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Atul Kochhar’s Indian Essence:
Whilst it’s always lovely to be invited to restaurants in central London, it’s also nice to have the opportunity to explore what’s happening in local neighbourhoods. It used to be the case that many of the local Indian restaurants (which were more often than not, actually Bangladeshi) served up variations on the ‘3 pot’ curries, and were the haunt of the post pub crowd. But increasingly we are seeing the rise of local Indian restaurants serving refined and interesting dishes; whilst they might not yet be as innovative as say, the Cinnamon Club or Benares, they are a very welcome addition to the local dining scene. Indian Essence, with Atul Kochhar as co-owner and chef-patron, is certainly filling that niche very well in Pett’s Wood, Kent.
It’s a short drive from where I live, so we popped along one Thursday evening, which also happened to be music night. A one man band started with a selection of jazz piano, and after a short break came back with a saxophone. In the words of the Fast Show, “Smooooth”.
We started with pappadoms and home made chutneys; mango, pineapple, and tomato. The pineapple was unusual and rather a hit with us.
I choose Tikki Samosa Chaat, which was a dish of potato cakes and vegetable parcels served with yogurt, taramind, and mint chutney. This was very lightly and subtly spiced, and utterly delicious.
Alex chose the Malai Tikka, char grilled chicken served with mint chutney. I didn’t get to try any, so it must have been very good!For my main I choose a seafood dish called Samudri Khazana, it comprised red snapper, scallops, squid, and a huge jumbo prawn which was as sweet as lobster. This came in a creamy sauce which was a bit of a surprise as it was described as a masala spring onion sauce. To be honest, after the starter, and because the sauce was so rich, I couldn’t finish this. It was a very generous helping, and everything was cooked perfectly, I’m just not the biggest fan of creamy sauces.
Alex went for a more traditional curry house dish of lamb bhuna. The sauce was spicy, with a lovely gloss, and packed full of flavour, he had this with perfect pilau rice and chilli pakora side.
I was too full to eat any more, but Alex manfully opted for a dessert. He chose a mango and chilli creme brulee. I had a little taste of this, the top had the perfect crunch, but I didn’t get much mango or chilli flavour; I think that the chef could afford to be a little bolder with this dish.
Throughout the meal, we received perfect service that struck exactly the right level of attentiveness and friendliness. The decor inside is very nice, neutral with pops of colour, and the tables a decent distance apart. This isn’t a cheap local curry house, the prices reflect the sophistication of the cooking, but it offers something excellent in the range between the ‘local curry house’ and the fine dining Michelin starred Indian restaurants in the West End.
There is also the opportunity to learn how to cook some of Atul’s signature dishes at masterclasses, with the man himself, at the restaurant on 20th August and 12th November 2017.
I have a good friend who lives at Pett’s Wood; I know where I will be suggesting we meet up next time.
We were guests of Indian Essence.
176-178 Petts Wood Rd,
Orpington BR5 1LG