Drive along the London Road too fast and you might just miss Bhoomi Kitchen; the newcomer that brings a range of southern Indian and Keralan dishes to the Headington restaurant scene. Opening last year on the site of the former Mirabai restaurant, this small, stylish restaurant is a thrilling discovery. The original in Cheltenham has an excellent reputation, and this second one looks more than ready to match its quality.
The menu offers a mix of small plates and mains that give plenty of choice to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and it delivers some complex and captivating flavours.
For starters, I had a mini masala dosa (£5.95), the classic southern Indian ground rice crepe filled with spiced potatoes. This was a soft pancake, rather than the crispy dosa you often see, but I was taken with the light texture of the wrap and the well-spiced masala potatoes. It was served with a superior sambar and coconut chutney that earned bonus points for flavour.
My companion selected Tharavu duck (£13.95) from the Indian BBQ section, which was perfect as a shared dish. The pieces of sliced duck breast were tender, juicy and meaty; the gunpowder spice rub added some heat and dialled up the flavour. The fresh-tasting mint chutney on the side wasn’t really needed, but was so tasty we ate it all anyway.
So far, so good – things got even better with the main courses.
The Chettinad chicken (£12.50) was both hearty and sophisticated; served as a small bowl of chicken pieces, bathed in a rich coconut and tomato curry, featuring notes of pepper, curry leaf, and star anise. To go with it, I tried the Keralan appam (£3.95) from the ‘accompaniments’ section of the menu. Appam are a type of pancake – rather like hoppers –usually made from a fermented rice and coconut batter. The taste was a little bit sweet and a whole lot delicious, especially when scooping up the sauce. They’d go well with any curries on the menu, especially Kadala Masala (black chickpeas, chillies, tomato, ginger and garlic reduction).
Our other main was beef curry and Kerala parotta (£16.95), a Bhoomi Kitchen special and an absolute stand-out. The slow-cooked beef had a melting texture, the depth of flavour in the rich curry inspiring me to the point of musing out loud on the alchemy of Keralan spices. Yes, really. When I asked for more practical information, my server told me that they blend, toast, and grind their own garam masala mix, which is sprinkled onto the long-simmered sauce that features even more herbs and flavours. They didn’t share the exact details of their mix, but I can’t blame them for keeping this tasty secret to themselves.
The Parotta flatbread served with the curry is a distinctively buttery, flaky delicacy, with soft spiralled layers and strands that you can pull apart with your hands. It’s delicious with the meaty gravy scooped directly on top or eaten on its own; it’s also available as a side dish. My advice: get one no matter what else you order.
The dessert choice (all £4.50) was quite small but pleasing. The special when I visited was a banana pancake served with coconut ice cream and rich caramel. It came exactly as promised, and I enjoyed it as a sweet treat, though it wasn’t particularly distinctive. We also tried the Payasam, a creamy pudding made of sago (a starch extracted from the sago palm) cooked in milk and topped with dried fruit and cashews. It’s a good choice if you’re in the mood for delicate comfort food, or something soothing after so much sophisticated spice. The chocolate samosas are my top recommendation: light, crisp parcels filled with gently melting chocolate mix and a hit of cardamom.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Bhoomi Kitchen; every dish was exceptionally well-executed, the service was friendly and attentive, and I couldn’t wait to go back. In fact, I popped in for a takeaway just a week later, so how’s that for a recommendation?
70 London Rd, Headington, Oxford OX3 7PD
We dined as guests of Bhoomi Kitchen, all views remain our own.