Of the eight new restaurants to open in the shiny new Bloomberg Arcade development over the last year, this was the big one.
Brigadiers, the Indian barbecue mess hall-cum-opulent sports bar, is the latest in what seems like a never-ending list of high-profile openings for London’s restaurant royalty the Sethi siblings (Hoppers, Gymkhana, Bubbledogs) – and expectations were high.
On paper, it’s a 200-cover pleasure palace of bars and private dining nooks, designed to court the raucous revelry of City party boys with fast-pour beer taps, share platters and suckling pigs, big screens for sport, a pool room with a whiskey vending machine and an in-house shoe shine.
All bells and whistles were whirring for the star-studded launch back in June, ensuring plenty of C-listers made the schlep from Soho to see how we do it in the City.
And while Brigadiers certainly can throw one hell of a party in its labyrinth of art deco timber-panelled rooms inspired by the mess halls frequented by Indian Army officers, the food will have you clambering to line your stomach before, during and after.
The menu is divided into six sections, starting with moreish beer snacks and working through chhota chatpata, rolls and buns, sizzlers and kebabs, steaks and chops and, finally, the rotisserie and wood oven.
There is also a selection of biriyani, ‘beast feasts’ of lamb and suckling pig, and about 15 different sides and condiments to push diners from awed to overwhelmed.
Luckily, the JKS service is a well-oiled machine and staff are skilled at bringing us back from the brink of throwing up our hands and signalling for another espresso martini – deliciously creamy thanks to a shot of nitrogen gas, but ill-advised on an empty stomach.
Start with the snacks while you ponder the challenge ahead: finger-licking chaat masala pork scratchings with cod roe and green raita and a wonderfully light and spiced ‘mess mix’ that will make you rue the day you ever whetted your appetite with Walkers crisps.
Moving on to the larger starters and it’s clear from the surrounding tables that the original bbq butter chicken wings are already acquiring cult dish status – ours arrive, immediately followed by another two serves for the booths either side of us.
Tender and buttery as they were, though, we were even more taken by a fluffy lobster and shrimp kati roll, and arbi tokri chaat; a basket fashioned of crispy potato skins and filled with a fragrant stew of vegetables and chickpeas, chutneys, and topped with raita and pomegranate seeds.
A rack of tandoori lamb chops has been treated to a peppery seasoning to rival some of the best in London, charred on the outside, pink and tender on the inside, while the slow-cooked kid goat shoulder is falling apart in all the right places atop a crispy paratha.
The one course Brigadiers is light on is desserts; four soft serve and fruit concoctions that serve their purpose of ‘something sweet’ to finish, but are unlikely to set anybody’s evening on fire.
For that, head back out to the party and fill your glass with exclusive Brigadiers beers from the self-serve beer dispenser, or a single malt from the whiskey vending machine, or simply mainline those aforementioned espresso martinis, which are also dispensed on tap.
Yes, this is one hot addition to the City’s dining scene that definitely lives up to the hype.
Brigadiers, Bloomberg Arcade, 3 Queen Street EC4N 8BN