Photo by Richard Owens
If there’s one thing Brits abroad miss about the mother country, it’s a good curry. Aside from being something of a national treasure in the vein of roast beef and Dame Judi Dench, there’s also something very reassuring and comforting about it: whether at the end of a Friday night down the pub, midweek as a take-away when you can’t be bothered to cook, or as an emergency dinner party when your carefully conceived plans have been laid to waste. But getting one in this town has never been easy, so it was with a mix of hope and trepidation that I accepted an invitation a few weeks ago to visit Rangoli in Barceloneta. “I’m willing to take the litmus test” said owner Sanjay Das Gupta in his email, boldly signing off: “Your judgement shall be final and binding.”
Gupta’s chef, Anand Singh Negi, worked for the highly regarded Taj Group in India before pursuing his career on the shores of Britain and, subsequently, Spain. He’s even written a book on the subject, Cocina India (published in Castilian by Oceana), which was encouraging news. Both are utterly charming fellows, as is the place, all smoked glass and dark walls with some natty details like brass cauldrons hanging from the ceiling and crystal lampshades shaped like flowerpots. It feels and looks like an upmarket curry house in London with smells wafting from the kitchen—sweet, sour, earthy, pungent—better than anything I’ve caught a whiff of on Brick Lane (London’s eponymous curry street). Service is spot on, too: discreet, yet attentive. But the best thing about Rangoli is the scope, for it introduces a wide range of regional dishes that you rarely see on Indian menus: literally, you can eat your way around India.
We rubbed our hands and smacked our lips in that way you do when you know something is going to be good. Our feast began, however, with Samudri Rattan (queen scallops grilled with caramelised garlic, roast peppers and pink peppercorns), a romantic-sounding dish on paper, but one that didn’t quite do it for any of us. The scallops were meaty and tender, but the sauce was very like sofregit, pleasant enough but it didn’t transport me outside Catalunya. No matter, for the rather less evocative sounding Makai Palak Pakora (a spinach, chard and sweetcorn fritter) was earthy, satisfying stuff, and the Lasooni Jhinga (unfortunately described as a prawn ménage a trois on the menu) a total hit, with crunchy onions, well-defined spices and a streak of fresh green chilli providing a welcome jolt of heat and acidity. Sofiani Machi (tandoori salmon flavoured with fennel and dill) was likewise a revelation, delicately flavoured and meltingly tender; one of those dishes that makes you feel rich just by eating it. On Gupta’s recommendation, we drank a bottle of Gewurtztriminer (Somontano), which was juicy, ripe and a perfect foil to the spices, and moved onto a bottle of red from Montsant for mains.
Maah Ki Dal is one of the house specials—an unusual dish of black lentils and chana dal (a darker, smaller, nuttier strain of the chickpea) enriched with ghee (clarified butter) and slowly baked over night in the tandoor—resulting in a decadently rich and creamy stew. We had it with Saag Paneer (home made cottage cheese) cooked in creamed spinach, which was tasty, though I’d have preferred to see the spinach wilted or chopped to retain a bit of texture. The saucing generally at Rangoli is rather heavy, a lot to do with how we ordered, of course, but glancing through the menu as I write, it strikes me it could do with some fresher, brighter dishes to cut through the sumptuousness and balance it a little.
Not that that stopped us from ordering Dum Ka Bater, another celebratory dish that slow cooks quail in its own juices in a sealed earthenware pot so that it comes out moist and flavourful. Finished with a sauce of browned onions and cashews, it was one of the highlights of the evening, while the Rogan Josh, a classic lamb stew peppery and aromatic from cloves, was faultless. As one of my dining companions put it, “getting the spices right down into the meat like that was seriously impressive.” Thus replete, we tried not to fall for the rose and pistachio kulfi (Indian ice-cream), but who can resist such a thing? Rangoli, my friends, is a winner.
Rangoli, Passeig Joan de Borbó 78,tel. 93 221 1981, www.rangoli-barcelona.com.
Open Tues-Sun, 1-3.30pm and 8-11.30pm. Tasting menu, €24.90. Approx €40 for three courses with a mid-range wine à la carte. Sunday menu features all Southern Indian specialities.
Tara’s rating: ✪✪✪✪