Holborn Town Hall is a vast and, some might say, tricky space to fill, a challenge that the team behind Colonel Saab have accepted with aplomb. The modern Indian restaurant is hospitality guru Roop Partap Choudhary’s UK debut, which he’s named after his father (Colonel Saab) who was a soldier in the Indian army.
It’s impossible not to take stock of the striking décor as you enter the restaurant. Based on the living room Choudhary grew up in and designed in collaboration with his mother (the whole venture is very much a family-affair), we were welcomed by a swathe of burnt red walls which are only accentuated by high ceilings and extravagant crystal chandeliers. Choudhary explains that a lot of the artwork and furnishings are borrowed from his childhood home and jests that his mother wants some of them back! Beyond the interiors, though, is a real sense of warmth evoked by attentive and chatty staff.
The menu is inspired by cuisines from all over India; some dishes feel street food-esque while others hark towards the lighter curries of southern India. We started with king prawns wrapped in crisp ribbons of kataifi pastry and served on a sticky layer of mango chutney. While from the ‘chaat bar’ we sampled Mall Road, another mellow dish featuring soft sweet potato, tamarind chutney and coriander. Notes of intense sweetness are a running theme throughout many of Colonel Saab’s dishes, sometimes cloyingly so, but it does score points for knowing how to combine different textures.
From the mains, the vegetarian options caught our eye. Confit cauliflower in a creamy saffron sauce is the chef’s signature dish, while elsewhere adorable baby aubergines are stuffed with a surprise nutty filling and served in a tamarind curry leaf sauce. Aesthetically, these dishes are an Instagrammer’s dream and deliver on comfort and richness, although are slightly lacking when it comes to spice and heat.
Not ones to usually order dessert at an Indian restaurant, we would actually recommend leaving room for something sweet. Taking classic puddings and adding an Indian-inspired twist, the milk cake with cardamom custard and the pineapple and chilli tarte tatin were totally worth the wait (guests are required to wait 25 minutes for the tart).
One final tip: the dishes are expensive – with most mains starting from £16.95 - so if you want to pad out your meal on the (sort of) cheap, then sides are the way to go.