I blame the BBC’s programming department. After what felt like six months of Siberian weather, summer is finally back, with a vengeance, and which brand new culinary series does Auntie have in store for us? That’s right – Rick Stein’s India. So salivating are the dishes featured in Stein’s gastro-tour of the subcontinent that, in spite of the near-sweltering heat, we had to have a curry.
Annapurna, in the Béguinage neighbourhood, offers not just Indian cuisine, but also Nepalese and Tibetan dishes. At least it says so in the window. On closer inspection, it turns out that, apart from a starter called momo, every dish on the menu is, well, bog-standard Indian. Jalfrezis, pasandas, biryanis and the like are all present and correct, just like they are in every single curry house in the world. Oh well.
For starters, I wasn’t going to miss out on the one unknown quantity: the aforementioned momo. Essentially, momo are Nepali dumplings that are halfway between dim sum and gyoza. They come in vegetarian and ‘non-vegetarian’ form – I had the latter – and, like their Chinese and Japanese cousins, are very moreish. They were served with a moderately spicy dip and it was a good job that I only ordered five of them instead of ten: I would have eaten the lot. Across the table, the shami kebab, while being full of flavour, was almost bone-dry. The herby relish was less an accompaniment to the lamb patties than a relief.
We both plumped for chicken for our mains; I went for a dopiaza while my companion chose the karahi. Apart from the heat (my wife’s was slightly spicier), they were almost identical. Which is not to say they weren’t good, though: we couldn’t fault the dishes. Our side of palak paneek, while absolutely fine, was not what we anticipated, because the spinach had been puréed – we wanted a leaf spinach dish. We’ll know for next time. The butter naans were very nice too if, yes you’ve guessed it, maybe not very original. The food at Annapurna isn’t exciting or daring but maybe one day they will add a few original Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese specialities. In the meantime, what they do they do very well. Service could be a tad more on-the-ball too; trying to get the attention of a waiter was arduous at times.
Our bill, which included two big bottles of Indian beer and two small bottles of Nepalese beer, came to €72.
26 Rue de Laeken, 1000 Brussels; tel 02.219.39.33