We’re at “Crossing the Rubicon” tonight, but Great Western Road on a drizzly evening in December is about as far from the grandeur of Rome as you can get. The name of this achingly hip craft beer and curry joint references Julius Caesar’s historic act of insurrection. By marching his army across the Rubicon river on the edges of Rome in 49BC he effectively declared war as Republic segued into Empire. Had Caesar been forced to guide his army across a traffic-choked Great Western Road instead, the history of the world might be rather different. Chances are they’d still be standing there.
I’d cast many an envious glance at Instagram tell of beef shin pakora paired with a cheeky wee saison, so I waited all of 5 seconds before accepting an invitation to come along and try out their new menu. I arrived armed with a ferocious appetite and a hungry man with a beard. The place was packed and humming with activity when we appeared all of 10 minutes late. Note to self: don’t be late again. Along with the food those nice people from Out of Town brewing were on hand with a brand new beer called Crossing the Spice; an aromatic, warming saison with notes of pepper and citrus. That sounds like marketing blurb but it’s actually my opinion. Yes, really.
A platter of Asian-inspired morsels arrived right on cue, giving us a taste of half the menu in one fell swoop. Vada pav is a spiced potato burger served on house bread. A solid, well-seasoned opening bite that’ll definitely improve in its full-size incarnation. The crispy chicken pops were next up and they were incredible. Think of the best pakora you’ve ever had but extra crunchy and served with zesty chutney rather than mysterious pink stuff in a plastic tub. The frankly irresponsible decision to serve three of each sample was in danger of starting a fight on bite number two.
The habit of shoving haggis in the middle of everything shows no sign of stopping, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. CTR’s samosas are stuffed with haggis (or veggie haggis) and come with tamarind and mint chutneys. The cheese-stuffed kachori were crispy little pastry parcels with a pleasantly cheesy hum offering a nice contrast to the spice. I could eat a few dozen of these.
The Mumbai sandwich is another one that will benefit from the jump to full size. As a taster it still had great flavour, but the subtlety of the cheese, onion, cucumber and pickle filling was lost somewhat. Next up, pani puri. These were little crispy shells filled with channa, chutney, onion, coriander and tomato. It’s a combination that sounds like it should pack a real kick of flavour, but somehow it didn’t quite deliver.
Lastly was bhel puri: a salad of puffed rice, tomato, onion, coriander and tamarind chutney served on a lettuce leaf. It was fresh, well-seasoned and provided a bit of texture in the form of that spicy puffed rice.
Round one down and we were ready for the chana chaat taco. This is fusion food as it should be; a soft corn tortilla packed with a rich and gently spiced chickpea curry, salad, coriander and yoghurt. Pulses never tasted so good.
We cast an envious glance at the masala chips that were doing the rounds but that minor disappointment was short-lived as The Frankie made its appearance. The Frankie is pure Mumbai street food, comprising one of CTR’s signature curries rolled in a chapati with rice, salad and coriander. The best way I can think to describe it is a biryani burrito. This was by some distance the best thing we ate all evening. The curry filling was rich, sweet and spicy all at once while the toasted chapati sealed the deal. I’m already plotting a return visit so I can have one of these to myself.
That desire to come back and try it all again pretty much sums up what I thought of the new menu. I’m not a regular visitor to Indian restaurants as the food can be off-puttingly heavy and rich. But CTR have taken the best flavours from Indian cuisine and applied a light touch with generous use of fresh herbs, salads and those intense chutneys. And if there’s one disappointment about the new menu it’s this: it makes me really really sad that I didn’t try the old menu.
Crossing the Rubicon
372-374 Great Western Road
0141 337 3111