Lately, I must confess to wishing I was more permanently based in Phuket as the so-called advantages of half my time in Bangkok are gradually dwindling away with air quality and certain difficult-to-understand restrictions being two key drawbacks. And food wise, whilst there are of course many more restaurants to choose from in the Big Mango, I find myself missing certain Phuket gems which, were I more island-based, would undoubtedly become my regular haunts. One such restaurant would definitely be Bollywood.
On my regular trips south, whenever an opportunity arises, I have descended on Bollywood as incredibly reliable in delivering consistently comforting Indian food. As you all know, us Brits love a good Indian meal; Chicken Tikka, Dahl, Mutton Rogan Josh and a number of varied Naan breads to dip and ultimately mop up!
During these visits, I have inevitably ended up chatting over a butter chicken with the effervescent Sam Sethi, the owner and head of the family business which covers a multitude of differing ventures. The restaurant was his brainchild and actually launched seven years ago to enable him to have a convivial location in which he could meet his business community.
The restaurant, as one might expect, has been redecorated over the years. However, as I entered recently I was initially surprised not to see Sam himself at the door and find myself in a quite stylish and contemporary restaurant, not as I have become accustomed. I recheck my surroundings to ensure I am in the right place… Yes, this is the new Bollywood!
I am greeted by Priya, one of Sam and Chin’s daughters who returned to Phuket last year to oversee a comprehensive refurbishment of the restaurant and introduce a reimagined updated menu. I must say that the interior is a significant change with striking ochre walls adorned with simply framed Bollywood posters, a fond nod to its past, and rattan-backed seating lends the whole room a very cool vibe. Comfortable sofas with themed cushions pull me inside and Priya shares her new vision.
Even the menu presentation and layout has been changed to reflect new, perhaps younger tastes. I do notice that Bollywood is now referred to as an Indian bistro – I am intrigued. Yes, pleasingly, the menu still has the stalwarts as one might expect but also includes a number of more fusion dishes with Indian themed dishes given a modern twist, such as mutton rogan tagliatelle and Amritsari fish and chips, the latter with Punjabi spice coating. I also see prawn tacos and a tempting egg curry truffle risotto.
I order several recommended dishes. Rather than regale you here, I would prefer you visit and try for yourself, suffice to say you will not be disappointed. The traditional dishes have been given a more modern presentation and a touch of class, whilst the new dishes will certainly delight the more adventurous among us. I must highlight the aloo tikki burger and butter chicken panini as worthy of attention!
I bid my farewell and briefly reflect, relaunches are a sensitive beast, particularly those affecting successful timeless restaurants as reinvention can create confusion, alienating regulars, However, I am delighted to note that Bollywood bistro, I am confident, will not be one of those. The newly created identity is both a welcome facelift to the original and totally on trend. I look forward to my next visit and when I relocate permanently, to becoming a Bollywood Bistro regular! This might well be my new best of both worlds!
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly restaurant column.