Something has been troubling me and I had no other choice than to bring in a guest. Many months ago Josh and I dined in a West London vegetarian restaurant. I was underwhelmed by the Indian food and have not been inspired to write a review about our experience.
Although much time has passed, Josh kindly agreed to write his first ever blog entry and has recounted our night at Sagar in Hammersmith as a FGV guest contributor. Take it away, Josh.
Sagar is a chain of South Indian vegetarian restaurants with four branches in central and suburban London. While they use yoghurt and paneer, each restaurant has a dedicated menu for vegan patrons as well as separate menus for those avoiding wheat/gluten, nuts and onion or garlic.
On a cold, winter evening, FGV and I braved the London chill and ventured to the Hammersmith branch in west London. The staff were friendly and attentive and seemed pleased when we requested the vegan menu. The vegan menu is pretty sizeable and it seemed that almost all of the dishes were either vegan by default or could be adapted to be so. I was told that they use vegetable oil rather than ghee in their curries so that helps.
Shortly after sitting down we were brought the obligatory pappadams with chutneys/dips. The server pointed out that one of the dips contained yoghurt. Although I was happy he pointed this out, it would have been better had it not been part of the selection in the first place.
First up we ordered some Medu Vada – savoury Indian doughnuts for £3.95. These came with two dipping sauces – sambar, a thin lentil broth and a thick, creamed coconut chutney. The vada were crispy on the outside and soft and perfectly cooked on the inside with a slight chili kick. Although the vada were good by themselves, I wasn’t blown away by the dips and didn’t think they were flavoursome enough to really complement the dish.
For our main course we ordered the Vegan Thali for £14.95: a large platter with rice, multiple curries, salad, a poori and another pappadam for good measure. The selection included chickpea, okra, potato/pea and aubergine curres plus a few more I can’t quite remember but from the picture you can see that there was quite a variety. The curries were varied – some were rich and tasty while others were a bit disappointing. They were all pretty spicy which I loved but the FGV recoiled a little bit (but regular readers will know that he has since regained his love of chilis… especially chipotles). The accompanying poori bread was fantastic – oily and chewy… just how I like them.
For drinks, we shared a Limbu Pani – Sagar‘s homemade lemonade for £1.95. This was excruciatingly sweet but a perfect partner for rich and spicy curries.
Overall, I was pleased with my meal but not exactly jumping up and down with excitement about it. I thought that some of the dishes didn’t really pack much flavour and relied too heavily on chili which is a shame because Indian food can be so much more than that. It’s also not that cheap. I’m not really sure why the vegan thali is the most expensive of all the thalis on their menu… especially when the non-vegan ones also include a dessert? From their website it looks like they do some good lunch deals but in my opinion there is cheaper and better vegan Indian food available in London. I won’t be hurrying to Sagar in central London because there are so many other options but out in the western suburbs it’s good to know that Sagar is an option that while not cheap and not outstanding, will definitely fill you up!