Another restaurant serving small portions of good looking Indian food. Would it fail to deliver like so many others in London have (just my opinion) or would it be a success? I mean there is only one way to find out right. Before I give you my opinion on the food, let’s take a look at the facts:
- Within 10 months of opening, it received its first Michelin Star, no easy feat by any means
- The head chef Rohit Ghai, previously cooked at Benares, Gymkhana and Trishna; all Michelin Starred establishments
- The previous 5 restaurants opened by Mr. Nair across The Leela hotel group have all been acclaimed hits
Take all the above and the fact that we struggled to get a booking before 9:30pm 3 weeks in advance into account and everything looks very good indeed. I walk in with my family (5 of us in total) at about 9:25 and we get ushered to the bar downstairs because our table isn’t ready, understandable seeing as we are a few minutes early. 9:55 and we are still standing around, not so understandable. It turns out our table was given to another group of 5 who were waiting at the bar as well, not something you’d expect from a one star establishment. As we were eventually seated, I mentioned to the manager that I was a vegetarian food blogger in London and that I would be taking photos with additional lighting, no problems he said.
The menu has 5 vegetarian options for the starters and so we ordered all 5 as you do. The first of these was the Chatpata Tawa Salad, a mix of masala quinoa, seasonal vegetables, chopped apricots and a chilli-honey dressing. Plated just as you would expect from a restaurant on Mount Street but not lacking flavor by any means. A perfect harmony of sweet and spicy, almost similar to a Thai papaya salad.
The kasundi paneer tikka with mint and raw papaya chutney was good, perhaps refined a little too much, but none the less tasty in its own right. Dal Chawal Aur Achaar is literally translated as lentils, rice and pickles. In essence an arancini type ball filled with rice and dal rather than cheese. Having tried a very good version of the same dish in India I wasn’t prepared to be all that impressed but these were good, really good. Think all the flavours of homemade rice and daal but presented in a modern way.
At this point the hiccup from the start of the evening was starting to fade into the back of our memories. Next thing you know, 5 mocktails have been bought to the table. The thandai is made up of Fresh raspberry, kaffir leaf, toasted cumin, guava, mango, cranberry, vanilla, ginger beer. In simpler terms, it transports you back to India and drinking a juice somewhere on a busy beach in Mumbai. A few minutes later a waiter appears with a tray overflowing with items. Now we had only ordered 2 main dishes and 2 sides but the chef had sent out an extra 5/6 dishes on the house, thank you Mr Ghai and Co.
Everything was well flavoured and something that would not be out of place in any Indian kitchen. Additionally, the portions were properly sized! Going through each dish one by one would take far too long so I will give you my favourites. Let’s start with the daal makhani, an off the menu dish that had the perfect balance of creaminess and spice. The dum tarkani biriyani was also an absolute delight. Too often you find biriyani overloaded with overcooked veg and it all just becomes a bit of a mush, not here though. I have saved the best for last and that is the paneer makhani, another off the menu dish. The sauce was built up on a cashew nut base and developed in flavour with every bite. Despite it being the largest plate on the table, it was cleaned up to the last drop.
Indian restaurants have really stepped up their desserts in the last few years and so you can imagine my excitement when I saw the words ‘mixed tasting platter’ on the menu. The opportunity to try a little bit of everything and indulge in what I thought would be some incredible sweets to finish the meal. Unfortunately, what came out was a small plate with a tiny mango rasmalai, poached pear, gulab jambu malai, rose petal ice cream and a few miserable looking berries and pieces of kiwi. Nothing stood out for me and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Next time I will definitely go for the chocolate fondant, there is something about chocolate and chilli that is strangely appealing.
On the whole, the meal was very good indeed and it even received praise from my parents, not something that happens very often in an Indian restaurant. Head of Ops Mr. Sangwan and his team ran a very slick show where nothing felt forced. For me, the biggest plus point was the fact that the team in the kitchen was willing to make dishes that weren’t listed on the menu. I’m going to put it out there and say this is my favourite fine dining Indian restaurant in London and that star is well and truly deserved.