I'd been to Gifto's once before about 5 years back, tagging along on a business trip with my dad and I didn't find the food matching the amazing atmosphere that comes with being a proper Indian curry institution in London. I'd always thought much more highly of nearby Amjad Karahi, our family staple a few doors down...always less packed full of people but more than compensated by the excellent, authentic Pakistani curry dishes.
So it was with some trepidation that we returned to Gifto's. The first thing that sprang to mind was that the decor had undergone a pretty major overhaul. Gone were the old skool, round, white clothed tables favoured by most traditional Indian/Chinese restaurants, in were new, snazzy long tables (it's the trendy thing these days, y'know) with booths either side.
On to the food.
This visit was a major improvement on the last. We first ordered a mixed grill platter, consisting of lamb chops, seekh kebab, diced lamb and chicken tikka. All were excellent, particularly the diced lamb and the chicken tikka, which were excellently spiced and succulent to taste. For me, the seekh kebab at Raavi's on Drummond Street is still the king, but this one ran it closest out of the others I've tasted in London.
Next up for me was Karahi chicken:
This was also perfectly spiced, with lots of thick strips of ginger (I'm a big fan of this in Indian cooking) and really tender chicken pieces. It was quite heavy as you can probably see from the pic, but I was really impressed with the way this dish was cooked, and I would definitely say in this case that it was superior to any I've had in London before.
As an accompaniment for these dishes, we ordered some Peshwari naan. This Peshwari naan for me was just about as good as it gets! It was the highlight of the meal for me...it was just perfectly sweet with the taste of the various nuts (especially the pistachio) coming through beautifully over the warm, buttered bread. Amazing!
Mrs Mowgli had the butter chicken:
You can just about see the massive lump of butter melting into the dish...a nice touch I thought, definitely sets the tone for the rich, creamy curry that followed. This butter chicken was good, but I found that it didn't have enough tomato flavour in it, compared to the dishes that you find in India (particularly in Moti Mahal and Punjabi by Nature) or in Khan's in Bayswater, which is the best butter chicken in London in my book.
The other dish that I did try was my mum's Methi (Fenugreek) chicken, which was again really tasty. It was a shame that we didn't get to try any of the vegetarian dishes. Those dishes were the dishes that really shone at nearby Amjad Karahi and it would have been good to have a direct comparison. I'll just have to go back to try it again!
Finally, for dessert I had a mango kulfi, which was pretty standard out of the tub stuff. I suppose it's too much to ask for the delicious, home-made authentic kulfi's that you get in Dishoom in Covent Garden but it was still nice and refreshing to have at the end of the meal.
Overall, I really enjoyed it despite my trepidation from the previous visit. It was a huge improvement though and I would definitely go back. As it is a Southall institution it was quite loud and crowded with loads of kids running between the tables but for me this is part of the experience of eating at an Indian restaurant and I wouldn't have it any other way! This is the atmosphere that I love in Southall. Probably not great for a special occasion for two (or a business lunch!) but definitely really good for a big family outing or to introduce friends to Pakistani/Indian cooking.