London has seen at least a couple of different evolutions when it comes to Indian food. First, there was the traditional, white-tableclothed fine dining, then the new-wave of upstarts, which eschewed naans, samosas and butter chickens in favour of India’s less-discovered regions. Gunpowder has been among the best of the latter, and now the group numbers three restaurants, in Spitalfields, Tower Bridge and Soho.
The moody interiors certainly fit with the name and the vibe - uplights cast a gentle glow across the room, reflected in a mirrored wall on one side of the relatively narrow dining space. White marble tabletops contrast with black marble around the service area, and the chequerboard tiling underfoot also contributes to Gunpowder’s modern, monochrome feel.
As previously mentioned, Gunpowder’s menu purposely does-away with some of the expectations of traditional Indian food. There is no tandoor in the kitchen, which thus rules out staples like naan breads and tandoori meats. Instead, a compact menu includes a series of inventive small and large sharers. The dishes that made Gunpowder a roaring success in years gone by are largely still available, and are just as brilliant as ever. The venison donut is a beautiful thing indeed - a fist-sized ball of golden crispy vermicelli and spiced venison, with a liberal amount of tangy sauce to pour over. The egg masala too - despite Gunpowder not really doing curries - might be one of the most delicious curries we’ve ever eaten.
Another side of Gunpowder’s more modern approach is the cocktail menu, and it’s an excellent one, full of nicely balanced sips like the rum, star anise and campari Fernandes Rum Punch.
Not everything on the menu is quite so successful - Gunpowder’s take on a barbecue rib came in a sticky tamarind sauce that was too cloying, and the ribs weren’t quite tender enough to come off the bone. Neat slices of grilled summer pumpkin came swaddled in a Chettinad sauce that felt a bit lacking in oomph. Still, most of the many dishes we ordered were hits, proving that Gunpowder - once the unconventional upstart, is now very much here to stay.