Over the last ten years we’ve seen a quiet revolution in Indian-style restaurants. It wasn’t so long ago that you would only go to an Indian restaurant if you wanted a cheap night out, where loud behaviour was accepted, and where the quality of the food was secondary.
Richmond Borough now has a good number of establishments that have pushed away from this approach and started to offer posh indian food in contemporary surroundings with quality service – essentially becoming modern restaurants that happen to offer Indian food. Some of the best, in our opinion, include Prem in Teddington, Tangawizi in East Twickenham / Richmond and Moidul’s Rawalpindi and the Sheesh Mahal in Twickenham. But we just added a new place to our list of favourites.
Rara in Sandycombe Road in Kew (020 8332 1020) presents itself as ‘Nepalese Dining’ but fundamentally it’s Indian food. The Nepal connection comes from the owners who set up the business seven years ago. The dining area is on two levels, both relatively small, but tastefully decorated in a modern modern-yet-classic style that you often see if you look through the windows of the expensive Victorian houses through Barnes, Richmond and Kew.
The traditional chutney and poppadums were both very light and tasty and accompanied by freshly chopped raw carrots and cucumbers. It was a great pleasure to bite into something healthy and crunchy before a big meal.
We started with the Onion Pakora (finely sliced onion pieces marinated in spices, deep fried and served with fresh salad) and the Kebab Resilo (skewered minced lamb with freshly ground spices, cooked in a Tandoor to seal in the flavour, and served piping hot with a salad garnish). Both were delicious. The Pakora was extremely light (you’ll hear me use this word again and again in this review) and the kebab had great flavour, albeit too much for me to eat as a starter.
We ordered a glass of both the house red and white wine which was pleasant but unremarkable. But not so unremarkable to stop a second glass being ordered. And then the main courses arrived.
Now I love Indian food, but like many Brits we’re pathetic when it comes to spicy food, so both of us ordered mild creamy dishes.
The Butter Chicken (tandoor cooked chicken finished in a red masala sauce with garlic, ginger, methi and black salt) was light yet full of flavour. My dining partner very rarely strays from the good old chicken korma and really enjoyed this dish. Their signature dish, the Royal Rara (whole chicken breast opened out and wrapped around a king prawn in a masala sauce) was slightly heavier and a touch overcooked, yet still good.
On balance we preferred the Butter Chicken but both hit the spot. The pilau rice was perfectly cooked and we ordered a plain naan that for once didn’t feel like eating a duvet of bread, it was almost delicate.
Normally by this point in an Indian meal I cannot move for the weight of the meal. But even though the portions were all generous, the weight of the food wasn’t killing me. The secret to this lightness, or so they told me, is that they cook with olive oil and care about fresh ingredients and it allowed me to tuck into an ice-cream dessert courtesy of Movenpick. It was reasonably good, but the only thing not prepared on site and therefore it seemed very slightly below par. Perhaps I should have ordered something a little more traditional!
All in all, Rara is an excellent restaurant. The service was perfectly balanced between attentive and ‘spacious’ and the food hit the spot. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to go there, but I will definitely be returning, and giving their takeaway a try.
In full disclosure, we were invited to the restaurant by a PR representative and the meal was provided free of charge. But it was genuinely delicious!
More details about Rara can be found…. here.