Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: Gram Bangla

More Bengali Food in Brick Lane

Left to right: biriyani, chicken curry, daal, tomato "tok",
lotar shutki and piazu

Forays into East London are rare for me, given my southeast England base is in Surrey. But I escape when I can, and last weekend I used my freedom to try out another Bangladeshi joint. Gram Bangla in Brick Lane follows a well-known recipe: a basic restaurant space, a little traditional decor, and the day's menu served canteen-style from a counter. The food is the main reason anyone would come here, and so that's what I'll focus on right away. Find yourself a table, drop off your bags and coats, then walk up to the counter to find out what's on offer. There is no written menu to be had, so ask the staff for descriptions of anything you don't recognise. The selection isn't vast (the whole place is half the size of Amar Gaon, my favourite in Brick Lane), but adequate. Between two, we asked for servings of chicken curry, lotar shutki, lamb biriyani, daal and plain rice, while our server also upsold us a plate of piazu.

The food counter (or about two-thirds of it)

We sat back down at our table, grabbing drinks from a fridge on the way. Our food arrived in batches, in a mostly sensible order. The piazu was served with onions and chilli, which I thought was a nice touch, and I've filed the idea away for future salads. It was well spiced, had a hard crunch, and would have been excellent when fresh - a limitation of the canteen format. The biriyani was a similar story - all the right flavours but obviously made a while ago. A better recipe than what I've had in say, Kolapata, but less fresh. It was also very generously meaty - uncommon in any Bangladeshi restaurant that I've visited so far. It was vastly improved by the daal, a mixed grain affair with a lovely cumin-onion shombar. The basic chicken curry was also good - but it was hard to get excited by something I can do better at home. The shutkir lotha was a bit disappointing - quite tasteless despite the generous amounts of prawns and shutki cooked into it. I would guess this is because the actual vegetable is not grown locally, and loses it's potency during import.

The interior

Our meal was satisfying, but I can't get recommend Gram Bangla as a "find" for great, authentic Bangladeshi food as I did for Amar Gaon a few months ago. The food cost £21 with two cans of coke though, so Gram Bangla is definitely the cheaper option if you want a Bangladeshi meal in London. Service wasn't particularly great - I feel like we only got words out of the man at the counter because we spoke Bengali and Sylheti, and even then he wasn't all that interested. It was empty on the Saturday night we visited - this place doesn't serve alcohol and doesn't aim for the weekend party crowd. This is something of a mixed blessing, as you'll definitely get a table, but they won't have bothered to keep the food fresh. I imagine the quality improves during the week, when the target market of local workers and families are more likely to visit. The verdict: consider this a cheap and cheerful lunch spot more than anything else - but be prepared to provide the cheer yourself. 

Food: 6.5/10
Service: 6.5/10
Atmosphere: 6.5/10
Value: 8/10

Final Score: 6.5/10

Contact Information
A: 68 Brick Lane, Shoreditch, London E1 6RL United Kingdom
T: +44 (0)20 7377 6116

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression of the establishment.

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