Just as the owners Harneet and Devina Baweja open their second venture directly opposite, I finally visit Gunpowder on White’s Row. So good is the first sitting, that I go back a week later to try the other dishes I didn’t get round to. Homely, authentic, and with a slightly modern/upmarket take on the dishes, it rivals Dishoom very, very well.
Stepping in to the small bare-brick space, you understand why the sign says to wait outside to be seated. The inward swinging door fits perfectly to just about avoid the person sitting on the first table, and from there on in, it’s a narrow and short walk way to the back. Inside it feels trendy without being East London try-hard, minimalist and neat without really doing it on purpose; black stools and tables, a couple of higher tables near the bar, and a convenient window table for two are all that’s inside.
The instant hit on the nose of heady spices and scents acts as the amuse bouche getting you excited and curious about the adventure to come in this modern cave. Also in the mix of foodie smells is Jasmine incense, which together encompass a traditional Indian household for me. I’ve always been so impressed by the never ending combinations of herbs and spices that somehow never clash in Indian homes or foods!
For the dishes, as ever with sharing plates, I’d encourage you to gather a good size group so you can taste more; either that or come with a very good appetite! There are now three infamous dishes at Gunpowder - vermicelli venison doughnut, the pulled duck oothapam, and lamb chops - all are very special but I shan't be discussing them here simply because they should already be on your list to order. Instead, I want to shine some light on other dishes which have had a bit of a back seat in comparison.
The aloo chaat here has been given so much more time and attention than others around. The new potatoes have been boiled and then baked (or pan fried) to have a crinkly, crispy skin with perfectly fluffy insides. Carefully smashed and then mixed with chickpeas, masala, chilli and coriander, topped with plain yogurt and sweet tamarind, it’s the contrast you’ll want on your plate for the other dishes to follow.
The egg masala couldn’t get more authentic making me so joyously happy, transporting me back to the Motherland herself. On the surface, it’s pretty simple - two boiled eggs, halved, with a thick, ruby red gravy on top - but don’t be fooled. The layered flavours in the masala are exactly what you want in an Indian gravy; a bold richness starting with patiently sautéed sweet onions, a thwack of smoky and deep masala spices (no doubt the chef’s own combination) and then a lime-y tang and a chilli hit to finish. All of this sitting on top of two humble eggs, adding a creamy dimension and a silky texture, garnished with crispy kale, is the stuff that can turn me into a vegetarian quite happily!
But not quite yet. Chicken hasn’t ever been something I’d order but that changed on my last trip to India, where I became mesmerised by proper tandoori chicken. I’m not talking about the raspberry-hued joints from the local curry house, but the real stuff, the juicy and perfectly charred pieces on the bone. The baby chicken in Gunpowder is clean, succulent and tastes likes it’s providing all those essential aminos, proteins and other good stuff your body loves to have. Every piece is soft, including the breast, with the smoky char and earthy spices you always want but hardly ever get on this continent from such a dish.
If I could make a regular weekly booking here, I honestly would. The Indian food game is getting stronger in London which is only music to my greedy ears. Gunpowder though, is the place that once you’ve been, you want to show it off to others for purely selfish, tongue/stomach-motivated gains. Go now.