Tufail restaurant, Gravesend: reviewed

When it's cold outside we automatically crave foods that will give us <br/><br/>a bit of warmth, our own internal fire – and this Gravesend Indian restaurant really hits the spot

Tufail restaurant, Gravesend: reviewed

Tufail in Gravesend came highly recommended by My Work Colleague so, as she has become something of a lucky charm in recent restaurant reviews, I suggested she come along too and put her bold claims to the test.

Despite my complete failure to notice the large amount of excellent parking opposite and a consequent late and flustered arrival, the warm welcome from chef-patron Abul Kalam immediately put us at ease.

The restaurant itself is immensely calming, with its mix of banquettes and high-back beech chairs at immaculately dressed tables, each with a perfect single rose in a simple vase, great lighting, modern flower prints in big silver frames and porthole mirrors. I can also report that the loos sparkle.

Abul, whose own father was a chef and a great influence in the kitchen, used to run a takeaway here but in 2004 completely transformed the place into the modern, contemporary oasis it is today, attracting customers from Maidstone, Chatham and London as well as his loyal regulars.

Named after his eldest son, Tufail is deceptively large, with seating at the front (where there’s also a small but elegant bar), through to the quieter back area, where skylights flood the room with natual light. An upstairs dining room for private parties has its own bar and incredibly thick carpets, which also act as soundproofing, should things get lively.

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To experience the Bangladeshi menu at its best, I put myself in Abul’s capable hands and, discovering my passion for seafood, he steered me towards the fish bhajee, a light, delicious freshwater fish with a hint of fresh lime; a perfect way to begin.

MWC went for the ‘Tufail special’, a selection of meats from local butchers: chicken tikka, lamb chop and shish kebab, which I dived into as well. Tasty and succulent, we both loved the accompanying home-made sauces, especially the cool mint and yoghurt.

Butter chicken was MWC’s immediate decision as her main, an Indian classic from Punjab loved the world over. With its meltingly tender chicken and rich, silky smooth tomato and cream sauce, it’s not hard to see why – but don’t overload with side orders. We found that the only real accompaniments needed were pilau rice and garlic nan.

I was a little more courageous with my lamb Kahrai, which is cooked in a tandoori oven and served sizzling hot in an iron skillet with a subtly spiced tomato, onion and pepper sauce.

Abul was keen that we both experienced his signature dish of king prawn bhujon, a real favourite with his customers. Probably the largest prawns I’ve ever eaten, they originate from the Bay of Bengal and are definitely a star turn: marinaded in garlic and tandoori spices, the taste and juiciness is just exquisite.

To drink, do look at the wine list rather than make the automatic Indian beer response we Brits tend to go in for: chilled Chilean Sauvignon Blanc went perfectly with all my dishes.

Abul’s children are a little young at 16, 13 and five to have made up their minds whether they’ll follow in dad and grandad’s footsteps or not, but his wife Rehama is a great front-of-house ally and he is supported by 14 waiting staff and seven in the kitchen, including three other chefs.

We ate on a quiet midweek lunchtime and I look forward to returning on a Friday or Saturday night when the place is quite literally buzzing, says Abul. I believe him!

GET IN TOUCH

Tufail Bar and Restaurant

139 Parrock Street

Gravesend DA12 1EZ

Tel: 01474 566100 or 01474 537474

Typical prices: Tufail special mixed starter �4.50, butter chicken �6.95, tandoori lamb Kahrai �10.95, Kurji lamb (‘Meal of Moghuls’ – 24 hours notice), for four people, �60, incls choice of four vegetabe dishes, nan and tandoori roti

Restaurant open: Sun-Sat, incl. Bank Holidays, 12pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm