Open Mon–Fri 5.30pm–10pm, Sat 5.30pm–11pm, Sun closed
Dip in Brilliant is a trendy Punjabi cafe/restaurant in Fulham (next to Chelsea Football Club) led by celebrity chef Dipna Anand, whose passion and urge to take Punjabi food to a completely new level led to the formation of Dip in Brilliant, the latest in a long history of dining brilliance in the family. Her father Gulu opened the first Brilliant Restaurant in London in 1975 and her brother Shanker continues to fly the flag of Brilliant alongside his father. Even further back, founder of the Brilliant brand Bishen Dass Anand opened the first Brilliant restaurant, nightclub and hotel in Kenya in the 1950s.
Today Dipna continues to recreate her grandfather’s recipes, which date back over sixty-five years, together with sharing her love for Indian food through her Television series Dip in Kitchen, her cookery school in Southall and her collaboration with the Compass group. Dip in Brilliant, which Dipna calls ‘Brilliant’s baby’, is a new retro casual dining concept in Punjabi cuisine that enables guests to dip in and out within thirty minutes if they want to, or to sit and enjoy food for as long as their heart desires.
At Dip in Brilliant you eat from a thali (Indian name for a round metal platter), which in Dipna’s opinion creates a more relaxing food culture and also encourages the use of hands to eat, stimulating more senses and adding to the pleasure of the meal. A Punjabi meal is about sharing and creating an atmosphere of togetherness—at Dip in Brilliant guests become part of the family.
A cool, welcoming café/restaurant serving exquisite Indian food in as small or large quantities as you fancy. Inside it’s light and airy, all wooden parquet flooring, orange leather banquette seating and sculptural modern chandeliers. It feels very much like a personal project, as though every detail has been thought through by Dipna herself.
The charming and hospitable chef/proprietor takes the time to greet each diner, asking for feedback and chatting about Punjabi food—with her family history, not to mention two cookbooks and a TV series to her name, it’s a subject close to her heart.
The usual Chelsea and Fulham suspects: men in brightly coloured jeans and loafers, pretty girls with flicky hair and designer sunglasses, a sprinkling of post-yoga athleisure.
Dipna also has a loyal following from the Southall mothership restaurant—in her words ‘enjoying trying out the new concept’. Some of the regulars who used to trek all the way to Southall for the fantastic food live in central London, so DIB is far more convenient.
As well as the books and telly, Dip has a substantial social media presence, so expect some rubber-necking tourists and out-of-towners too. And don’t rule out the odd royal visit—Charles and Camilla were customers at the original restaurant, and one can easily imagine the younger Kensington Palace crowd popping in for a decent Indian nosh-up.
As you might by now have gathered, completely and utterly delicious. We kick off with pappadums with a trio of dips—pretty standard fare, you might think. You’d be wrong. The seriously moreish dips—tangy tamarind, fresh green mint, sweet, smooth mango—were so good we asked for them not to be taken away once we’d wolfed down the pappadums.
From the ‘starters to share’ menu, Dipna recommended the Brill Grill (£18), a mixed grill of tandoori chicken tikka, tandoori lamb chops, seekh kebabs and tandoori prawns, and Papri Chat (£7), spiced chickpea and potato topped with savoury vermicelli, tamarind and yoghurt. The grill was outstanding, each component tasting very much of itself: the beautifully tender chops pulsating with nutmeg, cardamom and coriander; the chicken marinated in the usual way with yoghurt, ginger, garlic and chilli, yet somehow elevated to something altogether superior to standard curry house fare; the sweet flesh of the prawns given a kick from their marinade of garlic, herbs and lime; the kebabs intensely savoury and flavoursome. The fresh-tasting chat was a great combination of textures: crunchy vermicelli, soft potato, mealy chickpeas, smooth yoghurt.
My appetite having been whetted by the tandoori chicken element of the grill, I stuck to the theme for my main, Chicken Tikka Masala (£12), described on the menu as ‘A British classic, made ‘Brilliant’ style’. I usually find chicken tikka masala too creamy and gloopy, generally preferring spicier curries, so was intrigued to see how Dipna would work her magic on it. By not adding cream, that was how! God knows how she did it, but it was rich, subtly creamy and beautifully spiced. Simply delicious.
Andy’s Karahi Gosht—‘lamb stewed in an onion masala, finished with red and green capsicums’ (£12)—was another winner, the peppers lending the rich, fork-tender meat a light, aromatic freshness. Sides of fluffy steamed basmati rice and a couple of garlic naans did their job of mopping up the yummy juices.
For pudding, we shared a kulfi stick (£6), the dense, milky Indian ice-cream vaguely redolent of childhood Mini Milks and none the worse for it. Everything was beautifully presented on silver thalis, decorated with edible flowers: all most appealing. Dip in Brilliant is a real gem, and to find such outstanding food at such reasonable prices in the Royal Borough is—well—brilliant.
We shared a bottle of French Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France-Patriarche (£24), whose citrusy aromatics held their own against the range of flavours we sampled; Andy, as is his wont, moved on to a large glass of full-bodied Merlot Vin de France-Patriarche (£7) to accompany his lamb.
Next time (oh yes, there will most definitely be a next time) we might start with a cocktail or three from the extensive bar: Brilliant Wild Passion (£8)—‘an electrifying combination of Brilliant’s home-made passion fruit juice with vodka’ sounds particularly enticing. Dip in Brilliant may be a place you can pop in for a quick bite, but with food this good I’d prefer to linger.