There’s a lot that’s interesting about Chor Bizarre, which has sat in the heart of Mayfair for over 15 years now, but could just as easily have popped-up in Shoreditch a couple of weeks ago. It’s the younger sister-restaurant of a 20-something Delhi venue that goes by the same name and despite their distance, they have close to identical menus.
Said name comes from the Indian for ‘thieves market’ making reference to a large second-hand market in Mumbai where it is said a lot of stolen goods are sold on. If the restaurant's trinkets, paintings, statues and wall-hangings give a sense of what this market is like, we’re veering towards Camden’s stables, but what comes with this is a street food scene to make Borough pale in comparison, let alone our teeny tiny Kerbs, Street Feasts, Stock Markets and the like.
The restaurant’s Old Bombay Street Food Menu has been introduced this winter (running until 10 December) to highlight the usual menu’s street food influence; several of the dishes from it are likely to go on to feature on the daily menu, we are told. Dishes average around £8 and are the size of a generous starter or stingy main, making group ordering the best option.
Bata wada pao is a particular favourite. It consists of a soft chickpea and potato patty that’s heavy on turmeric, nestled in a fluffy bap with peanut chutney (read: peanut butter) and a chilli & garlic chutney. It’s an Indian burger, if you will.
A dish of slow-cooked lamb mince, spiked with green chillies and stirred through with an egg is named keema ghotala, the latter part of which, our waiter explains, translates as something similar to ‘a travesty’, a reference to the fact that in traditional Indian cooking, lamb would never be mixed with egg. It works for us, the fresh chilli cutting through the rich mince and the egg adding a slightly rich, creamy mouthfeel. It does look a little curdled, though. We can wholly understand why this dish is often eaten as a late-night snack in Delhi, not least because we can see some similarities to a doner kebab. If you’re ever drunk in India, you now know what to do.
Elsewhere, thick slices of deep-fried paneer are crisp and salty, with a burst of refreshment coming from the only ever-so-slightly-gooey centre; wheat crisps topped with yoghurt and a tangy tamarind chutney are a big bang of flavour; and rice puffs tossed together with raw onion, mango and chutneys in a kind of savoury rice krispie sundae are surprisingly moreish given that description.
Chor Bizarre offers up interesting food with an interesting story, and we found the dining experience genuinely evocative - something we can’t say of nearby Mayfair Indians Benares or Tamarind. Service is café chatty rather than restaurant slick, but we like that too. If it’s a genuine Indian food experience you’re after, then we can think of nothing more appropriate than a restaurant serving up pretty much the same dishes that go down a storm in Delhi - and that’s what you’ll get here.
Chor Bizarre is at 16 Albermale Street, W1S 4HW.
Disclaimer: We review anonymously and pay for all our meals/drinks.