But settles for base camp instead
Everest Curry King is a brilliantly memorable name for a local cafe and takeaway. With a name of just three short and distinctive words that aren’t usually seen together, it’s not easily forgotten. The only snag is that ‘Everest’ might lead you to think that it serves up Tibetan/Nepalese food, but it actually focuses on the very different cuisine of Sri Lanka instead.
Everest Curry King is as much a takeaway as it is a caff, even in the halcyon days before the lockdown. The handful of spartan tables and unforgivingly bright fluorescent lighting mean that this is a fuelling stop and not a place to linger, while gazing lovingly into your dining companions’ eyes. Which, in my case, would be unwise as The Lensman and The Jolly Giant have fearsome spouses.
Curiously, the takeaway menu can differ dramatically from the sit-down menu. Just a couple weeks before the lockdown started, only a series of seemingly generic curries were on offer with almost none of their usual Sri Lankan staples available – despite my pleading. No explanation was given, especially as a wider cross-section of their full menu had been offered for takeaway in the past.
This, along with the fact that some dishes are kept on display in bain maries and then microwaved to order, makes it easy to dismiss Everest Curry King out of hand or to underestimate it.
Eating in at Everest Curry King
At the time of writing, it’s not clear when Londoners will be able to break bread together again in public. That is, quite obviously, existentially problematic for eateries serving dishes ill-suited for delivery. It’s also troublesome for those such as Everest Curry King that have held back their best dishes for eat-in customers.
Although the lamb kotthu wasn’t as feathery soft as the versions available at either Hoppers or Colombo Kitchen, it was still soft with a cossetting warmth bolstered by hearty, meaty flecks of lamb. The heaving portion was almost large enough to be a meal in its own right, so I was glad to have the Lensman’s help in polishing it off.
The reasonably crisp shells of the mutton rolls held a modestly earthy and meaty filling. They weren’t anywhere as sumptuous as the version at Paradise Soho, making up for their middle-of-the-road taste and texture with heft and size instead.
While fluffy, spongy and comely-looking, the vadai tasted of little – even when dipped in the sauce on the side.
Although the the eggplant in the aubergine curry was only reasonably fleshy, it had an almost candied-like sweetness to it while the dry rub of a sauce bristled with a cumulative, tingly heat. It was a life-affirming thing that needed a better carb mop than the thin and leathery roti.
That unexpected candied-like sweetness made another surprising appearance in the devilled prawns. Although these crustaceans didn’t pack any spicy heat at all – peculiarly uncharacteristic of devilled Sri Lankan dishes in my experience – they were chewy and loaded with umami as well as sweetness. Odd, but winsome all the same.
Takeaway from Everest Curry King
Curiously, all of the takeaway dishes were supplied cold and had to be reheated before eating. Although Everest Curry King’s takeaway lamb curry only had a transient spicy heat and chunks of rather generic meat, the hints of star anise and cardamom dotting the reddish brown expanse helped make up for it. The chicken curry wasn’t as sophisticated, but at least its intermittent spicy heat was far more fiery and potent.
A vegetarian curry paired spinach with what was probably either split peas or mung beans. It proved to be a bright and zesty combination, but never too sharp or overpowering.
Curried chickpeas packed a peppery heat that rivalled the chicken in prickly warmth.
Depending on your perspective, Everest Curry King’s stuffed rotis look either like giant supple skinned samosas or bulging, engorged aloo parathas. The meat version saw the roti stuffed with ground lamb and potatoes to hearty effect. The vegetarian variant wasn’t quite as winsome, but its heaving cargo of peas and potato pieces still played their appetising parts well.
A handful of desserts are available for takeaway, such as the halwa which packed a strident vegetal sweetness into its fluffy, tightly crumbed and lightly grainy expanse. Although not the best tasting halwa I’ve ever had, it was still a far better dessert than the pittu. The dusting of coconut on its surface was by far the most edible thing here – fine grained yet crumbly and drier than a dust-covered shelf, it was devoid of flavour. Even worse, it had an off-putting aroma oddly reminiscent of plasticine.
Everest Curry King is one of the oddest establishments I’ve eaten at. For an eatery so dependent on its takeaway trade, now more than ever, its takeout operations can be surprisingly haphazard with an inconsistent offering and poor communication.
Eating out in a post-lockdown but still socially distanced London could be a far more decentralised affair with a greater variety of restaurants taking firmer hold in the suburbs and boroughs away from zone 1, closer to where most people live. While Lewisham locals can find much to enjoy at Everest Curry King, the way it’s run isn’t a template for that future.
Name: Everest Curry King
Address: 24 Loampit Hill, London SE13 7SW
Phone: 020 8691 2233
Opening Hours: seven days a week 10.00-23.00.
Reservations: not taken
Average cost for one person when shared between three: £15-20 approx. (highly dependent on how much you order)