We were invited to review Assado, a new Goan restaurant with Portugese and Brazilian influences in Waterloo. We were very excited to try it out, as we have struggled to find good Goan food in London, surprisingly given how on the tourist trail Goa is and how much Britain has embraced Indian food. Assado has a good pedigree as the chef behind it Cyrus Todiwala worked for 21 years in Goa as executive chef at Taj, a luxury group of hotels.
When we walked in the restaurant, it was a casual style eatery with booths and wooden tables. We were brought warm bread to start, although the prices slightly shocked me. If I was paying, I’m not sure I’d be happy being charged £1.50 for a pat of butter! We sipped Laurent Perrier Champagne whilst we waited for our starters and enjoyed our relaxed surroundings.
Starters were beef croquettes, prawn rissoles and beetroot puff. The beef croquettes and prawn rissole were nice enough, it’s hard to go wrong with things that are deep fried although I would prefer more assertive spicing in the beef croquettes, flavours should be dancing across your tongue and there was no dancing happening on mine! The beetroot puff felt a bit pointless, shredded beetroot in puff pastry is not much to write home about.
Mains were lamb xacuti and fish curry accompanied by garlic rice and cheese naan. Fish curry is the staple dish of Goa, most people eat it nearly every day for lunch. It should be a deep red from the rechardo masala (a curry paste that should incorporate dried Kashmiri chillies, vinegar and dried shrimp) giving it a hot and sour flavour. The fish curry that we were served was mild, yellow and coconutty. It was pleasant enough but bore no resemblance to the fish curry that is served in Goa. Equally, the lamb xacuti lacked the depth of flavour that you get from complex spicing and long marinating. The cheese naan reminded me of pizza gone wrong, I don’t think I would order it again. The garlic rice was probably the tastiest dish on the table.
The dessert was a selection including mango and coconut cheesecake that had an oddly soapy flavour almost like perfumed handwash. I left mine and I never leave dessert which should tell you everything you need to know. The best one was the pastel de nata, a custard tart which was thermo-nuclearly hot as if it had been nuked in the microwave.
We spoke to Abigail, the manager, who informed us that that the spicing in the curries had been toned down to suit their international clientele (the restaurant is attached to a Hampton by Hilton hotel). There was also very long waits in between courses, our meal there took nearly 3 hours, although again Abigail explained that the kitchen was under a lot of pressure as many large tables had arrived at once and the head chef was away. Sadly, I think our search for authentic Goan food in London continues.