Ravi Shankar is one of three vegetarian Indian restaurants on Drummond Street, a road teeming with South Indian and Bangladeshi fare. It was founded in 1982, and the same chef has been bringing the same delicacies to Euston’s famous culinary strip for the past thirty years. The relaxed and welcoming interior, which is painted with murals of India’s backwaters, buzzing with conversation and scented with the tantalising smell of freshly cooked curry, is the perfect place to meet regulars, Councillor Nasim Ali OBE, the ex-mayor of Camden who grew up around the corner, and Nadia Shah, the current mayor and the first Bangladeshi female to take up the position. Why? To talk food, of course.
The restaurant actually feels more like a community hub: having arrived half an hour early to meet Nasim (Nash), I found myself in conversation with one of the waiters who had grown up in Euston. I then got talking to the two guys who are running @Work Hubs, a community focused co-working space a minute’s walk from Euston Station; and after that, managed a quick chinwag with Roger Robinson, the Councillor for St. Pancras and Somers Town ward. He has been frequenting Ravi Shankar for years and always makes sure to fit in his twice-weekly dose of Indian cuisine.
Everyone seems to know everyone, anyone can be part of any conversation, and my quick lunch meeting soon transformed into a social session with various Eustontowners and Drummond Street enthusiasts. Nash shortly arrived and we headed straight to the buffet to fill our plates. Having grown up in Silverdale on Hampstead Road, he seems to know everyone on Drummond Street, for which he gives credit to the wonderful sense of community in the area. In fact, there is such a rich social and ethnic mix in Ravi Shankar that it appears to be an accurate microcosm of the diversity of Camden as a whole.
1. Vegetarian Buffet at Ravi Shankar, Diwana, Masala HutCamden Councillor Roger Robinson is one of Drummond’s Street’s regulars: he reckons Ravi Shankar’s vegetarian lunch buffet is probably his favourite. “Considering the quality of food at the restaurant, I would find it incredibly difficult to narrow down my top dishes,” he says. “Let’s just put it this way, there’s nothing you shouldn’t eat here,” which is why he tends to sample a bit of everything from the £6.95 lunch buffet. We can vouch for the fact that the buffets at Diwana and Masala Hut are as competitive too. Ravi Shankar is at 133-135 Drummond St, Diwana at 121-3 and Masala at 161-3.
2. Lamb Biryani at Drummond VillaCurrent Camden Mayor Nadia Shah recommends the lamb biryani at Drummond Villa. A “superb” dish, it even comes close to giving her parents’ cooking a run for its money. Mdjabed Ahmed, the newest recruit and latest member of the Drummond Villa family (as he calls it) served us up a cup of masala tea as he talked us through the extensive menu at the beautifully done-up, slightly more formal Indian restaurant. You can grab a portion of Nadia’s top dish for £8.50. 118 Drummond St
3. Thali at Ravi ShankarFormer Camden mayor Nash Ali recommends grabbing a thali, a selection of different dishes which “is like having your own personal buffet on a plate.” Although pushed to give us a top spot, he particularly praised the flavours and presentation of the Ravi Shankar’s rendition of the famous Indian platter. The meal is £11.95 and includes desert.
4. Tandoori Marinated Clay Oven Fish at ShahFrom the array of restaurants on Drummond, Shah offers a selection of notably good quality Indian food. After leaving an extensive range of vegetables, meats, fish and shellfish to marinade overnight, the chefs cook a selection of their dishes in a clay oven. Mukid, one of the waiters – who is taking a year out of law school – talked us through the menu and told us how fresh all of the ingredients are. “All the spices are ground in house and everything is made from scratch. Cooking isn’t easy, it is an art form, so much effort goes into each dish and they all hold their own identity.” I would definitely recommend checking out the tandoori marinated trout and king prawns (both £10.95). Equally, the salmon shashlik, marinated in English mustard yogurt, tandoori spices and cooked in the clay oven, was one of the best dishes we tried on the whole street, the fish perfectly cooked and the marinade was aromatic, light and bursting with flavour (£8.95). 159 Drummond St NW1
5. Dosa at Ravi ShankarDosas are similar to filled pancakes. Ravi Shankar serves them deliciously thin, light and tasty: packed with fresh paneer and spinach, or spicy potato (masala dosa) they are incredibly moreish and very filling. Dosas are £7.25 and are served with a variety of savoury fillings and chutneys to accompany.
6. Lamb Bhuna at ShahMukid also highly recommended the lamb bhuna which is “cooked for a very long time in an iron pot and then left to simmer. This leaves the dish bursting with flavour and incredibly tender meat.” You can grab a lamb bhuna for a snip at £6.95, although granted rice is not included.
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