Star chef eats from Indian kitchen - Ramsay's favourites: murgh masala and saag gosht

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 23.03.08

London, March 22: In television reality shows, Gordon Ramsay comes across as a foul-mouthed bully who terrifies less talented kitchen staff with four-letter expletives, but when he endorses an Indian restaurant or chef, his commendation does count for something.

For Ramsay is one of only three chefs in the United Kingdom to have won three Michelin Guide stars for his eponymously named restaurant.

His wife, Tana, it has emerged, is given to ordering takeaways from an Indian chain in London called the Bombay Bicycle Club, which has three restaurants where people can eat in and 14 kitchens where food is freshly cooked for home delivery.

Ramsay’s wife, Tana, does the ordering — her husband’s favourites include murgh masala and saag gosht. She sticks to the Battersea branch though her residence is slightly outside the group’s delivery zone.

However, given that the food is going to one of Britain’s best known celebrity chefs, the Bombay Bicycle Club — it was set up 20 years ago and so named because its founders wanted to evoke colonial days in Bombay — is more than willing to stretch a point.

“It has to be from the Battersea one, though, that’s the best,” insisted Tana.

Madhav Bhujel, 38, the Nepali chef who runs the Bombay Bicycle Club delivery kitchen in Battersea, is not put out that his food is being sampled by the notoriously demanding Ramsay.

A sample of the food

“I never know who I’m cooking for at the time but I don’t get nervous thinking that the Ramsays are sampling my food,” said Bhujel. “I’m confident it’s good. It’s a great honour to be appreciated by such a highly regarded chef.”

Rob Kemp, the managing director of the Bombay Bicycle, said: “I view Gordon Ramsay as one of the three top chefs in the world. I have eaten at the Boxwood Café (one of Ramsay’s restaurants, situated in the Berkeley Hotel) and the food is exquisite. The food is just to die for. I am delighted he likes our food.”

He admitted the average spend of £21-22 at the Bombay Bicycle was perhaps £5 more than people spend on normal curry houses’ takeaways. “But you get what you pay for. The secret of our success is freshly cooked food with the right flavour, delivered hot.”

The operations manager of the Bombay Bicycle, Nischient Sharma, a Kashmiri who has seen the group grow over 12 years, recommended some of his choicest dishes: “Go for:

7a: Malai Kebabs. Cheese and cream marinated chicken breast smoked in the tandoor, flavoured with mace and cardamom. £4.95

11a: King Prawn Piro Piro. Pan-fried king prawns marinated in turmeric and red chillies served with a cardamom and fennel yogurt sauce. £9.75.

23: Murgh Masala. Tender chicken breast cooked in the tandoor, served in a rich masala sauce. £7.45.

36a: Hyderabadi Lamb. Slow-cooked lamb in a rich tomato and coconut sauce. £7.75.”

Indian food in the UK was evolving to suit English taste “which means less chillies”, Sharma told The Telegraph. The food was not exactly traditional, which was not surprising given that the majority of customers were not Indian.

Ramsay was not the Bombay Bicycle’s only high-profile client, he added. “(Actresses) Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley order from our Little Venice branch (in north London). Also Jamie Oliver (another celebrity chef).”

It is apparent Ramsay, a one-man industry with very successful and expensive restaurants in Britain and America, television programmes and books to his name, not only likes eating Indian food but has also been trying to pick up tips from Indian cuisine.

He has spent time in the kitchen at Tamarind, a one-Michelin star Indian restaurant in Mayfair, whose executive chef, Alfred Prasad, impressed Ramsay so much that the latter went off and wrote about his experiences making naan in a tandoor and cooking lamb chops Indian style.

“We share a bit of common history because the first time we went to Tamarind was to celebrate our third Michelin star at Royal Hospital Road on the same night they’d won their first,” wrote Ramsay. “Now we’re such regulars they let us sit there in our chefs’ whites and the head chef, Alfred Prasad, uses us as guinea pigs, sending out new dishes for us to try.”

He added: “Alfred deserves the widest recognition. A lot of people take Indian food for granted, but this man is always pushing the boundaries, seeking out new spices and combinations. There aren’t many Indian restaurants where you’ll see sea bass, scallops or squid on the menu, and the spicing is so delicate that the individual flavours really come through. I think we chefs trained in more classic cuisine have a lot to learn.”

When Ramsay’s wife had a birthday party at home, it was Tamarind which did the catering.

Incidentally, Prasad confided that the persona Ramsay projects on television is just a pose. “He is warm, friendly, full of energy.”