My friends who live down the road from Hot Stuff, in Vauxhall, cannot stop raving about it. They have been going to this Indian for years. I’m slightly jealous of the attention it gets - the affection with which they talk about it surpasses friendship. So when I’m invited for a birthday I jump at the chance to meet this rival.
Poor Hot Stuff. 17 of us descend onto this local favourite which is so compact, it’s about the size of my lounge. And I would never think of squeezing in 17 people plus other diners into my lounge. The room is so small that the toilet is practically in the kitchen, and over the course of the night there is undignified limbo-ing under the table to reach that toilet.
But it’s all in the spirit of keeping diners happy, and the Hot Stuff team seem at ease with the numbers. With owner Raj back in Kenya to get married, I’m sure the rest of the crew are wishing they were back in Kenya as well when we come along.
But, quite simply, the service is faultless. Dishes arrive in quick succession, we all share fun-coloured curries, they put up with our bad jokes – they even smile at some of them. I can see I have stiff competition. Oh, and did I mention that it’s BYO with no corkage fee? Damn, they’re doing well.
So, to start. Chilli paneer, pleasingly orange and mildly hot. For me, paneer has previously sat up there with halloumi, slightly unsatisfying for the amount of love it usually gets. My head isn’t fully turned, but this is moreish, like a bar-snack. Perfect with a swig of Cobra.
Jeera chicken – definitely the dish of the night. The pieces are lightly spiced with cumin, softened with yogurt, and begging to be nabbed at by fingers.
Lovely coconutty peshawari naan comes to mop up all the juices, whilst keema kofte, and onion and potato bhajis served with tamarind and mint chutneys are party food for us screaming kids.
Then come the mains. Sweet butternut squash and spinach, achari chicken (cubes of breast with tomatoey, almost sour sauce), aloo gobi, lamb dopaiza a dish both onioned and underwhelming. Garlic naan,savagely torn to pieces, it was so good.
The mains aren’t the star of the show - when you try them all at the same time, the punch of flavours all gets overwhelming, but they are fine dishes, and extra fine for the price. It all comes to £22. It’s not the best curry in London, but if I lived in Vauxhall, this place would supply my curry hit. I think I’ve made a new friend.
Hot Stuff restaurant and takeaway
19 Wilcox Road, London, SW8 2XA, 020 7720 1480