Brilliant Restaurant Southall – Review
Located in the heart of the traditional Punjab town – Southall, the well known Brilliant restaurant sits as a crown atop a lengthy row of Asian shops, butchers and restaurants. And what a crown it is – from its humble origins in Nairobi to its recent status as part of Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.
Dipna Anand, heiress to the restaurant’s 40 years of heritage, joins me for a talk through the best that the Brilliant menu has to offer. Specialising in healthy Indian cooking, Dipna – a trained chef, university lecturer, TV star and author – runs cookery classes within the restaurant for anyone who wants to learn about the authentic cooking the Brilliant family has to offer.
Honest food in a homely setting, the menu exhibits a range of hearty and intelligent flavours. Whilst the meat is not halal, there is a large range of wholesome vegetarian options available.
A somewhat typical menu, Brilliant offers unique Kenyan twists, since the family’s origins go back to Dipna’s grandfather who migrated from India. This I’m told, is most pronounced in the techniques and methods applied by head chef and father of Dipna, Gulu Anand.
Be sure to try the Cassava chips and Kenyan spiced spare ribs (Nyama Choma) which feature a Kenyan black cardamom marinade. A personal favourite is the Salmon as a starter, which as Dipna explains, is “left to express its own unique flavour”, with dill and chilli flakes that compliment rather than patronize.
I ask Dipna if the restaurant’s menu is like other Indian eateries – a fusion between English and Indian flavours.
“In some ways yes, however, I think we execute this the best, our fusion, unlike other eateries, leaves no place for confusion. Simply put, our flavours work.”
Certainly the subtle notes of Dill and Chilli work well with the Salmon.
Another must have are the lamb chops. Difficult to get wrong, and even more difficult to really go above and beyond the norm but Brilliant does this, well, brilliantly. The nutmeg and cardamom coating leaves a subtle yet firm grip on the taste buds. All starters are served with an array of homemade chutneys and achaars (pickles) from carrot and chilli to the age old classic Nimbu Achaar (lemon pickle).
Both the salmon and the lamb chops are cooked in the tandoor oven, which Dipna explains is part of the restaurants commitment to both traditional and healthy modes of cooking.
“I tell my students – leave any negativity out of the kitchen. Your mood will impact the outcome of your food.”
Highly recommended is the Murgh Methi (Chicken Fenugreek) which is smoky and dark in flavor and tastes of the Saturdays from my childhood spent at various relatives houses. This dish is part of the healthy range, having been cooked in sunflower oil which is polyunsaturated rather than being cooked in saturated fats. With this in mind, you can go and order that extra fluffy Naan, baked in of course, the Brilliant signature tandoor oven whilst the cucumber raita goes down a treat with the chicken.
The chefs will tailor the dishes to your spice tolerance levels. For vegetarians, go for the bitter gourd (kareley) with pomegranate seeds in a gram flour batter, dipped in a juicy masala gravy. Alternatively, the Tadka Dal is a no fuss, conscientiously cooked dish with a great tasting sauce.
Dipna has teamed up with a culinary company to produce her own line of ice cream flavours and I was fortunate enough to test her Gulab Jamun flavour (to be released along side a Jalebi flavour).
“These are classic dishes in the ice cream, not with it.”
Sure enough the tasty flakes of Gulab Jamun within the vanilla ice cream made for a winning dessert: light and not sickly sweet as I usually find Gulab Jamun to be.
The drinks menu is original and just what you expect at a great Indian. From Indian beers to wines and cocktails, there is something for everyone and every dish.
Around £43 per person for 3-course meal including Cobra beer.
For more information and reservations please visit: www.brilliantrestaurant.com
Dipna has since released her very own cook book titled Beyond Brilliant, an excellent, easy to follow book with little jargon and lots of unique recipes like the Mandarin Cheesecake and is available from rmcbooks.co.uk for £19.95.
Brilliant also hosts 6 different cookery classes with Dipna and her father Gulu Anand, where you get to take a 3 course yummy meal home! The step by step guidance and advice from 2 legendary chefs is second to none.