The Keralan cooking at this neighbourhood gem doesn’t disappoint – the food outshines its simple surroundings, so don’t be distracted by the unassuming décor. Dishes are seasoned with a harvest from India’s spice gardens, delivering the likes of explosive chilli heat, nutty mustard seeds, fragrant curry leaves and toasty peppercorns. You may never look at your pepper mill in the same way again.
We skipped the starters and headed straight to the main dishes. A sea-bass fillet, steeped in lime juice and cloaked in a paste of softened onions and gingery tomatoes, was wrapped in a banana leaf and flash-fried until cooked just so. Unwrapped at the table, our parcel unleashed a puff of spiced aromatic steam - beachside cooking in the heart of Hammersmith never tasted so good. The chilli-heat dial was turned to maximum for chemmeen mulakittathu - juicy prawns, simmered in a tomato-mustard seed masala, sharpened with a kick of tamarind. The result was a perfectly honed set of flavours melding into a first-class curry.
Meaty masalas share top billing with fish and seafood. Our erachi mappas featured tender lamb morsels in a smooth onion and coconut milk sauce, spiced with black peppercorns, warming cinnamon and green chillies. Its soupy masala made a marvellous match with saucer-like appams – spongy pancakes made from fermented ground rice and coconut-milk batter.
Dining here is a bargain – a set lunch of substantial curries and accompaniments will give you change from a tenner. Vegetarians are well looked after: we recommend the thorans – coconutty stir-fries. Shilpa feels like an outpost of southern tropical warmth and provides welcome relief from the street outside.