Say what you like about Food Covolution, but there’s one thing you can’t deny: when it comes to bringing you top tucker, no corner of this city, however improbable, is off-limits. Which is my way of explaining why the first full week of 2020 finds me in a car park in Binley. Not that there’s anything wrong with Binley, you understand – it’s just that even its most ardent admirers would concede it’s unlikely ever to have troubled any Sunday suppliment list of must-visit UK foodie destinations. But this quiet housing estate is hiding a secret.
The secret is called GKitchen. It serves North Indian food and it’s part café, part takeaway/delivery service and part pub caterer. As soon as I walk through the door, I know this is my kind of place. Firstly, because it’s so unpretentious. The café, where I opt to eat, is a simple affair of four tables and a large open kitchen. It’s accessed through a forecourt (carved out of the car park) where the owner is planning to set up a barbecue and al fresco dining for the summer months. If you’re a bigger group, or would prefer to dine in plusher surroundings, you can go through to the Standard Bearer pub, which connects with the café via a passageway.
And then there’s the food. For a vegetarian option, the House Black Daal “cooked over twenty four hours for extra harmony” sounded super-tempting, but the end, I went for the Paneer Karai, which consisted of large cubes of silky home made Indian cheese (“because shop-bought is too dry” explained the owner – these are the lengths this place goes to to get it right) in a smoothly-comforting, intricately-spiced, slightly aniseed sauce. To accompany it, I ordered pilau rice. Now, there is a school of thought in Indian cuisine – I imagine – that argues that the curry should always top the bill, with rice (or bread) a mere blandly unobtrusive platform on which the main act does its thing. Judged by those criteria, this rice was possibly slightly too eager to steal the show. On the other hand, it was so delicious I didn’t really care.
It made every other pilau rice I’ve ever eaten seem anaemic. Squelchy with mushrooms and jewelled with crunchy peppers, it was almost a meal on its own. But what really made it stand out was the humblest ingredient of the lot: onions. The skill shown in frying the onions that ran through the rice was simply astonishing. Caramelised almost – but not quite – to the point of burning, they toyed with bitterness but never quite embraced it. Instead, they were juicy, deep brown, and chewy as onion wine gums. These were no mere anonymous bulker-uppers (as I was surprised to hear the role of onions in cookery described the other day). These were the intellectual superstars of Planet Pilau.
Eating at GKitchen was like eating round your nan’s house – and I mean that as the biggest compliment I can think of. Everything was done to ensure I enjoyed the best possible experience. I was asked how spicy I wanted the curry. I was asked if I wanted mushrooms in the rice. Then I just sat back and watched it being prepared right in front of me, surrounded by homely kitchen sounds. Everything here is made fresh every day, from scratch, with care. And it shows.
What I ate: Paneer Karai £6.45. Pilau Rice £2.45 (paid for from my own resources).
GKitchen is at 6 Santos Close (The Standard Cafe), Coventry CV3 2FG. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am-2pm and 5pm-10pm. As well as Indian food, it also serves traditional English breakfasts, batches, baguettes and omelettes. Food Hygiene rating: 4 (Good).