Restaurant review: The Windmill


By - Monday 26th May, 2014

Paul Dennis visits a local pub with an astonishing culinary secret


224 St James’s Road, Croydon, CR0 2BW

Time from East Croydon:  12 minutes 

   

It’s a proud boast – but could the Windmill deliver?
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Croydon is hardly short of great places to eat. We have a well-established restaurant quarter that draws gourmets from far and wide, plus an enviable array of gastropubs and ethnic eating houses.

But for a total double-take moment you really should try The Windmill Pub on St James Road, near to East Croydon Station. We walked there, but the pub has a big off street car park which is a bit of a bonus in Croydon. Outside is a billboard that reads: “Authentic Indian Cuisine”. What? In a pub? In Croydon?

It’s a typical local pub with old school touches like a dartboard and a jukebox

Entering The Windmill doesn’t immediately answer those questions. It is a typical local pub that even boasts old school touches like a dartboard and jukebox. When we arrived in the early evening there was a darts match in full swing and locals at the bar, but also some diners enjoying that authentic Indian cuisine.

Encouraging.

The pub has a small dining area, but you can sit anywhere and eat. This is functional pub dining. No flock wallpaper or sticky carpets. To be honest it’s a bit of a Spartan environment, but we’d come for the food. The bar is well stocked with lagers and beers, less so with wine, but the latter isn’t really an issue when you are out for a curry.

In typical pub style there are no waiters buzzing around tables – you order food from a serving hatch opposite the bar, simple as that. The menu is Indian dominated, but oddments like Szechuan chicken and salt and pepper squid also pop up on the extensive tapas list. Successes on previous visits had included the mixed grill (chicken tikka, kebab and chops) and the chilli fried king prawns. This time we went for crispy fried chilli lamb from the tapas, then perused the main courses.

The Windmill punches above its weight

Some old favourites like chicken tikka masala and chicken vindaloo were present, but there were some notable exceptions. This was where The Windmill really started to punch above its weight. I asked the owner, Darshan Barot, if I could have chicken madras, which wasn’t on the menu.

“Of course, no problem at all,” was his reply. In fact, it’s possible to request, and be served, almost any favourite Indian dish that might not be on the menu, and at the strength that you want. Peshwari naan and chilli naan plus the obligatory starter of poppadoms completed our order.

The food was nicely presented, piping hot, and tasted delicious. Image by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission

The food arrived promptly and was well presented. It was also, dare I say it, a cut above many Indian restaurants that I’ve visited. The chicken madras came in a thick sauce of perfect spicy heat, rather than the usual runny gravy punctuated by oil slicks.

Plenty of tender chicken, well-flavoured, was perfect to eat with naan bread, rather than relying on rice to soak up the sauce. A total winner in my book.

The crispy fried chilli lamb was slightly less successful, but only because the sauce that came with it had taken away some of the ‘crunch’. There was plenty of flavour and the lamb was tender within its sometimes crisp coat. Next time, we’ll ask for the sauce on the side as a dipping option – and I’m sure we’ll get it, given the flexibility that had been shown.

Summing up, if you want a bog standard curry experience, The Windmill isn’t for you. But if you want some absolute top class, freshly prepared, authentic Indian food, it’s hard to beat. We didn’t trip over Croydon-o-phile food critic Jay Rayner on the way out – but it’s only a matter of time…

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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  • Anne Giles

    Sounds tasty, although the meat is almost certainly Halal, so I would not be able to go there. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)