Less a restaurant, more a grab-it-and-go joint, Soho’s Pilau is the realised dream of friends George Pitkeathley and Ollie Norman, son of Polpo owner Russell Norman. Don’t expect Venetian cicchetti, though; Pilau’s style is Indian street food wraps, inspired by the co-owners’ trip to India last summer.
‘We stumbled across these amazing night markets in Mumbai,’ says Ollie. ‘They were open from 1-4am and we had excellent chicken tikka wraps there… we didn’t want to copy what they did – it was more a case of being influenced by what we ate – so we came home and came up with our own filling ideas.’
Here’s the concept: pick a size (try as we might, ‘the big one’ was too much for us); a filling – butter chicken, lamb and marrow, or spiced paneer –; four toppings – lettuce, red onion, fresh chillies, slaw, pickled ginger and shoestring bhaji – and a combo of sauces, including a chutney, mint and coriander yoghurt, and very spicy chilli. Oh, and there’s a portion of fluffy pilau rice in every wrap, too.
But despite all that food, a Pilau wrap isn’t as filling as you might think… ‘They’re nothing like burritos,’ says Ollie. ‘We’re keen to differentiate ourselves from them!’ It’s not a mountain of rice, and there are no beans in there – which leaves extra room for all those sides (ask nicely, and they might chuck in an extra filling for free). Don’t miss out on the fresh mango chutney, made lighter and more interesting with the addition of apricot. The paneer, though lacking heat, was pillowy soft and enrobed in a rich, creamy pea curry sauce, a wonderful match with sweet chutney, sharp pickled ginger and crunchy strips of bhaji.
Avoid the lunchtime rush if possible (you won’t fit through the door) and if you fancy sitting in, there are a few tables with stylish yellow banquettes, and what looks like the contents of someone’s weekend food shop, artfully arranged on the side (it works). There aren’t any desserts, but you can grab a cold drink – and every wrap comes with a free Fox’s mint.
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