Monday 1 September 2008

Mela, Herne Hill, south London

Occupying a prominent corner plot opposite Herne Hill station, formerly the home of the renown Three Monkeys, Mela is a roomy and stylish Indian restaurant. You cross an elevated walkway above the downstairs bar to reach the dining room adorned with stylised, but attractive, travelogue prints of India on the white walls and ornate fabrics on the chairs, crisp white table cloths and tasteful parchment menus. Some of the substantial starters (around £5) feature big chunks of heavily-spiced meat served with dips. But save room for one of the curries (between £6 and £15), which tend to come in rich, creamy sauces offset, in some cases, by refreshing peppers. The more expensive dishes include novel ingredients, such as crab or rabbit, while one of the tasty vegetable curries features plump mushrooms and sweet peas. The naan bread is thin, crispy and moreish, but the dahl can be a little runny and the big bottles of Cobra beer are also a bit watery. On a Saturday night, Mela attracts enough people to create an atmosphere, but isn't usually full. Still, with efficient and courteous service, Mela is a cut above your average Indian restaurant. 7/10