Dastaan | Epsom (UK)

Don’t be fooled by the homely look of these Indian soul food dishes.
This is top-shelf Indian haute cuisine!

The unassuming shopfront on a Surrey excessive road wouldn’t be my first pick to start a restaurant. But that’s exactly what Nand Kishor Semwal and Sanjay Gour, two established chefs, did back in 2016. Dastaan in Epsom, a well-regarded Indian restaurant, proves that location isn’t always the most important thing to open a new business.
Inside, you’re instantly hit by a homey atmosphere with an Indian vibe. Created by turmeric-yellow walls, aubergine-purple benches, loads of portraits and decoration on the walls and an open kitchen in the back.

Restaurant Dastaan has been a success from the start, awarded a Bib Gourmand from Michelin every year since the opening, amongst other recognitions like the AA Guide along the way. And it doesn’t stop there. Last year Sanjay and Nand opened a sister restaurant Black Salt in London and recently a second Dastaan restaurant in Leeds.

Chef Sanjay Gour hails from Mumbai. After studying in Goa, he worked at Gordan Ramsay’s first venture in Dubai, were he worked with Jason Atherton and Angela Hartnett. After that, Sanjay came to London to work as pastry chef in Angela’s Mayfair restaurant Murano *. He’s since had roles in high-end Indians Tamarind and Zaika, a short stint with Marcus * Wareing, ending up as Head Chef at ritzy Gymkhana in Mayfair, were he met his now business partner Chef Nand Kishor Semwal.
Nand, also originally from Mumbai, were he started his culinairy career working in Mumbai’s greatest kitchens. In 2003 Nand moved to England. Working for Trishna in London, a sister restaurant of a well established seafood restaurant in Mumbai, before he became Head Chef at Gymkhana.

Dastaan is open for dinner on Tuesday to Sunday, and also for lunch in the weekends. Their extensive menu offers Starters & Chats (at £3 – £8.95), Starter Kebaks & Tikka (at £7.50 – £14.95), Biryani (at £14.25 – £14.95), Curries (at £7.50 – £18.95) with sides and rice offered seperately, and Meetha (desserts) (at £5.95).

We had dinner on a Sunday two weeks ago with friends and food buddies Helena and Dominic.

Assorted Poppadum Basket (£3) & Pickle Tray (£3)

We started with their homemade poppadums, which came in two crispy varieties. One plain and the other with lentils and black pepper. Scrumptious with the (also) homemade pickle trio. A tempting mango chutney, bright flavoured mint chutney and a tangy chillied tomato chutney. All excellent and delicious!


We selected six starters to share. That’s the fun bit of being with more for dinner, you can try more different dishes. Which for me is a must at an Indian restaurant!

Malai Chicken Tikka (£10.75)

Malai chicken tikka, with decent pieces of chicken, tenderised by marinating them in yoghurt, cream cheese and garam masala. Then cooked in the tandoor giving a hint of charcoal smokiness. But that cucumber salad was the star of the dish! Delightfully vibrant with notes of mustard.

Vegetable Samosa (£5.25)

A classic Punjab style samosa with a spicy potato and green pea filling. Hitting all the right notes. Served with sweet and piquant tamarind & mint chutney.

Samosa Channa Chaat (£6.95)

First time I had a samosa channa chaat and I absolutely loved it! A base of chana masala (chickpea curry) with a vegetable samosa, covered under a blanket of sweet yoghurt & mint chutney and pomegranate seeds. Superb!

Duck Seekh Kebab (£11.50)

Lamb seekh kebab can be found on most Indian menu’s, but here they do a duck version. Served with apple. You can’t help wondering if that works. I can tell you, it definitely does!
Amazingly good and utterly delicious. Succulent duck, perfectly spiced in a bonding marriage with the apple murabba, an unusual, but joyfull, relish of almost-candied apple and mustard seeds. My mouth starts watering just from thinking about it again.

Lamb Chops (per piece) (£10.50)

Chef Nand Kishor Semwal signature lamb chops are massive. Charred at the edges from the tandoori, lush and velvety from a two-phase marination with yoghurt and spices, and unbelievably tender and juicy. The chop comes with a blazing, sinus-clearing salad of mooli (daikon radish) with a Bengali kasundi mustard. Finger licking goodness!

Amritsari Fish (£8.95)

Amritsari fish is based on a Punjabi street food dish. Tilapia is marinated with ginger and chilli, amongst other spices, then fried to give a crispy, but light, batter. An amazing layering of flavours in those little fish bites, with dill & ginger raita as the perfect dip. Loving it!


For mains we followed the same principle as for the starters. We each picked our favourite dish from the menu and we shared them all.
We added some roti, garlic & chilli naan and peshawari naan. Lovely, light and supple, hot and fresh from the oven. Fluffy pulao rice and tadka dal with chilli garlic tempering. An exemplary, yellow lentil dal, with perfect texture, consistency and, most of all, taste!

Lamb Biryani (£14.95)

Lamb biryani with dainty and fragrant basmati rice with a flair of minty sweetness. Perfect for the remarkably tender lamb meat, luscious and pleasingly rich of mild spices. Cucumber & pomegranate raita on the side completed the dish flawlessly. Excellent!

Chicken Chettinad (£12.95)

Indian cooking for me, stands for deep, intense flavours with spices that are at the helm of curries. This chicken chettinad was a prime example of that. With generous chunks of chicken thigh in a dark, rich and quite spicy sauce, made with curry leaves, chettinad masala, star anise and fresh coconut. So good!

Pork Vindaloo (£13.50)

Vindaloo often is the most spicy dish on an Indian menu. It actually originates from Goa and is based on the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos, which made its way to India in the 15th century. Vinha d’alhos means: marinated with garlic and wine. So, in India, vindaloo refers to the use of vinegar in the marinade.

Pork Vindaloo at Dastaan obviously follows the traditional recipe. Soft and tender farmed pork in a macho sauce with Goan spices, a vivid backnote of sharpness from Todi vinegar and a resonant, chilli punch which hits you as an afterburn, without numbing your taste buts, so you still get all the beautiful flavours. Most satisfying!

Nalli Gosht (£16.75)

Nalli Gosht is lamb shanks in a spicy, thick and rich yoghurt based curry sauce. The shanks are cross-cut, ossobucco style, with falling-of-the-bone-tender spiced lamb. The warmth in this curry and the layers of flavours are second to none. An exemplary use of costal spices. Sensational!


At this point the ladies were completely satisfied. But Dominic and I had to try some of the desserts of course!
We chose Gulab Jamun, one of India’s most cherished festival desserts. Dastaan’s take on the little sweet fried dumplings of milk solids are scented with cardamon and steeped in rose flavored sugar syrup.

And Pistachio Kulfi. Irannian pistachios, regarded as the worlds finest, combined with fresh cream and a touch of rose water to make this Indian ice cream. Kulfi is not churned so texture wise its denser and a lot richer than a traditional ice cream. Nice!

But my favourite was the Falooda. Like an Indian sundae. Ice cream topped with rose petal marmelade. Underneath an intriguing mixture of mixed berries, rice noodles and soaked Indian basil seeds (Tukmare seeds). Those seeds swell up and look like little fish eggs. The dessert is finished with Rabri, reduced caramelised milk flavoured with cardamom. Sweet and delicious with unusual textures.

Dastaan means story or tale in Hindi as is painted on the wall opposite the open kitchen. But this is no fairy tale, but a love story of chillies and unusually distinct and vibrant spices. Don’t be fooled by the homely look of these Indian soul food dishes. This is top-shelf Indian haute cuisine! Majestic curries with loads of heat, but never too excessive to appreciate the taste and flavours of the ingredients and spices. Can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!

In hindsight, Nand Kishor Semwal and Sanjay Gour chose this hidden and unattractive location wisely. Otherwise the double shift dinner service they already do daily, would be fully booked for years!