Food & Drink
Outside of Delhi social restaurant

Delhi Social: Twickenham gains a brand new authentic Indian Restaurant

Flavours that transcend beyond geography, with due diligence of panache and flair in presentation without sacrificing the substance of dishes, and hospitality that makes you feel at home: Delhi Social at Twickenham has arrived and certainly made its mark.

Delhi Social opened its doors to diners in mid-December 2023, soft-launching with the promise of authentic Indian Food from the food capital of India: Delhi.

The restaurant’s head chef and owner Manish Sharma, 41, who previously worked at London restaurants like Tamarind, Kahani, Copper Chimney and Black Salt, has finally decided to start his own restaurant.

The restaurant claims to serve authentic Indian food and has been on Sharma’s mind since he started his culinary journey in London after training professionally in India.

Sharma says: ” I wanted to bring a bit of Delhi here and I’ve learnt a lot about the business from my previous workplaces and I really wanted to make something myself. 

“So we saved up a lot over the past few years and opened up this restaurant.”

The opening for the restaurant has been a long time coming according to manager and business partner Avi Patel, 35, who formed a connection with chef Sharma from their last place of work.

On a Friday evening after drinks with colleagues, I arrived for an eight o’clock dinner reservation.

Upon entering, the venue and ambiance was fresh with botanical elements and music that wasn’t garishly loud or obnoxious, already a great sign for me. 

Seated near the faux balcony area inside, surrounded by ornate décor and walls with beautifully stencilled patterns, I was immediately greeted by the Manager, Avi, a great conversationalist.

When looking at the drinks menu, I immediately steered my attention towards the cocktails section.

The flavours of Indian street food had made its way into the cocktail menu as well.

From the Delhi Style Mojito, which mimics the slightly spiced lemonades one can find on the streets of Delhi, to Ek Cutting martini which is a Chai based martini with vanilla vodka. 

Tamarind whiskey sour

However, in the end I gave in to my bias for all things whiskey and got myself the Tamarind Whiskey Sour.

It was strong, but harmoniously balanced in sweetness and tartness.

Patel, who had a huge hand in the recipe development of the cocktails, said: “We have tried and tested many variations of flavour profiles to make cocktails that are balanced but also pack a punch.”

The menu consists of small plates, tandoori (grilled) dishes, a limited selection of curries, biryanis, breads and accompaniments such as pickles/chutneys/aachars, and also has signs to show which dishes are the chef’s favourites, a nice personal touch.

The prices were decent as they were just a bit above curry house/takeaway prices, and they certainly reflect the quality care and thoughtfulness that went into the dishes, the curation, the venue and the welcoming customer service.

Head chef Sharma would make the effort to come out of the kitchen every once in a while and speak to his guests at each table, which adds an extra level of personal touch.

Upon closer observation of the menu, the small plates and snacks are exactly the kind of food that you would find from Delhi street vendors.

Another great sign was the selection of curries in the menu.

Although the selections were limited, it was clear from the descriptions that each curry had very different flavour profiles to offer. 

From crowd-pleasers such as Murg Makhni (butter chicken) to the vegetarian options such as Kathal ki sabzi (jackfruit curried veg) to curries that are rarely seen in mainstream menus such as Rara Gosht (a very underrated lamb curry), the variety was certainly there.

My strategy for the menu was to try and get a mix of mainstream and lesser known dishes, where I would make sure I at least got: a seafood dish, a veg dish, a chicken dish and a lamb dish.

I am my father’s daughter, and if I didn’t order the ever so comforting Aaloo Tikki Chaat (spicy potato patty with condiments) from the menu, I’m sure he would’ve found a way to be very disappointed.

I also got the poppadoms with three different chutneys, Aachari Kekda (shoftshell crab), the Chicken Chop, an order of Garlic Naan, Methi Murg (fenugreek chicken curry), Rara Gosht (lamb curry with minced lamb gravy), Dal Makhni (Butter Dal made with black lentils).

Ordering some simple/popular dishes like Dal, whether it’s Tarka Dal, Yellow Dal or Dal Makhni, serves as a great indicator for the true essence of the establishment.

When the simple or more popular dishes are done to perfection, there is high hopes for the rest of the menu.

This sentiment rang true for the Dal Makni, which was rich, creamy, and very comforting, and dare I say, puts Dishoom’s black dal to shame.

There is not much to say about the garlic naan, as it was well made and it was my chosen vessel for the curries during dinner.

Seeing Methi Murgh (Chicken curry cooked with fenugreek) on the menu incited joy within me as it is rarely given the star-power that it deserves in Indian menus.

The dish was creamy but light, with the savoury-sweetness of the tomato gravy and the subtle earthiness of the fenugreek made for a perfectly more-ish bite; a much better alternative to try than the usual butter chicken, which I find can be heavy at times.

But what blew me away truly was the Rara Gosht, which was a succulent leg of lamb curry where the meat was tender to the spoon, and the gravy certainly did not fall short as it consisted of minced lamb throughout and the dish was slightly spicy and rich with its meaty tomato base. 

The Aaloo Tikki Chaat arrived packed with explosive flavours, with sweetness and tanginess from the tamarind sauce, and freshness from the yogurt and the green mint and coriander sauce, which cut down the richness of the thick potato patty.

The Papads (poppadoms) were a great start to the meal, with their cumin-ny goodness, but the accolades for this dish would have to go to the three chutneys that came with them: a sweet mango chutney with basil and nigella seeds, a smokey and savory red tomato/pepper sauce, and a raw mango Aachar (pickle) with it’s spicy, sour and mustardy flavour, that reminds me exactly how my grandmother would make it.

Emerging from the flames of the tandoor, the Chicken Chop was tender, with bright flavors of fresh garlic, ginger and chilli marinade, and paired sublimely with the spiced pickle onions and the mint and coriander chutney.

The presentation of this was unique and was made to look like it was a chicken thai in the shape of a lamb chop.

Chef Sharma said: “I wanted to provide personal touches to my dishes with unique ways of presenting them but also keep the essence of the real food that I grew up with. 

“I’m confident that people will love this because this is different from what they may see elsewhere”

But the real star of the show for me was the Aachari Kekda, where the crab came deep fried with a delicate but crispy exterior on a bed of crispy rice puff, and paired with a prawn pickle condiment (aachar). 

The presentation of this dish was stunning to say the least as it mimicked a pebbly coast.

Regardless, when the dish arrived I was slightly concerned about the deep fried nature of the crab as it may have the tendency to be too greasy or over-cooked and rubbery; But I was so elated that I was proven wrong.

The crab was cooked to perfection, it was crisp, delicate and moist and the pairing of the mustard-seed-forward prawn pickle balanced out the plate exquisitely, where the acidity and spice cut down the richness of the deep-fried crustacean.

When next in Twickenham, Delhi Social is certainly the place to be as I was left nothing short of impressed.

A solid 4.5/5 stars.

*Dinner paid by writer

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