I’m not entirely sure why we’d not yet been to Karnavar on South End, Croydon’s restaurant street. It’s a more upmarket Indian restaurant and I think we were going to save it for a special occasion. Well, that is, until I discovered they have a spectacular deal for Sunday brunch – five courses for £25, or £40 if you want a champagne brunch, for a massive Indian style roast brunch. The menu is an Indian twist on the Sunday roast lunch but also features classics from their usual a la carte menu, making it a good first visit. We went one recent Sunday when we felt yes, brunch and yes, Indian food, and loved it.

Here we go. Five courses.

Chef Cooking Station and Starter Table

Course 1: Chef Live Cooking Station.
The station was placed at one end of the starter table (photo above). From here, you could place an order (or lots of orders) for freshly made dosas, oothapams, Indian omelettes, or Indian scrambled eggs. We shared a plain dosa (made small, just the right size for a buffet) and a beautifully made Indian omelette. We only realised after our meal that the chef manning this station was the chef-owner – he was just the friendliest!

Indian Omelette

Course 2: The Starter Table.
On the table by the window, there was a good spread of various dishes from which to help yourself. My particular highlights were the Roasted Dokla with Home Cured Sardines and Potato Salad, the fantastic Karnavar Special Golden and Candy Beetroot Chaat with Goji Berry and Moong Bean Sprout, and the Dahi Wada (Black Gram Dumplings with Yogurt, Mustard and Cumin). Take your time over them… it’s a leisurely brunch and you’re welcome to graze for as long as you like.

Starters

Course 3: Intermediate.
This course was brought to your table by a waiter wielding a massive frying pan full of Tulsi Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka. Both were very spicy and flavourful and I probably could have put away a lot more if I hadn’t been worrying about what and how much was coming next.

Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka

There was also a separate pan full of Salmon Pakora with Sweet Curry, Capers and Gherkin Sauce. This I loved, definitely putting away a few more than necessary – that sauce was like a fantastic Indian tartar sauce.

Salmon Pakora

Course 4: Mains.
Then it was time for mains. Each diner gets to choose one of the mains from the list but they can have as much of that protein as desired. My Roasted Pork Belly Coorg/Kerala style served with Mappas Sauce was fine but Blai’s Sea Bass Polichathu, Kerala Coastal style served with Mappas Sauce was finer. I think I had been hoping that the pork belly was spiced itself but most of the Indian flavour was from the onion sauce served alongside. Blai’s fish was exactly as I’d hoped for, all dusted with spice.

Roasted Pork Belly Coorg/Kerala style served with Mappas Sauce

Sea Bass Polichathu

It’s not a roast dinner though without all the sides! Garlic and fennel seed spiced roast potatoes were tender and delicious. Vegetables were an addictive Cauliflower thoran (addictive), an excellent Chef’s seasonal vegetables, which that day was Broccoli do pyaza, and my typical Indian meal must-have, Panchmel dal (think tarka dal). Carbs were a Saffron pulao rice and Butter naan (very buttery!). Like the mains, you could get more of the sides you desired. You can imagine how stuffed we were by the end of this course!

Sides

Sides and Naan

Dessert was a tasting plate of (from left to right) Rasamalai (Indian Milk Cheese Dumplings with Pistachio), raspberry sorbet, and Kinnathapan Malabar (Rice and Coconut Pudding with Lemon Sorbet). I do believe this is the only course you cannot repeat but the little sweet bites were the perfect size after we’d stuffed ourselves from the previous four courses. Actually, no, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want another of the amazing rasamalai, some of the best I’d ever had.

Dessert Platter

Bookings are essential for Sunday brunch (it’s very popular) and can be made via their website. What I noticed was that the food was highly spiced and flavourful but not chilli-hot, making it perfect for families, and there were a lot of families that Sunday. Needless to say, go hungry! Oh, and if you’re a vegetarian or dining with vegetarian, there are vegetarian options for the more meaty courses (vegetarian but not vegan).

Karnavar
62 South End
Croydon
London CR0 1DP

Pollo a la brasa (that’s grilled chicken) is a very popular Peruvian dish that’s made its way over to America but unfortunately, not here. I’ve read blog post after blog post about how that rotisserie chicken is freaking delicious and cheap and comes with a multitude of amazing sides and of course, the craving set in. It does seem ridiculous that I’d crave something I’d never tasted before but it’s roast chicken! There’s something quite universal about it, isn’t there?

I set out to make it at home. There are quite a few recipes for the marinade online and I based mine on a few that I found. I wanted to use fresh garlic rather than garlic powder and one recipe that used it suggested putting it under the skin of the chicken rather than mixing it with the marinade as the acid was likely to turn the garlic blue. Some suggested that the acid be lemon juice; others said vinegar. I just put together what sounded good.

Roast Peruvian-Style Chicken

Oh, and it was good! That marinade went right through the skin and the garlic definitely made itself known. Apart from the garlic, the other flavours melded together in a way that you couldn’t put a finger on each individual component; yes, the sum was greater than its parts. Finger licking good. Sure, it may have been more amazing if charcoal grilled but hey, I think my oven did a pretty good job of it.

Fried Ripe Plantains

We had it with a few sides; it’s never a proper roast dinner without all the fixin’s, eh? From what I understand, French fries/chips are normally served with pollo a la brasa but I wanted to go all out. We had fried plantains (slice and shallow fry in sunflower oil; sprinkle with salt), garlic rice (same as I make for Cuban rice), black beans (Molly’s recipe is my go-to recipe for quick beans), a chopped avocado and tomato salad, and a fresh green chilli sauce to brighten everything up. That rice was insanely good with the juices from the roast chicken poured on top. It all makes for a nice change from the usual roast potatoes and boiled veg.

A Peruvian-Style Roast Dinner

The chicken recipe was adapted from those at Leite’s Culinaria, Wandering Chopsticks and Sunday Nite Dinner. The green chilli sauce was adapted from a recipe at Peru Food.

Peruvian Roast Chicken

1 chicken, approximately 1.5kg

For the marinade:
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsps paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Trim your chicken of any extra fat. Pat dry both inside and out. Use your finger to carefully separate the skin from the breast and thighs, creating “pockets”. Crush or mash the garlic cloves and distribute evenly between the “pockets”, spreading and smoothing the garlic from the outside.

Mix together the rest of the marinade ingredients and schmear it all on the inside and outside of your chicken. Leave in the fridge to marinade for a few hours or overnight. Take it out half an hour before you want to roast it.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Place your chicken breast side down on a roasting tray and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. When the time is up, turn your oven temperature down to 160C and flip your chicken so it’s now breast side up. Continue roasting for an hour or until the juices at the thigh run clear (or you can check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer).

Let your chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Green Chilli Sauce

Green Chilli Sauce

a small bunch of coriander
1-2 green chillies
1/2 clove garlic
a pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil

Wash your coriander and pick off the leaves. Discard the stems or use them elsewhere. Deseed the chillli if you wish (it makes it less hot). Toss the leaves, chillli, garlic and salt into a mini chopper or little blender or whatever it is you use and add about 2 tbsps olive oil. Blend, adding more olive oil if required.