It took one quick glance of the menu at The Gurkhas restaurant on Great Portland Street for me to come to the realisation that I’ve probably never experienced truly authentic Nepalese cuisine in London.
After years of sitting in classic Anglo-Indian curry houses that latch Nepal onto their name in a bid to sound more worldly, I suddenly discovered that authentic expressions of Nepal are woefully underserved in the capital.
While you’ll find a plethora of Indian restaurants serving genuine regional dishes and a good number of Chinese places that have ditched the dreaded ‘Anglo’ moniker too, when it comes to Nepal there are devastatingly few.
No fresh and strongly spiced cuisine from the southern region of Terai or timur-infused dishes from the Middle Hills. No Bara, Choila, Bhatt or Nuoc Cham.
A new dawn for Nepalese food in London
Thankfully that has all changed thanks to the opening of The Gurkhas, a modern Nepalese restaurant founded by renowned restaurateur and Nepal-born Shrabaneswor Rai (Hot Stone Steak and Sushi Bar in Islington).
Taking its name from the finest and fiercest soldiers of Nepal, The Gurkhas, brings a kaleidoscope of vibrant plates from the Himalayan region to London’s thriving food scene.
Fulfilling Rai’s dream to bring Nepalese cuisine to the capital, he has worked closely with head chef Joe Allen to create a first-of-its-kind dining experience.
Allen – whose wife is Nepalese and father-in-law a Gurkha – has travelled extensively across Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara to immerse himself in the culture, sampling delicacies and trying his hand at wild boar butchery.
He has created a menu that is both varied and diverse, with a carefully curated list if snacks, sharing dishes and large plates served by waiters in traditional Nepalese dress.
To begin, the snacks menu can be ordered in full, or two or three should suffice.
Smoked cods roe served with pickled shallots is a good pick, as is the Bara (black lentil pancake delicately topped with fenugreek sauce) and Aloo Nimki (spiced potato curry served with a pastry parcel). The Gurkha pickles are an acquired taste.
From the small plates menu, try one of Nepal’s most loved dishes (that you’ve probably never heard of) in Kukura ko Jhol Momo (steamed chicken dumplings in a tomato sauce). The Spicy Lamb Kachila with crispy bitter gourd will also allow you to discover new flavours and relish in the true cultural spirit of Nepal.
Large plates feature the likes of chargrilled Monkfish Choila; and Gorkhali Pork Chop with Sisnu (nettle), as well as Chef Allen’s signature Makai ko Risotto – a unique corn-based risotto dish with butternut squash and churpi, a cheese derived from the milk of a yak which is naturally sweet in flavour and often described as the hardest in the world. Sides include seasonal mustard greens; Chamrey Bhatt (Nepali style rice with ghee); and a spring salad with Nepali Chuk dressing.
Finish off with a perfectly balanced dark chocolate crémeux with guava curd and sorbet; Kuwa crème caramel with sorrel; or a Nepali spiced rice pudding with toasted coconut.
In the coming months, The Gurkhas will offer a reasonably priced six-course tasting menu (£75) with picture-perfect dishes from start to finish.
Here’s where to find it: