Babu Glasgow186 West Regent Street,
0141 204 4042
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Indian street food
Review published on 23/07/2013 © Sunday Herald
The Bombay Sandwich then? Or to put it as the menu does in here, the Almost-Famous-Bombay-Sandwich. Plain toasted white bread, chilli and coriander chutney, a mountain of chopped vegetables and, wait for this one, potato. Oh, and topping it all, dollops of tomato ketchup.
Whats it like to eat? Ahem, sit down for this. Theres a fresh vegetable explosion with some chilli and coriander flavours lapping around the edges, followed by a cleansing potato taste then boom, everything is obliterated by waves and waves of tomato ketchup.
This is apparently proper Indian street food. And do I like it? Err. Its fun. Way heavy on the ketchup though. They do one with toasted cheese in Bombay or Mumbai and I think Id prefer that.
The sev puri, on the other hand, are crispy, crunchy, exquisitely flavoured taste-bomb snacks full of the punchiness of coriander and lime, and finished off with something called 100 Clove Garlic and Red Chilli. Sprinkled over the top and making the six sev puri on the plate look like little round Lees macaroon bars are heaps of crunchy lentil vermicelli. Sensational.
Now, a quick rewind. To limber up for this visit I gazed at the very pretty Italian fixed-gear push bikes at Rig Bike Shop diagonally across the road mourning the fact Im far too old to ever ride one then stuck my head into somewhere called Luke Monaghans Velodromo Cafe right beside that. I pulled my head back out from there rather sharpish on account of the fact I felt I had just wandered into someones uber-trendy living room. One for a bolder day perhaps.
But charged with as much hip n happeningness as Im ever going to get, I cross the street diagonally, nip down some stairs, pass a row of plastic chairs and am suddenly in Babu Bombay Street Kitchen. Here three tiny red plastic tables jut out from the wall, theres a big blackboard of dishes, Indian movie posters are splattered across most surfaces and theres more of that street buzzy edge in the signs and posters that the bike shop shares.
I eat my Bombay Sandwich. I enjoy the sev puri. I watch and listen as a steady stream of people from nearby businesses trip in and out for lunch. While doing this I sip from a not-very-cold bottle of Thums Up Cola that is how they spell it in India, seemingly listed on the menu under Most Exotic Fizzy Pops. Yes. Theres definitely that kind of vibe going on.
A daal of the day arrives in a deep-fill polystyrene cup. Inside theres a lot of garlic-flavoured daal, a loose, liquidy texture and a clear input from finely chopped vegetables and herbs. For a few moments after I came in I wavered over a pot of keema pau spiced lamb mince dotted with bright green peas served with, of all things, a toasted Mortons roll but decide its too early in the day for it.
For whole seconds I was going to order the dhokla sandwich a Gujarati savoury cake sandwiching chilli and coriander chutney, mustard seed and curry leaves before deciding that, too, is for another day.
Eventually I pick a plump-looking Goanese chicken xacuti, even though I know curries are often difficult for lunch. I neednt have worried. Its light and packed with sweet coconut and sour tamarind flavours that permeate the chicken. Like the daal, it probably wouldnt suffer from a touch more salt, but its served with rice and a great, made-on-the-premises Bombay slaw that is simply a spiced version of coleslaw.
Babu, then? More of that old street-buzz-hoopla-with-not-much-substance that were seeing more and more? Or a genuinely fresh new addition to the Glasgow food scene? Definitely the latter.