An Irreverent Name and an Unusual Formula

Holy Cow an Indian take-away with a difference

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Indian Restaurants in Hammersmith


With an irreverent name and an unusual formula, Holy Cow, a take-away chain is doing brisk business in Hammersmith. With seven other branches in London, head chef and co-owner Sanjiv Ghimri takes personal pride in running the King Street branch.

A spin-off from the Bombay bi-cycle club where Sanjiv worked, he and three other friends decided to start this Indian take-away chain with just one small outfit in Putney. Chef Sanjiv teamed up with Kul Achara, an entrepreneur and two other friends with skills in take-away logistics and the restaurant business to set up Holy Cow a strictly different type of Indian take-away.

For one, the chain uses recipes from all over India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangla-Desh making the variety on the menu non-stereotypical. So you may find your favourite Tarka Dal and Rogan Josh but you will also find Sherpa Chicken a Nepalese delicacy and Chicken Madurai a spicy south Indian speciality from Chettinaad.

The other reason this take-away is different is that it does not emphasize speed of delivery – in fact quite the contrary. You are advised to order at least an hour before you want delivery. The average order takes an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. The reason is simple no dish is pre-prepared and shoved into plastic containers. Every order is prepared as soon as it comes in with fresh ingredients and absolutely no artificial flavours and colouring – so you may wonder why the red-hot curries are not so red and more flavourful than hot.

My Japanese flat-mate and I decided to have a quiet Friday night in as she had made the big decision to move back to Japan. So we decided to catch up and have a quiet evening – Holy Cow is my favourite take-away so I decided to treat her to what I consider a really authentic home-cooked meal (without me being the home cook!).

I ordered a mixed meat kebab for two as a starter, and as I know unusually for a Japanese that she does not particularly like fish, I ordered some vegetarian samosas and vegetable pakoras with garlic naan and peshwari naan to accompanyr the meats.
Having never ordered for more than myself the odd biryani or bread and a vegetarian or meat side-dish, when the food arrived, we realised that the portions were so generous that we could have stopped with the starters – especially since a box of papaddoms compliments of the house were sent with the box of starters.

With two bags of mains that we had ordered on the table with the bottle of red wine we had bought from the supermarket we thought we would knock on the door of some of the girls we know in our block of flats and see if they fancied joining us. We were lucky as two of the three houses we knocked on the doors opened and our English and Italian neighbours were happy to join. With a bottle of rose and white wine and two more people joining us, the food looked less daunting! Instead of the usual one chunk of meat per person in the serving for two the delicious lamb and chicken kebab had about four succulent peices with a delicious mint sauce, chopped fresh salad and cucumber raita to go with it.

We also had plenty of bread to go with our main course – a lamb parbath, chicken Sherpa which was the dish of the day, bhindi baaji and tarka dal. We had ordered a pilau rice with the mains and decided to eat the pappadoms with the mains as after a delicious bottle of rose slipped gently by with the starters, the drinkers clearly split into white and red wine preferences.
The evening slipped gently by and before we realised it we had picked our way through the delicious array of finely balanced foods all light, not a wee bit greasy and each with their own distinct flavours.

Even though it was midnight, everyone was reluctant to leave so we brought out a tub of ice-cream and since I had absolutely no cooking to do, I thought I could make the effort of brewing a cup of good masala tea to go with it. Half the pleasure of the evening was knowing there was a whole weekend ahead and nobody had far to go. If we had advertised it as a girls night in pyjama party I am sure nobody would have turned up – but with great food and an impromptu girls night in it sort of turned out to be more like a teen girls night in rather than a quiet knees up and nobody was complaining! If my guests had known the whole meal cost no more than sixty pounds or fifteen pounds a head I am sure we would have more of these impromptu parties!

Sumi Sastri

November 11, 2010