Kanishka – Sister States food comes to Mayfair:
My love affair with Indian food is as strong as ever. Sometimes I’m more than happy with a well-cooked ‘traditional’ Northern Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi meal from a brightly lit café-style restaurant in Tooting. But at other times I really want to try something new and more refined. I hadn’t eaten food from the ‘Sister States’ of India in the North East. Namely: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam (though, obviously, I’ve had a cup or two of Assam tea), Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripusarus. Are you familiar with this style of cooking? Is this something new for you to try too? f
Kanishka is the latest restaurant from Atul Kochhar, the first chef to win a Michelin star for Indian food, which meant that we had high expectations of this Mayfair restaurant. With brightly coloured walls, a sleek small bar area, comfortable seating and modern music playing; Kanishka almost has an Ibiza-vibe to it. It certainly can’t be classed as old school Mayfair stuffy. This is somewhere for stylish people to drink cocktails, and eat beautiful creations. And that’s just what we did!
The cocktails are created to complement the food, and many have an eastern influence. Whilst we enjoyed some poppadums I sipped on a Far East Royale, made with kumquat liqueur, papaya liqueur, and champagne. This achieved the perfect level of sweetness without going too far as the liqueurs were added with a light hand. My partner, Alex, was rather more adventurous. He tried the Milkman’s Son made with Black Cow vodka, Aber Fells toffee liqueur, Frangelico, almond milk, cream, masala, and whisky bitters. All the elements were noticeable, but without the sweetness that you might imagine. Served in a glass resembling a milk jar, it was certainly eye-catching.
To start I chose the Naga scallops, beautifully caramelised and perfectly cooked indeed. These were served with cauliflower prepared three ways, pickled, pureed and roasted. The tandoori naga sauce gave an amazing smokiness to the scallops. I thought that it looked like a work of art it was so pretty.
Alex ordered soft shell crab, which came with puffed wheat with mango and peanut jhal muir, passion fruit (which was sort of candied), and some pine nuts. This dish had a decent kick to it, as you might expect from food from this region.
I do love lean venison meat, and I was excited to see how Atul treated it. My dish of Videshi style muntjac ki boti came served rare with grilled apple, aubergine, raita, a juniper garam masala gravy and a keema kulcha on the side. This had a little background warmth, but was a masterpiece of restraint, letting the beautiful ingredients sing.
Alex can rarely resist a proper biryani, and the sealed and baked lamb one on the menu called to him. A beautifully rich and flaky bread topping was set aside to reveal this fragrant dish.
The bread topping is to be eaten alongside the biryani. This was a huge hit and is highly recommended.
Alex rounded off his meal with a chocolate kulchar.
Whilst I enjoyed some rather fine English cheeses: a Tunsworth (English Camembert), Berkswell (hard sheep’s cheese) and Rosary an English goat’s cheese. Served with naan, this was a pretty substantial end to the meal.
In addition to the upstairs restaurant area where we sat, there is another dining area downstairs where you can see the kitchen in action. It was here that I got to have a chat with Atul himself. We’d found a card on our table promoting Zero-Waste Sundays. The idea is that with food made to order, sometimes there is an excess, or there are off-cuts which can be used in different ways. When this happens, the food is vac packed and frozen. From these Atul and team create a delicious 3-course meal. The meal costs £25 and takes place on the last Sunday of every month. In addition to helping reduce waste, all the proceeds go to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Atul has personal reasons for supporting this charity, so I do hope that this is a very successful initiative.
Situated a stone’s throw from Regent’s Street, Kanishka is certainly conveniently located. I enjoyed my meal and will go back for a Zero Waste Sunday. Why don’t you join me?
15-17 Maddox Street,
London, W1S 2QH
020 3978 0978
Find out more and book Zero Waste Sundays with Atul Kochhar here