Ooty, named after a small town in Tamil Nadu, really embraces the nuances in South Indian cuisine. Tamilian cuisine is traditionally classified into six tastes – sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent. Known for its varied range of spices, Ooty is all about Chettinad cuisine – perhaps the fieriest of all Indian food which we were excited to experience.
Ooty is the passionate product of owners Pooja Nayak and Aseela Goenka, close friends who had the vision to recreate the nostalgia of their childhoods in India. Ooty delivers a dining experience with confident nonchalance. The main dining room is sleek and chic, perhaps dissimilar to what you might expect from an Indian restaurant, think bubble gum pink dining-room chairs, muted toned walls, floral wallpaper and a living wall of succulents.
Before dinner, check out the colonial-style bar downstairs. The Ooty Club with its dark hues, copper accents and warm lighting brings back the legacy of the 18th century British Raj. While Ooty boasts a range of signature cocktails, we tried lesser known amber jewel of their wine menu, Alphonso Mango wine, from Pune in India. Recommended by our waiter we remained hesitant until our first taste. The wine is sweet on the first sip, but it has a light, dry aftertaste which cleanses the palate which made it a great accompaniment to complex spicy food. The wine is beautifully balanced with a dry finish and was a delicious surprise.
We tease our taste buds with a shot of rasam (juice in Tamil). A heart-warming thin soup of tomato, chilli pepper, black pepper, cumin and spices. Alongside the rasam, a wooden mehndi styled tray appeared with a mix of poppadums and chutneys.
The head chef is Manmeet Singh Bali, who previously served as head chef at Michelin-starred restaurants VBL and Rasoi in Chelsea. If you like us you need help navigating between a Sambaar, Uttapams or Dosas then rest assured this is the right place for you.
We started with the simply named lamb rack, simple by name but spicy and flavoursome by nature. It was blanketed in a herb crumb, silken saffron, beetroot galouti (patty) and a mint gel. A tamarind glazed peppered quail was accompanied by quinoa squash cake, quail scotch egg, chilli jam and tomato dust coral. The guinea fowl was balanced by the sweetness from the jam and an ever-developing spicy undertone.
Spice crusted grilled duck was balanced beautifully with sweet and fruity flavours and mellow spices. The standout dish was a lamb and apricot biryani – tender lamb falls apart with a sweet tang of apricots. The base spices developed on every mouthful and spice lovers will adore this – those who struggle with the heat will welcome the accompanying cucumber yoghurt.
Finding space for dessert is always a struggle however, with the unfastening of a belt buckle and the relaxed atmosphere that Ooty oozes with – it was a struggle we overcame quickly. These inventive and innovative twists on southern Indian flavours extended to the dessert menu. A fennel chocolate mousse was satisfyingly decadent, the addition of raspberry sorbet and gel helped to cut through the richness. A fennel a chilli crumb added a savoury warmth we didn’t know we needed until we did.
Adding a playful element to our dining experience, the hazelnut chocolate ceps were as visually exciting as they were delicious. The mushroom shaped centrepiece stood boldly on a bed of chocolate soil with delicately scattered meringue droplets. A quenelle of blood orange sorbet sliced through the richness of the dish and was a wonderful accompaniment.
Ooty banishes traditional notions of a curry house and was a serendipitous encounter into the world of luxury south Indian cuisine. Leave your preconceptions at the door and prepare for an evening of discovery.
To discover more and book, visit: ooty.co.uk
By Harry Mills
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