There’s nothing quite like a little spice to warm up a chilly autumn evening, so it seemed a perfect time for a visit to Haweli of Belmont – somewhere that had often been recommended to me but that I’d never quite got around to trying…
Run and operated by the Chowdhury family for approaching 25 years, this south Sutton stalwart has clearly been doing something right, so I was curious to discover what was in store.
Arriving on a rainy Sunday evening, we were given an enthusiastic welcome from the team who seemed genuinely pleased to see us. On their website, they describe how their philosophy is to treat their guests as family, and bestow upon them the traditions of hospitality that you might receive in a South Asian home, and that was just how it felt.
Perusing the extensive menu, featuring a wide range of dishes from the Indian subcontinent, we tucked into crispy poppadoms piled high with pickle-tray delights as we tried to narrow things down. Eventually, we decided to take the easy option for the starter, by sharing a mixed vegetable platter, and thereby getting to try several things at once. Comprising chilli garlic mushrooms, tandoori phool and vegetable spring rolls, it was a magnificent medley of flavours that complemented each other in every way.
For the main course, I settled on the haryali gobi (even if I did have to ask how to say it), the main ingredients of which were broccoli and cauliflower cooked with onions and tomatoes with green peppers. It was, quite simply, divine – the succulent florets of broccoli offset perfectly by the spicy kick that followed each mouthful. It was accompanied by the biggest and best peshwari naan I have ever tasted. Almost pancake-like in its lightness and thickness, but the same size as a pizza, it was spot on.
Across the table, my friend Catherine was equally enthused by her succulent karwari king prawn dish, which was given the perfect finishing touch by the simple addition of mustard seeds. Together, we shared the lightest and fluffiest bowl of plain rice imaginable.
It was absolutely our intention to have dessert, but we felt so entirely satisfied with our meal that we decided to finish with a coffee instead. No need for any sugary crescendos when the food is this good. Because it really, really is.
After our meal, we had a brief chat with owner/proprietor Misbah Chowdhury, a quietly-spoken man brimming with kindness and bonhomie. With a bit of persuasion, he admitted that they welcome guests from all over Surrey and beyond. I’m not at all surprised. In fact, the only surprise is why I haven’t been to this place before – but I’m about to make up for lost time.