A review of the Colonel Saab vegan menu, created in celebration of Veganuary.
Just a stone’s throw away from Holborn tube station, Colonel Saab is a modern Indian restaurant located in the former Holborn Town Hall.
Stepping into Colonel Saab feels like stepping into a museum. The decor has been curated by hotelier Roop Partap Choudhary as a “love letter” to his family and India. It is absolutely beautiful and filled with captivating collectables, artefacts and art pieces, each one with its own story.
This is quite a large restaurant, set over two levels, with the first-floor mezzanine overlooking the main dining room.
An antique bar, made by Asprey for the Maharaja of Patiala, greets diners on arrival. We were seated in the main dining room lit up by a canopy of ornate chandeliers from Firozabad. 17th and 18th century Tanjore paintings and handwoven Persian silk carpets adorn the walls and precious decanters and crockery from the palace of the Maharaja of Faridkot shimmer in cabinets.
The opulent decor is filled with eclectic Indian art and artefacts collected by Choudhary’s family on their travels. The restaurant is named after his father, Colonel Manbeer, who was in the army and was given the honorific name ‘Colonel Saab’.
“My father’s decorated career led to postings across India, tasting an array of delicious and varied regional food, from traditional local lunches in the tents of Rajasthan to British-inspired Indian breakfasts in the Officers’ Mess and stunning banquets hosted by Indian nobility and Maharajas. Travelling with them as a child taught me so much about different ways of life in India and the powerful role food plays.
I wanted to celebrate these diverse cultures and introduce the capital to the authentic flavours and textures, which are lovingly prepared at homes, street markets and royal kitchens across India.”
Choudhary spent a year retracing his father’s footsteps across India by train, bus and car with Indian food royalty, Karen Anand from Dishoom, to curate contemporary twists on dishes passed down through the generations of people they met, with many regional specialities appearing for the first time on a London menu.
Colonel Saab Vegan Menu
In celebration of Veganuary, we were invited to try the Colonel Saab vegan menu.
It is worth noting that Colonel Saab’s regular menu includes some vegetarian and vegan options. However, for Veganuary the restaurant offers a completely separate menu with a selection of three appetisers, four main courses and two desserts.
Dinner started with a bang, thanks to some amazing starters: jackfruit thepla with pickled onion and cilantro chutney; Indian crisps fried snack platter with onion bhajia, spinach and kale crisp, and samosa; and also a red quinoa salad with edamame beans, orange segment, and rocket leaves.
All three dishes were beautifully presented and mouth-watering. My favourite was the Indian crisps fried snack platter with onion bhajia, spinach and kale crisp, and samosa. Innovative and flavoursome, the vegetables were fried in a light batter and the plate was filled with contrasting textures and delightful flavours.
The quinoa salad was unexpected for an Indian restaurant. It is tossed in a lightly spiced vinaigrette and brought a refreshing end to our first courses.
Following on, we shared two main courses: soya masala infused with Indian spices; and chana masala with kulcha and lemon chilli pickle.
The chana masala was nice but slightly too spicy for my taste but I really enjoyed the hearty soya masala infused with Indian spices. Cooked in a rich and fragrant tomato sauce, the soya chunks had a really satisfying bite.
Having had quite a delectable meal so far, dessert came as something of a disappointment. The coconut and blueberry rice phirni was simply an uninspired addition to the menu. The vegan chocolate cake served with red wine poached pears and almond cream was just too dense.
After a really enjoyable start, it felt like the Colonel Saab vegan menu had run out of steam once we reached desserts.
Looking at the restaurant’s everyday dessert menu, I feel it would have been better if they had veganised some of their regular dishes, as the rice phirni and vegan chocolate cake did not do justice to the meal.
Still, Colonel Saab is definitely worth a visit and not only for its unique and eclectic decor. The food is vibrant and flavoursome and the service is extremely friendly which made for a very enjoyable evening.
Colonel Saab is running a special offer for Veganuary, with 50% off the vegan menu on Monday and Tuesday and 30% off on Wednesday to Saturday until the end of the month.
Holborn Town Hall,
193-197 High Holborn,
London, WC1V 7BD