What: A large Indian restaurant in Covent Garden within the building that houses the Lyceum Theatre (the space was most recently home to a Bill’s). Paro is described as a love letter to Calcutta, offering ‘a modern interpretation of traditional Indian flavours of West Bengal’. Its 120-cover interior is inspired by traditional Calcuttan homes.
Who: Paro is the debut solo restaurant for 23-year-old chef Niaz Caan. He has, apparently, been cooking professionally since the age of 14 at his family’s Brick Lane restaurant City Spice (which he now fronts as executive chef). That restaurant is notable for being among the first on the famed run of East London curry houses to launch a dedicated vegan menu. He published his debut book - Vegan: An Indian Cookbook - earlier this year and has his own YouTube cooking channel.
The vibe: Located on a back street corner site just up from the Strand, Paro has been designed by Studio G by Giorgia Pellandini. White sandstone walls are carved with botanical reliefs with floral motifs echoed in the considerable amount of foliage hanging from the ceiling. Brown leather banquette seating divides the open-plan room into more intimate spaces. The 30-cover bar features at the front features a bespoke mural and galleried seating.
The food: The menu isn’t as large as those offered at a typical Brick Lane restaurant, but does tick off many curry house staples. Small plates include potato chops; honeyed mango chickpeas; onion bhajis; and an Indo-Chinese take on bang bang chicken. Larger dishes include a lamb shank cooked in Caan’s family’s famed 48-spice mix; chicken shashlik with tandoori dust; and chicken naga. Thalis and grilled dishes are also available. To finish, there is a short list of classic desserts including mango kulfi and daily changing barfi (a dessert based around a sweet, soft biscuit). In general prices are higher than a typical central London curry house, reflecting Paro's intention to offer something a bit more premium and distinctive.
To drink: The drinks selection is pretty much what you’d expect from a curry house-style operation, comprising a few draught beers and a short wine list. A cocktail list will launch soon.
And another thing: The top pick on Paro’s main dish section is the staff railway curry. As the name suggests, it is what the staff eat while on shift. It changes daily, but is always cooked low-and-slow through the day with meat on the bone and is described as both ‘incredibly authentic’ and ‘spicy’.