Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, London, WC2R 0JJ

A few weeks ago, we had the chance to head to Daawat, the Indian restaurant at The Strand Palace Hotel, which has launched a new summer sharing menu designed to encourage a relaxed and informal dining experience.

With the dishes all inspired by the traditional homemade cooking of chef Asharaf Valappil’s Kerala, the new menu includes traditional dishes with a home-style twist with vibrant colours, homemade spice pastes and spiced chutneys made every day by Valappil and his team.  The spiced chutneys were, by far, the best thing we tried all night.

We started with the Balla Papri Chat – a cold lentil dumpling with Indian papril pastry, mint, ginger chutney and sweet yoghurt. Although the spices worked well together, the dumpling was slightly soft and soggy.  A slightly disappointing start to the meal.

The pork vindaloo is made with slow cooked pork with freshly ground spices and chilli. Although the combination of the spices worked well on the pallet, and were a delicious combination, the vindaloo lacked that real heat and fire that you expect from a vindaloo – leaving not even a light tingling on the gums.

The Tandoori Salmon, cooked in one of the two traditional Tandoor ovens that sit pride of place in the kitchen, was marinated with dill, ginger, yoghurt, lime and served with a homemade grape chutney. Again, the marinade was tasty, and although I was sceptical about the grape chutney it really did work. However, as seemed to be the common theme with most of the dishes during the night, the salmon was slightly dry which gave the dish a slightly disappointing note.

The crispy calamari, however, was a hit. Calamari koliwada is crispy fried calamari tossed in pomegranate and passion fruit glaze. Again, the idea of such fruity flavours with the calamari worked better than I thought it could, and the squid was perfectly crisp and not at all rubbery.

There were lots of other dishes as well, including a Duck Mappas and a Beef Pepper Masala. The lavender crème brulee finished the meal off and, in the words of my fellow diners, a subtle lavender flavour with a satisfying’tap to crack’ topping.

For those looking for a quick lunch, the Express Thali lunch menu offers two courses for £9.95, or try the pre-theatre dinner option from £18 from two courses and £22 for three. When we tried the dishes, they were brand new to the menu and have continued the tasting and development since.

The new summer menu is available now.