Dining at Matsya, Mayfair:
There’s a pocket of Mayfair prime estate to the north of Green Park tube station which seems to have become a haven for contemporary Indian restaurants. Benares, Gymkhana and Jamavar are all places I’ve enjoyed and would happily recommend (as would the Michelin guide, all three are Michelin starred). Along with Tamarind which is currently being refurbished, but was the first Indian restaurant in London to win a Michelin star, this part of London is a centre of excellence for refined Indian cuisine.
When I spotted a newcomer, Matsya, I was curious to find out more. There are plenty of advantages in positioning yourself right in the heart of things – if you can produce an offering which matches your longer-established neighbours.
In the Hindu religion, Matsya is one of the ten forms taken by the god Vishnu. A tiny fish was caught and cared for by King Manu the first man on earth. It grew to a great size and when the world was flooded, Manu was saved by the fish towing him to safety. Matsya represents a new, fresh approach to life and the restaurant aims to present dishes with a contemporary twist on classical Indian dining. And, there’s a substantial seafood offering on the menu too.
Tucked away on Curzon Street, the exterior belies a beautifully designed and luxurious interior. I particularly liked the private dining room on the lower ground floor – which also houses a substantial wine cellar and tasting room. There are a range of set tasting menus, a speciality seafood menu and an a la carte. For those visiting at lunchtime, there’s also a set menu for the bargain price of £15 for soup, main, sides and a glass of wine.
Sitting with cocktails, pappadums and chutneys we felt spoilt for choice by the menus. I ordered predominantly from the special seafood menu while my companion picked from the main a la carte.
To start for me a dish of Mangalorean Masala Clams. The main port for the state of Karnataka, on the South West coast of India this is a classic stir-fried dish with clams served in their shells cooked with coconut, red chilli, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Utterly delicious tiny morsels of fish which were perfectly complemented by the delicate spicing.
My companion had no complaints about her Kesar Kali Mirch ka Murg Tikka, dainty chicken kebabs flavoured with saffron and black pepper, cooked in the charcoal grill – succulent morsels of chicken with a perfect char infused with yoghurt and saffron.
For my main course, recommended by the team at Matsya, I ordered Daab Chingri, which comes served in a coconut shell. It’s one of those visually stunning dishes you just don’t want to spoil by eating.
The prawns were plump and tender and the coconut sauce rich and creamy with just the right heat from green chillis to complement the delicate seafood.
I’d finished my glass of prosecco by this stage and was so tempted by the look of my companion’s cocktail that I decided to order my own. Dr Dang is a mix of Hendrick’s Gin, Lemongrass and Lime and was a perfect option to pair with my Daab Chingri. I was delighted to see that it was served with a metal straw, a refreshing awareness of the impact of plastic on marine life.
Chicken Tikka Roulade with Makhani Sauce was my companion’s choice, a rich chicken breast dish served with a sweet-sour creamy sauce. It’s the sort of dish which could easily have been spoilt in less capable hands, but here the chicken was perfectly cooked and the sauce beautifully balanced.
I loved the idea of the split personality Dal bowl which offers diners half and half of yellow Dal Tadka and traditional black lentil Dal Makhani. I’d happily dine on dal and rice and personally really enjoyed the contrast between the creamy rich black lentil dal and the buttery spicy yellow lentil tadka.
Vegetable and berry pulao was, for me, just a little too rich with the other dishes on the table and another time I’d just order a Kushka. A good dish, I felt it warranted a simpler main course. And, I did little more than nibble on the delicious garlic and butter naans, aware I’d want to try a dessert too.
With my companion too full to eat any more, I was left to enjoy a Gulab Monk by myself. Luckily it was a dainty dish – a kind of cross between a rum baba and classic gulab jamun that I loved. Served with a mouthful of pistachio ice-cream it was the perfect end to a great meal.
We were genuinely impressed with the food at Matsya and really enjoyed our cocktails. Although, as is often the case, I left feeling I’d eaten a little more than I should have done, there was nothing that was over-heavy and the wealth of excellent seafood dishes means it’s quite possible to eat a good, healthy and yet luxurious dinner.
With many thanks to the team at Matsya – General Manager Anil Rattan and one of the two Directors Jitka Michelle Puri (Her husband Vikkas Puri is not pictured but is the other Director), joined in this picture by Mr Uttam Karmokar, the wonderful chef responsible for the creative dishes at Matsya
Now, I need to go back too – there’s one dish on the menu I missed but want to try. ‘The Great Indian Rope Trick’ described as a shrimp and pepper rasam styled broth with a hand pulled sugar floss dome flavoured with tamarind has to be investigated! I wonder if it’s part of that set lunch menu…
54 Curzon Street
London W1J 8PG
With many thanks to the team at Matsya for the invitation to review their menu.