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Hazara – the source of authentic sauces

Chefs go the extra mile at well-established neighbourhood restaurant

23 March, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

No shortcuts for Hazara – ‘We want everything to be authentic,’ says the restaurant’s host

IF only terrific cooking was enough to run a buzzing restaurant. But the reality – especially in this digital age – is far more complex. Online reviews from TripAdvisor and Google now wield serious clout. Restaurant owners ignore them at their peril.

If you search for Hazara, an Indian place in Belsize Lane, you’ll soon see how much screen time is involved.

Chef-owners Imran Khan and Felix Peter Fernandes reply in person to every single review.

One customer raves about the easy access (only two steps!) for his 92-year-old aunt.

Another mistakes their business for a Greek restaurant nearby.

An especially fastidious diner even marks his experience under 10 criteria, including the “Restaurant mood setting”.

Mercifully, feedback is mostly highly positive. “PROBABLY THE BEST CURRY EVER” shouts one happy customer.

Hazara is a well-established neighbourhood restaurant where the chefs go the extra mile.

Tandoori duck, dumplings and grilled long aubergines are among the more unusual dishes.

House specials include Lal Maas from Rajasthan, a classic preparation of lamb braised with chillies, yoghurt, onion, garlic and tempered fenugreek seeds.

The restaurant is located in the cosy enclave of Belsize Village and changed ownership a year-and-a-half ago.

Décor is reasonably smart, with black wooden tables, pale green walls and a small curved bar in one corner.

The worry with some high street Indian restaurants is that the dishes can look and taste strangely similar. This is often due to the use of food colourings and one-pot cooking, where a mother vat of cooked meat in generic sauce is used as a base for many curries.

From the first mouthful here, it was clear Hazara eschews such shortcuts.

The mango chutney was spiked with onion seed for extra flavour; a tamarind sauce mixed with homemade chilli paste to add oomph.

Our bhel puri, a snacky street food, was on point – an explosion of crunchy textures from puffed rice, pomegranate seeds, diced cucumber and onion. When served fresh, it’s hard to beat; left to go soggy it’s mildly disgusting.

Among the more exotic starters were rings of piping hot battered squid, shiny with a ginger tamarind glaze and scattered with curry leaves.

A chicken biryani was rather special, too, cooked the old-fashioned way with layers of meaty sauce and basmati rice gently spiced with cardamom, mace, sandalwood and rose petals.

“We want everything to be authentic. All the dishes, all the sauces are different,” explains our host.

Hazara has been mentioned in the Michelin Guide since 2015.

It’s often busy at weekends, but weekdays can be more of a struggle. The place was far from full when we visited.

Service is attentive and prices not cheeky. (Veggie dishes average £6-8; meaty mains £10-14).

If you enjoy Indian cuisine, Hazara is a cut above most of the local competition.

They also offer takeaway via Deliveroo.

The owners here are working hard to keep up with the times.

I hate to say it, but perhaps an Instagram account would help, too.

Hazara
44 Belsize Lane, NW3
020 7433 1147
www.hazararestaurant.com

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