When people ask me where to go for an Indian, my normal response is anywhere that isn’t on Brick Lane. Tooting has some fantastic options and I’ve been happily eating my way round them (Lahore Karahi, Dosa and Chutney and Maseledar all deserve a visit) over the last year. When I spotted barbecue god Neil Rankin mentioning the Sri Lankan delights of Apollo Banana Leaf on twitter I was intrigued. A bit of digging turned up glowing reviews, including from Chris Pople at ‘Cheese and Biscuits’. My interest suitably piqued I popped down the road and stumbled across one of the best meals of the year so far.
Apollo Banana Leaf is just south of Tooting Broadway, near St. Georges Hospital. It’s not much to look at from the outside and the inside follows suit. You’re not here for the interior design – you’re here for the food. Our meal started with some delicious mutton rolls – crisp, fragrant and freshly fried. Alongside were some gorgeous green banana bhajis served with the kind of tomato-chilli sauce that dreams are made of – searingly hot while still maintaining a semblance of balance.
Next up came some lovely sweet coconut rice, wonderfully spiced devilled mutton and some incredible fried prawns. So often seafood in Asian restaurants is fried and boiled to the point where it could be used to re-sole shoes – not here, tender and crunchy perfection. For me the real star was a ‘shock’ vegetarian dish: the aubergine masala – a delicate, mild curry sauce, packed full of texture and with a wonderful depth of flavour.
On the surface it looks (and costs) the same as any other ‘Indian’ restaurant in South London. But the comparisons stop there – it serves magnificent Sri Lankan food with a precision and balance that I’ve not found anywhere else. It’s BYOB so you can grab something tasty from the cellar and eat yourself into a happy coma for under £15 a head. An absolute gem.