Red Fort has long been a haunt of moneyed tourists and business diners. It’s a smart ground-floor destination with a basement bar, sandstone walls, a stylish water feature and crisp white linen. A decade ago, the kitchen turned out outstanding regal dishes from Lucknow, but the chef moved on and the cooking has since been given a pan-Indian makeover.
On previous visits, waiters have been reluctant to offer the moderately priced pre-theatre set menu and their aloof manner has done them no favours. Star dishes this time included juicy seekh kebabs made from cumin-spiced lamb mince mixed with onions and seasoned with ginger, green chillies and coriander. Shaped around skewers and cooked over charcoal they made a memorable first course, as did our other starter – but for the wrong reason. Spinach patty cakes, coated in crunchy poppy seeds, were inexplicably stuffed with melted cheddar: a disastrous mash-up of flavours.
A rustic lamb curry to follow made partial amends, with chunks of meat covered in caramelised onion masala, seasoned with coriander seeds, ginger and toasted garlic. However, Red Fort is no longer a leading light for Moghul cooking, and must fight to hold its own among Soho’s dressy restaurants.