When someone contacts you and tells you they want to visit an Indian / Italian restaurant and asks you to come along one thinks: “Why? Did you really say Indian / Italian? That’s inherently wrong”.

What do India and Italy have in common? Apart from the ability to produce stunning dark-haired women and a complete disregard for the rules of the road it’s tough to come up with any common thread. There is the terrible pop music, but in fairness to the Italians they tend to combine this with the whole stunning brunette women they produce, come on fellas don’t act like you didn’t rush home from school to drag yourself round the room while Sabrina’s Boys Boys Boys played on MTV.

With suitably low expectation we departed The Ship for the cab ride to Fulham to have dinner at Basil and Mint. This is the restaurant which promises “finely selected repertoire of culinary delights from two great cultures. Those of the exotic Indian subcontinent and of the rich traditional Italia.”

Now I know I’m new to London and my understanding of Cockney rhyming slang is fairly limited but I reckon Basil and Mint might be a warning to the owners that they might go broke. Judging by the numbers there tonight that can’t be too far off. To put it in perspective there would be a bigger turn out for a Salman Rushdie lookalike contest in Tehran than there was in the restaurant On Friday night. I counted more people rummaging through bins on Munster road looking for food than were in Basil and Mint. In fact Oisin and I were the only people in the whole place. So quiet was it that while we were stood in the doorway as I finished a cigarette a waiter popped his head out and pleadingly inquired if we wanted a table.

The venue itself has the look of a modern Indian restaurant, if it had got a deal on a job lot of mirrors. In fact I haven’t seen that many mirrors on the wall of anywhere since my last trip to Amsterdam (in my defense on that occasion I was only in the venue to ask for directions on how to get away from the place).

The menu once we got it was basically a simple Indian with several Italian dishes on it. There were two non Indian dishes under the starters, a scallop and calamari offering and crab cakes and a main course which I shall describe later. We suffered through average poppadoms ( I know, I know how to you make a poppadom average but they managed it) with 3 dips while sipping pints of Cobra beer (pretty much the best thing I had there all night).

I asked if it was possible to get something spicy to try with the poppadoms and was brought a little bowl of lime pickle that was so astringent it would melt the welding off a submarine door.

The prawns, highlight of the meal.

As for the starters, Oisin opted for the crab cakes and I went for tandoori prawns. The cakes had as tenuous a grasp on crab that I have on particle physics, we are both vaguely aware of the subject but would struggle to produce meaningful material if pressed. They seemed in fact, to be mildly curried little potato cakes that had been waved briefly in the general direction of a crab. My prawns it must be said were actually quite nice, they were fat, well cooked, nicely spiced and turned out to be the highlight of the evenings food. I do however feel slightly miffed that I offered to trade a prawn for a crab cake. I may have enjoyed my one remaining prawn more if 2 different waiters hadn’t stopped by to ask me if everything was ok. They literally couldn’t have spent more time at our table if they had pulled up a chair and ordered a curry (maybe they had eaten there before and knew better than to try the food).

The crabcakes, minus the crab

Main courses were marinated sea bass in a dill and tomato sauce with masala mash for Oisin and chicken Milanese on a bed of fettuccine alfredo with a basil and caper relish for me. Oisin’s fish looked like it had been trimmed by Stevie Wonder while wearing boxing gloves and had more fins sticking out of it than pimped up Citroen Saxo. I’m not sure what it was marinated in but all I can guess is it was the box it came in. It was woefully overcooked, the basil and tomato sauce was invisible and the masala mash was wet lumpy and yellow. Now maybe it’s just me but wet, lumpy and yellow are not adjectives that I want associated with my food.  

The Seabass, with yellow stuff

Chicken. Note the tomato, forgot to mention that.

As for my chicken Milanese it was cooked by someone who had an understanding of Italian cuisine gained from once seeing Enzo Macrinelli pass by on a bus. The chicken had an unsettling hint of Indian spice which contributed nothing apart from making me wish I’d ordered a curry. The fettuccine was harder to seperate than a nun’s knees and just sat on the plate as a claggy, mildly mushroomy mess (oddly enough there was no mention anywhere of mushrooms in the description).

That's a big espresso

We decided to skip dessert but Oisin did ask for an espresso only to be served a bucket of coffee that required a biscotti the size of a surf board to help soak it up. On enquiring as to why he had been given a small lake of foul smelling black liquid he was informed that the coffee machine was broken, something surely they should have mentioned before he ordered it.

So would I go back? Let me put it this way, I would rather eat the window display in the hat shop next door than dine in Basil and Mint again. If you get all excited about a marriage of Indian and Italian cooking and conjure up pictures of Apu from the Simpsons in a Mario the Plumber outfit, my recommendation is to leave it. Forget it. Keep away.

There is an upside to though, while walking down toward Putney Bridge we met the incomparable Antonio Carluccio climbing out of his car. We went over shook hands and I gushed about how much of a huge fan I was. He was a complete gent, shook hands and thanked us for saying hello. Neither of us mentioned our meal in Basil and Mint, maybe because we didn’t want to make an old man cry.

Basil & Mint Restaurant,
238 Munster Road,
Fulham, London,
SW6 6BA

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