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Sitaaray (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of Sitaaray in West End, London

167 Drury Lane, Holborn, West End, London, WC2B 5PG
Cuisine: Indian
Tel: 020 7269 6422 | Email to Sitaaray | Transport: Covent Garden | Write review

Sitaaray Review

Best for: Indian all-you-can-eat; pre/post-theatre curry.

Great: Indian dining with a twist; North Indian kebabs; value for money in the West End.

If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film, here’s the plot to just about all of them:

A handsome, clean-cut gent from Bombay seemingly has everything: health; wealth; a fabulous singing voice; an endless supply of shiny satin shirts. But he is without true love. Cue the entrance of our heroine: a stunning beauty with flowing black hair; big brown eyes and blindingly white teeth; she exchanges glances with our hero and, quick song-and-dance later, they are in love.

The course of true love never runs smoothly, however, and between our protagonists lies an obstacle: often a disapproving father with an intimidating moustache; sometimes (for no apparent reason) members of the criminal underworld, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that, about 20 minutes from the end, as our heroine weeps melodramatically into her pillow and our hero glares angrily into the mid-distance, it seems like their romance is doomed. Ultimately though, there is nothing that can’t be solved by a series of glitzy song-and-dance routines in a few choice locations (around a city centre fountain, between the trees on a river bank, on top of a train), and eventually, our lovers are united, their affections manifested in a joyous closing duet and (in the more daringly erotic films) a quick hug.

Yep, it’s pretty easy for western audiences to mock Bollywood films, even (make that ‘especially’) for people of Indian heritage like me. In truth, however, they are no less contrived, predictable and ludicrously escapist than the average Richard Curtis rom-com or Bruckheimer-style action film. We can scoff all we want, but in Britain we revel in this kind of formulaic distraction as much as anyone else.

It is even apparent in our dining habits. ‘Going for an Indian’, for example, should be an opportunity to treat our tastebuds to the rich and varied culinary culture of the subcontinent. Instead, it is often just part of the routine for a night on the beers. It scarcely matters which restaurant we go to. The menus are pretty much the same, and we usually know what we’re going to order before we even look at them: poppadoms to start, followed by any curry between korma and vindaloo depending on how hot we like it, sides of naans and rice, lager to drink, et cetera, et cetera. Ostensibly something exotic and exciting, it is in reality an experience we accord all the gastronomic appreciation that we would a McOffal burger from the local fast-food shit-in-a-box merchant.

It is therefore always a delight to visit an Indian restaurant, like Theatreland’s Sitaaray, that tries something different.

With a Bollywood theme, the suitably glaring Technicolor interior is laden, ceiling to floor, with movie posters, pictures of Bollywood stars and flat-screen TVs showing DVDs of genre classics.

As a dining experience, however, Sitaaray is a far less formulaic than the films it celebrates. Other than the broad selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails listed, the menu is largely for reference only. For the starters at least, your choice is simply vegetarian or non-vegetarian. What follows is a thick, fast and extremely tasty procession of nine Northern Indian dishes from the grill. A mix of the familiar (samosas, dhal, tikka masala) and the original (fish tikkas in mint paste, crispy stuffed potatoes, grilled chicken in spicy beetroot marinade), the quality, and combined quantity of the dishes are impressive given the modest price. At the end of the procession, diners are given the option to re-order any of the dishes they particularly liked, although anyone who does so and still maintains plans for a main course and dessert either has a metabolism faster than a racehorse or weighs as much as one.

Unfortunately, following this spectacular opening sequence, the main courses represented a distinct dip in quality before the rasmalai and carrot halva desserts gave our Bollywood meal a suitably happy ending. Though decent, the mains were just anticlimactically bland, as if the chef had used up all creativity on the first course and was just going through the motions for the rest of the meal.

For this reason, Sitaaray isn’t going to compete with the likes of Chutney Mary for the position London’s best Indian restaurant any more than any Bollywood flick is going to rival the likes of Pather Panchali or Salaam Bombay for the title of greatest Indian film. However, like the industry it celebrates, Sitaaray still represents a joyous, flamboyant expression of Indian culture, and a welcome challenge to the tedious predictability of the average ‘Indian’. If nothing else, it is worth the visit for the starters alone. more

Customer Reviews for Sitaaray

Average (based on 11 votes): 11 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Sitaaray.

“They've really made the effort to bring a bit of bollywood magic to this place. It's certainly different to the average indian restaurant and i've eaten in about 1,000. Its pretty cheap too, good value for money. The lassie cocktails were sooo nice too. The fluid review about the plot for bollywood films was spot on btw!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Asif, Hendon (10 years 28 days ago)

“After shifting to London I hardly went out to eat India food. Once one of my friend invited me for her birthday at Sitaaray and I simply loved it.Just reminded me of food back in India. Sitaaray in London is a boon for all the Indians. Simply authentic Indian Food. A must try!!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Kate Mark, London (10 years 2 months 22 days ago)

“My husband took me for a surprise anniversary dinner to Sitaaray restaurant. That was the first time I had visited the restaurant and I absolutely loved it.The staff is so generous and made me feel special. Am not a big fan of Indian food and especially curries, but this dinner changed my opinion, i liked the kebabs a lot... That was just a perfect anniversary gift I could get.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Rosy Ameen, London (10 years 2 months 22 days ago)

Show all user reviews for Sitaaray

“This was actually my second time at this wonderful restaurant. I have to say that I was not disappointed. The meal was absolutely amazing”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Douglas, covent garden (11 years 6 months ago)

“This is a truly magical restaurant. The expertise of the chefs is something to be cherished. Sitaaray is an experience to savor for a long time. The quality is well worth the expense, for a very special occasion. They treated us like royalty.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
James, Manchester (11 years 8 months 8 days ago)

“Excellent, the portions seemed to be good in size in the Special Lunch menu and the overall effect was satisfying and good value at £16.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Londoner, covent garden (11 years 9 months 12 days ago)

“Sitaaray felt like a Bollywood film set . Food was wonderful and the service was really good”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
[ Unknown ], London (11 years 10 months 11 days ago)

“Sitaaray once again lived up to expectations, excellent meal in a great atmosphere”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
/londoner, London (12 years 19 days ago)

“I went with my work team to Sitaary and had a brilliant night. The food was excellent.. would definitely go back.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Londoner, London (12 years 4 days ago)

“If you are looking for good food at reasonable price then Sitaaray is a good bet.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Ben_Colland, London (12 years 6 months 21 days ago)

“Decor very bollywood, interesting chandeliers and cosy little booth style tables. Loved all the bollywood pictures. Set 9 course meal, the food started off promising, with delicious chutneys and poppodums, followed by the first couple of chicken starters, which were very tasty. After this the food that followed was all down hill for me. The lamb looked slightly uncooked, lacked flavour. The main course very disappointing. Chicken curry not spicy enough. Dessert was tasty and there is variety. For me personally this place is over-hyped, it is not value for money, and though it has the bollywood feel about the place, the food lacks the bollywood vibe. Service received was friendly enough. If you want good proper indian food, then I would recommend you don't go here.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
rani, london (13 years 2 months 16 days ago)

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The Great Indian Grill features all you can eat authentic Indian Kababs brought hot off the Tandoor to your table along with popaddams and chutneys, lentils, curries and accompaniments.

Recipes from the fabled kitchens of Oudh prepared by a descendent of the traditional chefs of the royal family. 'galouti' and 'kakori' kebabs are famous for their melt in the mouth uniqueness. With a frequently changing menu, it's the Chefs who are your hosts and serve you as much as your heart desires for £18 per head at dinner.

Updated 22/03/2007

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