Restaurant review: Kalpa, West Croydon

By - Tuesday 7th February, 2017

This venture from the acclaimed team behind South Croydon’s Karnavar does not disappoint

Time from West Croydon:  5 minutes

5-7 St James’s Road, Croydon CR0 2SB

Simple presentation, very tasty food.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Croydon’s restaurant quarter is well-established; boasting a fine range of eateries with cuisine for all tastes, it is deserving of the stellar reputation that it has made for itself.

One of the big success stories down South Croydon way is Karnavar. Head chef and owner Manoj Karnavar has seen the restaurant consistently pick up awards since 2014, and it is rated in the top 10 Indian restaurants in London.

Well, a little over a year ago I noticed that a very smart looking new restaurant had opened just around the corner I regularly passed on my way into town, and, as you do, I took a look at the menu on display. It looked very interesting. The restaurant, Kalpa, was one that was inevitably full and busy when I passed by in the early evening.

Kalpa draws an appreciative clientele from the South Indian and Sri Lankan communities – the absolute endorsement that it is doing things right

Clearly they were doing something right, and the penny really dropped when I discovered that Kalpa is owned and run by none other than Manoj Karnavar – although I didn’t know this when I first visited. I’d simply followed the crowd, reasoning that a busy restaurant must be serving up great food. I wasn’t disappointed.

Kalpa specialises in South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, and it draws a knowledgeable and appreciative clientele from those communities, which to me is the absolute endorsement that it is doing things right.

The menu bears close scrutiny – there are a lot of dishes that were unfamiliar to me, but the staff are very helpful in explaining some of the less well known (to me) items.

On this visit, with my partner Liz Sheppard-Jones, we kicked off with a couple of poppadoms and Cobra beers while examining the menu. Service was initially a bit slow, but it did rapidly pick up pace, and in mitigation the place was absolutely packed, both in the ground level and below-stairs rooms. Although a reservation isn’t a necessity at Kalpa, I was really glad that I had booked.

Restaurant quarter-quality dining in Broad Green, thanks to imagination and ambition

The people behind Kalpa pride themselves on fast service, and once our mains had been ordered they comfortably hit the mark. We ordered devilled shrimps, vegetable biryani, dahl curry and a paratha, and the speed with which they arrived was impressive.

The food was simply but nicely presented, and more to the point it tasted great.

The dahl curry was a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. Very much like a korma in colour, it had a fiery heat that surprised and delighted us. It added punch and moisture to the milder vegetable biryani, with the devilled shrimps a sort of halfway house between the two on the heat scale. With a paratha to mop up the juices – along with another, unexpected, poppadum – it was a top meal all round.

At less than £24 for the two of us it was outstanding value too.

So, restaurant quarter-quality dining in Broad Green, thanks to the imagination and ambition of Manoj Karnavar. What’s not to like? Call it gentrification if you want. I’ll call it fine dining.

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

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  • Andrew

    This place looks GREAT. Can’t believe I missed it when it opened. Will be down very soon

  • Patrick Blewer

    There used to be a keralan restaurant adjacent to W Croydon station where I spent many a night. Closed years ago to be replaced by a greasy spoon. Delighted to see there’s somewhere new to get a dosa fix,

    • lizsheppardjourno

      There’s been Taste of Kerala further up London Road for while (almost opposite Bensham Lane) – but after a visit or two we weren’t tempted to become regulars.

      Our Kalpa loyalty cards, by contrast, will be seeing some use.

  • Andy H Ellis

    I was going to write a review myself then noticed that this one had already been written.

    We really enjoyed it – simple setting, comfortable, reasonable prices and very helpful staff. Oh, the food was pretty good as well!