Monday, February 04, 2013

‘Dinner Time’ in South London – Indian & Nepalese Restaurant Review

Rating: Impossible to rate, as some of the negatives are reasons to love it.

Cost: Around £25 per person, including 2 glasses of horrible table wine. 

Go there if: You’re open-minded and enjoy backpacking in backwaters.

Conclusion: Clueless and bizarre service but really good food. An experience.


Yes, Dinner Time is actually the name of this odd little Indian and Nepalese restaurant near New Cross Gate. It is a freshly chosen name as the business has just been bought, re-decorated and reopened by the previous owner’s friend.

Most customers’ orders are placed over the phone and delivered, so not many people experience the quirks of eating in.

Points of interest include the décor…

…the friendly and polite but excruciatingly bad service; the extremely talkative Chef/Owner, Phool Prasad Sharma; the strange drinks menu and the really very good food. Eating there made me feel like I was in a local restaurant in a remote backwater or desolate border town somewhere far-flung. I felt I should have had my backpack and a guidebook with me.

The two choices of wine on the list were not familiar to me but the waiter didn’t understand when I wanted to know more or to see the bottles. In the end I just asked for “white wine”. After about 15 minutes of doing nothing in particular, the waiter decided it was time to nip to the off-licence next door to buy my wine - which was not either of those listed on the menu. It was a very generic and cheap Aussie wine and certainly not worth the £7 a glass I paid for it - especially as it was room temperature. The waiter and I failed to find a clean glass on my table (set for four), so he got one from the bar.

Finally, Mr Sharma turned up to cook my dinner, and, after chatting to me for about 20 minutes, he took my order. Then leisurely began to prepare it. For my starter I chose Nepalese lamb dumplings (like dim sum but far tastier) with homemade lime chutney, and they were delicious.

Sharma insisted he would wait until I had finished my starter before beginning to cook my main course. After my starter, and while I was waiting (ages) for him to start work on my main, a telephone order was taken. According to the menu, the “approximate maximum wait time [for delivery is] 45 minutes, please bear with us in busy periods”. Upon concluding the call, the waiter told the customer that the order would take 45 minutes. I was literally the only other customer. It was not busy. Maybe they want to appear busier than they are, but I think they just like to take their time at Dinner Time.

Lots of chopping and sizzling noises ensued from the open kitchen. A long while later I was presented with an excellent hot and aromatic chicken curry (murgh ‘lasuni’), packed with fresh herbs and spices, and a tasty dish of spice-fried okra.

Sadly, the accompanying roti was thick, solid, stiff and raw in the middle – their tandoor can’t have been hot enough, which of course completely defeats the object.

After thoroughly enjoying my meal, and in the absence of any staff, I went up to the kitchen to ask for the bill. There was lovely-looking fresh produce everywhere; bunches of herbs, bags of vegetables et cetera.

While I was waiting for my bill, a couple arrived to eat in. They were visibly very cold and immediately requested cups of tea. 10 minutes later, as I left, the waiter finally asked them if they’d like some papadums. They hadn’t got their tea yet.

I left with my doggy bag, which included some complimentary papadums (particularly nutty and good) with homemade spicy chopped onion salad and chutneys.

If you have time, patience and are in a good mood – and want to be amused – you must try this place. It is an experience. The food is generally fab and I’m sure they won’t mind if you take your own wine.

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