiquitous oversized exposed filament lightbulbs - sets off the simple modern service well.
It's a Monday and, having walked past many empty eateries on the lengthy schlep to the wrong end of Union Street, I'm surprised to be surrounded by Londoners who have all the characteristics of real paying diners.
As it only opened last Tuesday this must be a huge boost for the place and it's clear what's behind it.
The food is as sharp as the decor. Clean, modern, unfussy, well spiced and not afraid of itself.
Provided the quality doesn't slip it'll keep the seats filled and see a steady stream funnel down from London Bridge despite the unpromising location.
Starters of keema pav (£4.50) and papri chatt (£4.90) are dainty but share well.
The former, effectively a minced lamb spread served with a buttered muffin, wins the battle as the chatt is just a tad on the floury side, if well balanced on the flavour front.
The chef is clearly happy to release the heat, which is refreshing in the face of blander curry chains.
And there's more searing spice as the mains arrive. My north Indian fish kari (£10.50) is a beautiful concoction.
Perfectly cooked cubes bathe in a crisp, fresh sauce, melting to nothing in the mouth. Shot through with a powerful ginger note, I'm salivating just thinking about it now.
My companion's bhutani lamb (£9.30) is slightly below the high bar set by the fish but pairs well enough with a decent Malbec (£22.70).
A trio of desserts (not on the menu, but available by request) finishes things off in sweet, sticky style.
If nothing else, the walk is worth it just to sample the pulverised, honeyed carrot cake that's more Christmassy than finding the legs of an obese man clad in red sticking out of your fireplace on December 24.
It explodes in the mouth and tingles all the way to the extremities.
A sweet cup 'o chai is served and delivers a spiced counterpoint to the overload of sugar.
Then it's back out into Borough's curious blend of spent converted warehouses, hidden dives and railway arches all skewered on the lit point of The Shard.
It might seem a bit of a stretch but the one chink in Canary Wharf's culinary armour is its lack of decent Indian food. If you fancy a solid curry at reasonable rates you could do a lot worse.
Est India, 73-75 Union Street, London SE1 1SG, 020 7407 2004, estindia.co.uk.