A short 40 minute train ride from London, we arrive in the green and pleasant Buckinghamshire. After a long hike over the rolling hills and pastoral scenes of the Chilterns, we walked into the picturesque village setting of Amersham and checked into the Crown Inn Hotel, the setting for our dinner at Hawkyns by Atul Kochhar.
A recent survey suggests curry comes out on top as Britain’s favourite dish. A beautiful paradox to illustrate this, a few steps across the perfectly English country courtyard we were warmly welcomed into Hawkyns by Atul Kochhar. Named for Sir William Hawkyns of the East India Company who pioneered the import of Indian food into England in the 1600s, it is one of four establishments of the twice Michelin starred chef, Atul Kochhar.
Inside, the relaxed yet romantic dining room has windows that look out onto the traditional stone built market hall. With fireplaces and original dark Tudor beams it is a picture of a quintessential English dining room. And yet the heady perfume emanating from the kitchen suggested a more exotic outing. As the restaurant filled and the atmosphere became joyous, we went with the tasting menu and accompanying wine flight to remove the agony of choice.
Our delicate and plentiful feast began with a summery flute of sparkling white wine and crispy, spicy poppadums. Little mason jars of home-made chutney to accompany them were jammy and rich and good enough to spoon out and eat alone. An amuse bouche, a cream tea delicacy of beetroot sponge cake with a herby icing quickly followed, and like an autumn breeze, just as quickly disappeared.
Our first course was a classic, neatly spiced Samosa Chaat with a tangy mint & tamarind chutney and a sweet yoghurt. A zesty Chilean Bodegaza Sauvignon Blanc was the accompanying glass which accentuated the warmth and scents of the pastry pockets.
This was swiftly followed by chunky succulent, grilled prawns with carom seeds and a green chilli marinade. Creamy yet full of heat, it complimented the delicate seafood. The next glass, a Spanish Essencia Divina Albarino, cleansed the palate with herby freshness.
Generous bites of a cheese and spice marinated chicken tikka with a rich, fragrant Makhani sauce could’ve easily been my choice of main course and I was almost melancholic when I blinked, through wine goggles of a Californian Pinot Noir Mcmanis, and it was gone.
Two wintry main dishes of Railway lamb curry, smoky, saucy, sweet and richly flavoured and Bhatti Ka Ghost, a Hereford Beef short rib slow cooked till the meat was moist and tumbling off the bone. A thick, mouth-watering black dal converted my partner with one spoonful into a lifelong lentil lover & slim Garlic Naan was cut into delicate triangles reminiscent of a cream tea sandwich.
To finish, a dessert as refreshing and light as an English April shower. Sweet, juicy, grilled tandoori pineapple, Mango Bhapa Doi, yogurty and contrasting to the sharp raspberry Aum Aur coulis. With a final glass of luscious, golden Hungarian Late Harvest Tokaji, we were ready to wander back to our room to sleep deeply and dream of indulgent picnics in verdant green Chilterns.
To discover more, visit: hawkynsrestaurant.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Hawkyns by Atul Kochhar.
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