Co-founder of Gunpower, Harneet Baweja has recently opened a second restaurant, Madame D, inspired by Himalayan cuisine…
Harneet Baweja, co-founder of Gunpowder, may not entirely agree with us referring to his second restaurant, Madame D in east London, as serving cuisine from the Himalayas.
‘Really, different types of foods come from different types of cultures, not necessarily from different countries. Let’s not play into the narrative of political boundaries; it’s all about cultures,’ he explains.
‘You find so many elements of Chinese cooking in Indian food and vice versa, and both of the former have Tibetan and Nepalese elements to them too. Each cuisine is so influenced globally in this modern age; it’s really outdated to staple a type of cuisine to one country.’
With a father that served in the army, Baweja travelled around a lot as a child, becoming accustomed to the delights of real multiculturalism from a young age, the concept becoming a way of life for him.
He relishes in the seasonal produce of the Himalayan mountains, and loves the challenge of creating dishes with only crops that can thrive at high altitudes, up in the mountains – a type of restraint that can only result in something new and intriguing, which is a rarity on the London scene.
We try not to include the same protein or vegetable in any two dishes on the menu. It lacks creativity
Baweja says that Himalayan cuisine is all about that hot, spicy kick. And he’s bringing a real, authentic slice of those dreamy mountain planes to Commercial Street, keeping it simple with a small, yet mouth-watering menu, 25 covers only, and strictly no reservations.
‘We try not to include the same protein or vegetable in any two dishes on the menu,’ he explains. ‘I feel it’s a bit overwhelming when you step into a restaurant and they have seven chicken dish options. It lacks creativity.’
Right on cue, their gifted Head Chef, Nirmal Save, appears with a breaded chicken dish, garnished in a tantalising herby sauce. The chicken almost melts in my mouth, it’s so soft and wonderfully infused with that magic green sauce that my taste buds are lulled into a dreamy euphoria.
The décor is vintage, stripped back, purposefully unfinished and dark wood clad, reminiscent of old school opium dens. While verbalising this realisation, I unknowingly prompt Baweja into telling me the fictional narrative behind the restaurant’s name.
A young girl with no money travels around the Himalayas dealing opium in order to afford travelling to the next region. Once she’s acquired enough money for a ticket to London, she quits the opium game and sets up shop in Old Street, having acquired a knack for all the rich cuisines of the Himalayas. And thus, she launches Madame D, named after herself.
76 Commercial Street E1 6LY; madame-d.com