I’ve been such a faithful follower of my favourite local Indian restaurant Tangawizi, that it’s taken me literally years to try Swagat, not so far away and just over the other side of Richmond bridge and a little way up Richmond Hill. I’ve heard good things about it and knew the food should be similar as Chef Krishnapal Negi was formerly head chef at Tangawizi. He and business partner Sudden Alberts opened Swagat in 2007 and another restaurant, Atithi, in Twickenham in 2011. All three restaurants are recommended by Michelin and have won much praise.
So, how did I come to finally make that short trip across the bridge for my Indian meal? The answer was that I first went to my book club – Richmond Book Club – which meets at the Roebuck pub at the top of Richmond Hill. It’s a great club and unusually meets every week, on Tuesday evenings. We don’t, however, attempt to read a novel a week but instead divide our month into weeks of poetry, short stories, a theme (e.g. music in literature) and of course a novel. It was shortly after I’d confirmed I’d go last night that I heard from my good friends Lesley and Colin that they were coming up from Dorset and did I want to meet for a meal on Tuesday evening. I suggested we meet at 8.00 so I could go to the book club for an hour – where we looked at the poetry of John Clare; we always read poetry aloud and it’s a wonderful thing to do on a Tuesday evening. Also wonderful was climbing Richmond Hill at the end of a gorgeous spring day of sunshine and warmth. The view, so often captured by famous artists like Turner, is glorious.
It was starting to get dark and the photo on my iPhone doesn’t really do the view justice, but with each successive week as we go into summer, the view will be more alive in the evening and I always a leave a little time to sit at the top and enjoy it before I go into the Roebuck, order a drink, and talk books.
It was almost dark when I came out an hour later and made my way back down the hill to Swagat. It was Lesley who suggested we eat at a restaurant close to the book club venue. She and Colin were already there and wine was ordered as we decided what to eat and came with pappadums and chutney. The inside of the restaurant is simple, less stylish than Tangawizi, but the service was very friendly and good. We chose a couple of mains, two vegetable sides, pilau rice and some Peshwari Naan to share.
Our two mains were Murgh Methiwala: chicken cooked with fenugreek leaves, garlic and spices. This was good and nicely spicy; the chicken tender. It’s one of my favourite dishes that I often order at Tangawizi. Our second main was Handi Gosht: diced lamb marinated in garlic, chilli and mint then cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices. It came with a pastry topping that was cut open for us to take the meat from inside.
I hadn’t had this before and was a little disappointed in the flavour. Our sides were Baigan Bharta: roasted aubergines sautéed with onion, tomato, garlic and cumin. This is one of my favourite dishes too and this one was nice enough but lacked a little punch. I liked the Dal Makhani that Lesley chose: black lentils gently stewed, dash of cream with garlic and cumin.
It’s always nice to go with other people who choose some different dishes as I find it quite hard to divert from my favourites. Altogether it made a lovely plateful of food.
I enjoyed it but have to say I was a little disappointed. It was all OK, a touch above standard local Indian fare, but not the excellence I’m used to enjoying at Tangawizi. It was however interesting that Colin said they’d been there before and the food had been excellent but he didn’t think the standard was quite the same last night. Maybe it was a different chef in the kitchen. Whatever, it was good to try Swagat at last and I’ll happily go there again, but as for local Indian restaurants, Tangawizi remains my favourite.