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Friday, 11 October 2013

Still missing you, Kastoori: the unforgettable flavours of Tooting's best restaurant

Some famous restuarateur type has said he's about to open a new fried chicken place in Tooting.

Obviously it will be a posh fried chicken place - a la "gourmet" burger joints - and thus a bit pricey.
But what is more annoying was  his claim that  - until he arrives - Tooting had no "name" restaurants.

NO,  maybe it doesn't - not anymore, perhaps he's right. But it DID once have some of the finest Indian vegatarian places in London. And the best of all was Kastoori.
Whatever happened to Kastoori and its owner, Mr Thanki and his family? We long to hear that it will re-open somewhere nearby soon.
A sad sight - all that's left to remind us of
Tooting's finest  vegetarian restaurant, Kastoori.

How often we'd hit the tube to Tooting Broadway and walk up the high street to this very special vegetarian restaurant.

From the outside, Kastoori looked like any old 1970s style unimaginative British-Indian restaurant. It occupied part of a big old 1930s-look store, the front of which had undergone some pretty hideous transformation later on, in a typical outer  London high street retail style.

Indise it also seemed bland - rows of tables with yellow covers, high backed chairs, just another rather overdone suburban Indian restaurant.

Onle when you startted reading the menu did you begin to realise how different this place was.
There was some explanation of the history - how the owner's family, originally from Gujurat province I think -  had been based in East Africa, how this subtly changed their Gujurati approach to cooking, and so on. And just as you were reading this Mr Thanki senior, the owner, would tend to come over to introduce himself and perhaps make gentle menu suggestions.

The food was very good, very different - the starter dahi puri "taste bombs", the amazing tomato and banana currys, the masala doss, and - my personal favourite - the bean curry, all were excellent and very different from your average Indian vegetarian fare. Something about the spices they used, perhaps.

Mr Thanki was always keen to total, some crazy stories about cooking for maharajahs in India, how people came from all over the world to Tooting for  a Kastoori meal. And now it has gone.

We worry about the family - Mr Thanki , I think , had diabetes. Some of his sons worked in the restaurant, there was talk of them re-opening a Kastoori somewhere nearby. But nothing.

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