Spitalfields, another one of London’s up and coming areas that might bring words like ‘hipster’, ‘trendy’ or ‘swanky’ to mind. All three certainly came to mind when I entered Madame D’s, along with the word ‘dark’, because at night it gets very dark here, as you enter what appears to be an underground drinking den.
How I came to discover this hidden treasure of a diner was ironically through Instagram, where mouth-watering posts of sauce covered aubergines and thick puffs of pastry enticed my scroll thumb to hit follow (after hammering the like button). Then there’s the intriguing story of Madame D herself, who according to captions (and legend), was driven out of China, struggling through Tibet (with opium) before reaching India, where she would then pay to be smuggled (again with opium) to London!
So imagine how I felt after being seduced with this gorgeous tale of two rich cultures and an epic heroine, when the restaurant where she is now based is a dark and trendy pub in East London leading to the dark and somewhat empty restaurant upstairs!
Where is the Himalayan culture?!
That being said, times have changed, Madame D was I assume many years ago (or made up) and the atmosphere (with help from their very cool nu jazz playlist) was still pretty darn cool.
Now for the food, and its common knowledge that foodies and food bloggers always spend the first 5 to 10 minutes taking pictures of the food for memories and content. But when you have the dimmest of lights and only two candles to play with, this joy becomes a mission, and any sort of discretion we were trying to maintain was finished, in other words, come here at daytime.
However, once eating the food, all was forgiven in seconds, and I will explain why.
The Naga chilli beef puffs, arguably the face and signature dish of this restaurant, is formed with some of the most amazing dough I‘ve eaten in my pastry history due to its soft, carbed and pillowy texture, with a hint of onion for taste. Plus the blended beef filling added a meaty kick in the taste buds. Though boldly priced at £3.50 per dumpling, it’s well worth buying just the one, although I doubt you’d stop there!
Then came the Himalayan fried chicken, similar to Japanese fried chicken (karaage) but with a calmer taste and softer texture, making it better and not better at the same time … if that makes any sense? Still a great contender for the Japanese. The momos (Nepalese dumplings) were another highlight in this menu, donning thick, succulent pastry skins and stuffed with quality pork or veg. But the trick to these plumps of dough were the umami punching sauce adding so much vibrancy to the appearance and taste, creating an explosion of mouth-watering flavour. The same can be said for the stuffed aubergine, masala beef ribs and the Tibetan pan fried duck leg, though the duck leg was a dry disappointment while the beef ribs were melt in your mouth, slide off the bone magic, and then the sour cream sauce just blew it off the charts making it my personal favourite of the menu. Literal side note- these all go well with some vegetable fried rice… as a side.
The tiffin masala lamb noodles with fried egg was another favourite of ours due to the soft noodles working oh so well with the tender pieces of minced lamb and still boasting good flavour, plus a kick from the masala, no need for the egg.
Finally, being a fan of toffee and ginger, I ordered myself the anise seeds sticky toffee pudding with stem ginger ice cream. The toffee pudding was stodgy, which made it great, and the texture worked well with the smooth ginger ice cream including the crunchy, zingy ginger stems. It was a very sweet and spicy pudding, so order with caution, unless you have a sweet tooth.
Madame D is a great little place serving expertly cooked dishes deluged in amazing flavours of sauce. It might be a little pricey, dimly lit and lacking cultural aesthetics, plus it wasn’t the nicest feeling in the world being given the bill just to open up a spare table for the waiting punters downstairs. But I would still come back here, because I can now say that this restaurant has made me a fan of Himalayan food. I really hope they expand their menu with dishes just as exciting as the ones I had!