What can you tell us about Madame D's?
It's the second restaurant from the people behind Gunpowder, an Indian restaurant in the area which has gained a big following since it opened. This time they've opened in a smaller space, only a couple of minutes walk away from the original.
And what's different this time?
The cuisine, for a start - it's all centred around Himalayan cuisine, with a lot of the menu inspired by the childhood of chef Nirmal Save, who also travelled the area with Gunpowder's Harneet Baweja recently to gather the recipes for Madame D's. They haven't held back on the heat too.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
You could do what we did and head straight to the nearby Culpeper, always a good spot to meet at. Or there's the Som Saa bar (if you can grab a seat) or indeed the bar below Madame D's itself.
Can I book?
It's walk-in only, but if you leave your name with them, they'll text you when a table is ready.
And how about the seats?
This is a pretty small place - so if there are two of you, you'll be right beside someone else (separate tables but pushed together). But the tables are a decent size so we don't think this is a problem and we ended up swapping dishes with the next table so we could taste more - it's a very convivial atmosphere.
And what should we order?
Get the prawn crackers (£6) while you're looking at the menu, for sure. These come with prawn dip (spicy with actual prawns) which is a damned fine snack to have while you decide what to order.
It's a small plates menu (although still fairly generous portions) so the usual advice goes - order what you want when you want it and you won't have the problem of too much on the table. Everything arrives quickly so there's no problem doing this.
And then more or less work your way through the menu. Our top things to order were:
- The naga chilly beef puff (£3.50) - bite sized puff pastry beefy goodness
- The Tibetan pan fried duck momo (£7 for five) - spicy duck dumplings, we would happily have had another plate of this
- Himalayan fried chicken (£8) - a new take on fried chicken, can't go wrong with that
- The whole sea bass with ginger and soya (£15) - the favourite dish of our dining companion - and it's much more mildly spiced than the other dishes too.
We tried (but didn't order) the tiffin masala lamb noodles with fried egg (£13.50). This was described by the next-door table as a kind of Indian spag-bol. That's both over simplifying and also a pretty good description - and better than it sounds.
Leave space for dessert - the rolled date pancakes with stem ginger ice cream (£6.50) are a must.
A small wine list starts at a reasonable £21 a bottle with plenty under £30 and there are just a couple of spritzes and a single cocktail (The Dragon's Breath - absinthe, lime, buffalo trace, ginger, apple juice).
We have to admit that we haven't been to Madame D's highly rated sibling, but this is a fine addition to the lower end of Commercial Street, which is becoming well served with very decent spots. We think the heat in the dishes adds to the occasion, and there's plenty more available if that puts you off. The Gunpowder crowd have still got it.
What: Madame D's
Where: 76 Commercial Street, London E1 6LY
How to book: Walk-ins only
Hot Dinners were invited to Madame D's. Prices are correct at the time of writing.