Babuji, where street food comes indoors
06 June, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Creating a buzz on the high street – Babuji, a ‘finely conceived’ concept
PEOPLE don’t want to visit curry houses anymore,” says our host – a man with a vision for the future.
For two decades, the Miah family served up curries at their unassuming restaurant at the top of Kentish Town Road. But it was time for drastic change.
“Gulshaan was slowly dying,” Mo Miah admits. “We wanted to create something on the high street that would create a buzz – that was different.”
The result is Babuji, a bold reinvention of their business serving what’s described as South Asian street food.
Mo – with help from his wife – has done an impressive job on the bouncy branding and shabby chic décor. From the street, first impressions are the vibrant decoration: the bold turquoise shop front and flashes of orange around the signage.
Inside, an old-fashioned bicycle draped with flower garlands leans against the wall. Floor tiles echo this floral motif.
Look closely and you’ll notice wood panelling constructed from scuffed scaffolding boards.
“Sustainability is really important to us,” explains Mo. “Nothing is new – everything is recycled or found online. The chairs were the hardest. It’s literally taken me searching online for months and months.”
“Babu-ji”, as the menu explains, is actually a Hindi term of respect for their father, who inspired the venture. A photo of this gentleman stares out from the top of the menu.
This is divided into sections for quick eats, grills, biryanis, and Ruby Murrays – cockney rhyming slang for curries.
The best dish we tried was one of the simplest – a street food snack from Mumbai called Vada Pau.
A ball of mashed potato is rolled in chick pea flour, deep fried then served on a soft bun spread thickly with three chutneys. To eat it, you squash down the top to create a kind of burger. The result is divine – a soft yet crunchy texture with an electrifying bolt of complex spicing.
Other snacks include shingaras, a Bangladeshi samosa, classic chaats, pakoras and mini poppadums.
The menu lists 10 curries. Sadly, we tried only two: a medium-hot number, laced with plump prawns, and the butter chicken, slathered in a sweet and sour sauce spiked with fresh ginger.
A chicken kebab was excellent, too, fragrant with cumin and garlic.
Babuji urges you to eat with your hands for the full sensual experience. We did our best, using triangles of buttery naan as an implement, but eventually resorted to a spoon to scoop up the juices.
As a concept, Babuji has been finely conceived. It chimes perfectly with the current trends for smaller sharing plates and authentic street food.
Mo is right – the traditional curry house format has lost its allure and restaurants must adapt in this rocky economic landscape.
The team at Babuji will also be running a stall at the Alma Street Fair on Sunday, June 16.
This is always a lively event – and a great chance to sample local culinary talent.
343 Kentish Town Rd, NW5
020 7485 5566