Our expert restaurant review of Gul & Sepoy, a new Shoreditch restaurant that’s putting a modern spin on Indian regional cooking.
Gul & Sepoy in a nutshell
An ambitious new restaurant that delivers two different styles of Indian cookery at the same time.
Gul & Sepoy restaurant review
You can’t accuse Harneet and Devina Baweja of resting on their laurels – the duo have launched three restaurants in just two years: the much-praised Gunpowder (offering food inspired by Indian home cooking), followed by Madame D – specialising in Himalayan cuisine – earlier this year and, as of this autumn, Gul & Sepoy, within spitting distance of the other two, on Commercial Street in Spitalfields.
This latest venture is possibly the most ambitious. The name Gul & Sepoy refers to the menu’s two different menus. The Gul section is all about sumptuous flavours and cooking – from wild prawn kalimirch to whole leg of roast kid goat – inspired by the dishes that would have been served in the royal courts of northern India.
The Sepoy (the term for Indian soldiers who served in the British army) menu is more rustic, with an emphasis on the rural cuisines of the south-west coast: think wild garlic chicken skewers, or burnt achari cauliflower and potatoes. Overseeing it all is executive chef Nirval Save, previously responsible for the fêted food at Gunpowder and Madame D.
Inside, Gul & Sepoy has the kind of spare décor that is de rigueur for this trendy section of East London – bare, unfinished walls (here in soft, earthy hues), an oak-panelled bar and plain wooden tables and chairs. If you’re after a long, languorous meal in a plush setting then Gul & Sepoy probably isn’t the restaurant for you – it’s noisy, hectic, and diners on the ground floor are packed in slightly too close together for the space. You may have more luck upstairs, where the marble-topped tables seem more generously dispersed.
The cooking here is precise, with impressively intense flavours that make up for prices that slightly outstrip portion size. Dabba gosht was all soft, tender chunks of mutton, while yam and paneer kofta chaat was a pleasing play of textures; creamy cheese, surprisingly meaty yam and crunchy sev. Potted pig head with blood masala onions was a luscious example of nose-to-tail cooking, while clams in a dry masala were vibrantly fiery, sprinkled with tiny, whole chillies.
A three-bird awadhi korma was a dainty slice of chicken, pheasant and pigeon ballotine bathing in a delicately spiced, nutty korma, while a morel pulao had a spicy kick that contrasted nicely with buttery, crisp rice.
A dessert of rum-soaked dough pillow was like a cross between a rum baba and a gulab jamun; intensely sweet (and perhaps not as boozy as we’d have liked), it came paired with spiced cream and raspberries that provided a welcome note of tartness.
Drinks-wise, we sampled creations from Gul & Sepoy’s concise cocktail menu: an aromatic cardamom and chilli margarita and a passion fruit sour that was beautifully dry and fruity.
Menu must-order at Gul & Sepoy
Don’t miss out on the potted pig head with blood masala onions. Intensely spiced, iron-rich caramelised onions mixed with soft, creamy morsels of rich pork, this was a masterclass in how to elevate humble ingredients into something truly memorable.
Not a misfire as such, but by the time we were half way through my meal I longed for something to mop up all of the delicious sauces on our plates – from that delicate korma to the potted pig’s head (the few prawn crackers served with the latter were demolished within seconds). Offering roti, chapati or naan alongside the menu would not go amiss.
Price range: Small plates range from £6 to £30. Cocktails start at £10.