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Kahani – The Story – An Indian Restaurant in Chelsea:
According to our menu at Kahani Indian restaurant, a recent addition to the Chelsea dining scene, Indian philosophy believes there to be three energies or Virtues present in the natural order of things which are Energy, Change and Peace. When all three work in harmony, perfection is found. Isn’t that perfection the aim of all restaurants? If not, perhaps it should be…
Peter Joseph, the Michelin Starred chef from Tamarind, set up Kahani with the aim of presenting a new Indian fusion cuisine. Although Joseph comes from Tamil Nadu in the south, the Restaurant’s cuisine draws inspiration from across India and aims to offer a light, fresh menu influenced by Peter’s travels across India, Spain and England.
The restaurant itself is classy, with luscious jewel-like velvet seating, wooden floors and an open kitchen to the back of the space. There’s a fabulous private dining room too, on a mezzanine with floor to ceiling glass windows out over the main restaurant that can apparently be shuttered off for total privacy. It’s perfectly styled for elegant Chelsea.
Looked after by General Manager, Shoaib Malik, we started with an aperitif to accompany homemade chutneys and pickles. My companion was theoretically not drinking and ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail. But I could see her looking enviously as I sipped on a glass of sparkling Indian wine. Shoaib, who had a wealthy of experience about Indian wines, explained that JCB N47 is a Blanc de Blanc Method Traditionelle sparkling wine named in honour of the year of India’s independence and collaboration between French wine specialists Jean-Charles Boisset and Fratelli wines, Mahārāshtra. I couldn’t put my finger on what made it so different, it was almost spicy. In the end, my companion lapsed…and tasted. ‘Cardamom’ she pronounced confidently. And of course, at that point, I could taste just that. We were very taken by the chutneys and pickles too which were beautifully balanced.
Meanwhile, a range of dishes appeared. First, a picture perfect spiced chickpea with tamarind chutney, laced with sweetened yoghurt and garnished with pomegranate seeds and mint and a plate of marinated tandoori broccoli with honey, nigella seeds and wheat crisps that, as my companion noted, would make a good vegetarian main dish. Immaculately cooked with just the right amount of bite, I would never have considered eating broccoli as a stand-alone dish. But it worked very well indeed.
A light chargrilled chicken tikka, with saffron, mace, baby ginger and coriander stem was tender and moist, delicately scented with saffron and ginger. I’d happily have devoured a plateful of the smoked Malabar prawns, plump and juicy from a coconut marinade and laced with a hint of turmeric.
The star dish though in this tasting selection, for both of us, was the Somerset lamb chops, delicate cutlets from the rack, marinated in Kashmiri chillies and cloves from Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. The meat was meltingly tender and the spices a perfect complement for the delicate sweetness. It is listed on the menu as a Kahani special – I’m now yearning to try the others – a Sirloin kebab with truffle oil, fennel and cumin and ‘Scottish blue lobster prepared three ways’.
‘Kahani’ butter chicken comes from the ‘Dawat’ (feast) section of the menu. A silky tomato makhani with fenugreek leaves was creamy and rich without being in any way cloying or heavy. That’s a skill in its own right. Accompanied by perfectly cooked rice and some morsels of naan we feasted happily.
Ajwani okra, a colourful plate of baby okra laced with Ajwan, an Indian spice known to aid in digestion, surprised my companion who had been somewhat hesitant about this part of the menu (we’d asked the restaurant to choose for us). Our host explained that the okra was flash fried before being cooked – and the result was a nutty, firm vegetal concoction without that ‘slime’ you get from poorly prepared okra. I’d honestly have eaten the lot. I think I very nearly did.
I’m always happy when offered dal – and two for one is a great idea. A maharani black dal was deliciously creamy and rich while the tadka dal was lightly spiced, nutty and fragrant.
Yes, we would have given up at this stage. But, desserts, we were told, had to be tried.
Indeed a tiny trio of kulfi was quite delicious, especially the unusual salted caramel. And, we both loved the unusual raspberry and mint cheesecake ‘melt in the middle’.
A memorable meal for me is one that makes me want to go back and try more. Kahani has done just that for me. I want to try the Tandoori double poussin, more of the seafood and perhaps the Thalasseri Biryani. I want to eat Octopus and tandoori calamari. And, I want more of those lamb chops. I’ll start with JCB N47 again to drink and I’ll stick with the Indian wines for my main course, we both loved the J’NOON’ Red, another Fratelli wine from Mahārāshtra.
I’m impressed. A calm and well-managed space where we could relax and enjoy some excellent Indian food. What more could I ask for?
1 Wilbraham Place
London SW1X 9AE