Diwali at Trishna, Marylebone:
Diwali, the Hindu festival of light is, as one of my friends explained, a celebration that’s a bit like Hindu Christmas. There are various stories associated with Diwali depending on where you come from. The explanation I like best is this excerpt from the Times of India
Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple – and some not so simple – joys of life.
Times of India editorial
If you want to join in the celebrations, then Michelin starred Trishna in Marylebone Village has a wonderful Diwali tasting menu that I was lucky enough to preview earlier this week. It’s the kind of menu that makes you wish you had hollow legs. More of that later!
Trishna right now has a particularly striking exterior. Not only is it garlanded with flowers for Diwali there’s also a rather handsome Elephant right by the door. It turns out that this is the 10 year anniversary of the JKS restaurant group who own Gymkhana and Brigadiers as well as Trishna. The Elephant is part of their celebrations but also a means to support the Elephant Family charity which aims to protect Asian elephants in their natural habitat. All three restaurants have an elephant, beautifully decorated with striking Indian designs. They will be there till the end of November, so even if you don’t go for the Diwali tasting menu, you still have a chance to see them and to support the charity with a donation on your bill.
Inside, Trishna is friendly and informal. So relaxed in fact that until you start your meal you might wonder about the niceties of a Michelin fine dining restaurant with sommelier wine service and tasting menus. But, there’s no compromise on the food or drink – or indeed on the service. The six-course tasting menu is preceded by a delicious Diwali cocktail – your choice of a bergamot royale or an Americano made with bergamot, both ruby red and glowing in the candlelight
There’s an assortment of pappadum and chutneys too. We were particularly intrigued by one that looked more like a rice-cake. And, there’s a 6-course tasting menu. In fact, unlike many tasting menus, this one comes with a lot of choice. There’s a vegetarian one with two options for every course and there’s the omnivore version which is a mix of fish and meat dishes, again with two options at every stage.
We stuck with the omnivore version, although decided to share each option so that we tried the full menu. First up was Nandu Varuval – a soft shell crab served with tomato chutney and white crab meat and seasoned with green chilli. A delicious light batter revealed a plump crab which took us seconds to consume!
Koliwada squid and shrimp is a dish I hope is on their regular menu – it comes with a green coriander and chilli chutney and a seasoning of black pepper, curry leaves and Indian onion. Something like a really refined salt and pepper squid we loved the tender seafood with a piquant dusting of seasoned ground rice.
Hariyali Bream dressed with a green chilli and coriander paste and served with smoked tomato kachumber was light, refreshing and perfectly cooked. I’ve shown the cut fish because the flesh was so immaculate it deserves sharing.
Shahi Salmon Tikka was coated in royal cumin and dill leaves and served with dainty and tangy chat of smoked raw papaya and samphire. Once again the fish was perfectly cooked, moist and flaky with a light spice and aniseed notes from the dill.
Our next two dishes were game based. Perhaps my favourite dish of the evening was the red leg partridge chukka with curry leaves, black pepper, Indian onion and a tiny parotta (layered flatbread). Topped with a tiny preserved lemon to cut through the heat, this was delicate and yet spicy. I could have feasted all night on this.
Meanwhile, the alternative dish, Bater Shami Kebabe with mint, cardamom, ginger and tamarind chutney and tiny quail scotch eggs was another winner.
I was somewhat bemused by the next dish with the meat coated with fresh herbs. Tandoori venison haunch was served with pickled venison and tadka dahi. A splendidly colourful dish, I was impressed by the flavour combinations and by the delicious tadka dahi which I’ve never tried before.
The alternative dish of Tandoori Lamb Chops with Kashmiri chilli, ginger, crushed onion and kasundi mooli was also delicious, though not quite so spectacular on the plate
Now, until this point, we’d been served relatively small portions of food. Neither of us were prepared for the next course which our waiter happily described as ‘your main course! There was a choice of Meen Manga Curry (hake fillet with raw mango and Malabar tamarind) or Gongura lamb – a melting dish of slow-cooked lamb with pickled sorrel leaves, poppy seeds and Guntur teja chilli. I love the taste of sorrel and grow it in my garden – the pairing of lamb with sorrel was an excellent way to add a little tanginess to the soft lamb mixture. The Meen Manga Curry looked delicious too – vibrant and fresh. But, I was so full by this stage that I could do little more than taste the lamb, Makai Saag and Hyderabadi dal.
We were defeated!
Thankfully, the kind staff boxed up our not-inconsiderable leftovers to be taken home. Leaving the issue of dessert.
Thankfully both options were delicate. I have to confess to loving the Orange Malpua Rabri which is a beautiful sweet made with candied orange zest, lacha rabri and a blood orange sorbet. In our case, the sorbet was not blood orange as Diwali is yet to start, but I can imagine this dish being even more stunning with it’s delicate garnish of silver leaf and the sweet-sticky orange flavours.
Gulabi Chenna Payesh was described as rose milk dumplings with gulkhand and almond – a fragrant marshmallowy mixture which had I not been quite so full I am sure I would have devoured!
Throughout the meal our wines were expertly matched for us with the dishes – and I was particularly impressed at the pairings. It can be challenging to find wine to work well with spicy food, but here there was no hesitation…
If you happen to be booking for Diwali I would recommend a Sommelier pairing which costs an additional £75 simply because this kind of food deserves the perfect wine accompaniment. The tasting menu itself is £65 for the vegetarian option or £70 for the omnivores choice. Personally, I think that’s excellent value – I’m seldom defeated when I am dining out but here you really will be given a feast. The Trishna Diwali Menu runs from 5th – 1tth November 2018
15-17 Blandford St,
London W1U 3DG