Being a born and bred Indian Londoner and a bit of a self-confessed foodie, I have lost count of the number of times I am asked about my favourite Indian restaurant. This quest is hardly an easy one. I tend to respond with a blithe “Exactly what kind of Indian food are you after?” and go from there. Thankfully, thanks to Rohit Ghai, I may not need to do that anymore…
Enter Kutir. A transformed townhouse just off the Kings Road in Chelsea. Not exactly the kind of place you would expect a fantastic Indian restaurant to be, eh? Get ready to be surprised. Chef Patron Rohit Ghai used to work in the upper echelons of high-end Indian dining, with experience spanning Benares, Gymkhana and most recently, Jamavar, and that’s only his experience in London. He is also the first Indian chef to have won a Michelin star for Jamavar within ten months of the restaurant’s opening. The skills he racked up at these restaurants put him in good stead at Kutir, where he and business partner Abhi Sangwan had a vision of opening an Indian restaurant that focused on good value for money (rare for the local area) and providing a warm neighbourhood feel for their clientele.
The Terrace Garden
I heard about Kutir thanks to their elegant rooftop terrace which is open for al fresco lunches and candlelit dinners, Tuesday to Sunday. There is also a bargain £25 three course lunch menu that even includes a (gin) cocktail as well as rice/bread. The £35 menu includes some of our favourite dishes from Rohit Ghai’s flavourful a la carte with a completely vegetarian selection of dishes also available.
Kutir does feel like you are eating at someone’s incredibly tastefully decorated house, with a knock at the charming front door welcoming you to soft pastel greens and burnished gold complementing the large, airy windows in each room, with efficient and charming service.
My first impression is that the bar here is pretty damn excellent – I choose the Bagh, a concoction of tequila reposado, mango and a subtle kick of pink peppercorn, while the Madhosh might be one of my new favourite cocktails in London. It’s essentially an incredibly punchy old fashioned, with smoky peated whiskey, cognac, a hit of calvados, vermouth rosso, lightened up with some crème d’abricot and garnished with a cherry skewered through an elegant silver K in the shape of a rose.
This is why Kutir is my favourite Indian restaurant. The soft shell crab we order first are orange, deep fried and taste like I should be sitting by the turquoise sea in a beach hut, with the chilli and lime zing cutting through the crunchy batter. I would order another portion but there’s so many other good dishes to order here, and I wanted to try as many as possible!
A pretty plain sounding Aloo Tikki is strangely one of my favourite dishes of the night: a very dense potato patty delicately flavoured with chilli and ginger, served on a bed of black chole. Black chole are so hard to find in London, and at Kutir they are the creamier, nuttier more flavoursome brother to their chickpea counterpart.
The signature quail egg and truffle naan is pillowy and delicious, which we wish we could have for breakfast / brunch / tea / midnight / anytime! I also rashly order the obscure sounding “accompaniment tray” which is a selection of pickles, unearthing a mushroom pickle which blows our mind. A selection of fresh and wild mushrooms is pickled in a pungent almost kimchi-ish fashion, but the earthiness of the mushrooms remains. Please make sure you order this.
There is clearly a deft hand in Rohit Ghai’s kitchen when it comes to pickling, as I am incredibly impressed by the salmon tikka, served with what we thought was a pickled cherry tomato but was actually pieces of beautifully pickled and crunchy red radish. The salmon itself was subtly spiced, charred yet remained juicy, and we had another star of an “accompaniment” – a delicious dill-spiked raita.
For mains we order the sea bass “mappas”, two large pieces of crispy-skinned sea bass sat in a South Indian style coconutty, curry-leaf infused sauce, showing Rohit Ghai’s ability to cover a lot of regional ground. The Kutir Kali Daal is pungently spiced with fenugreek. It has also been slow-cooked for 24 hours, giving it a potent richness and beautiful glossy consistency. A slow-cooked venison curry with green peppercorn and fennel follows, mixed with a creamy yoghurt offsetting the gameyness of the meat nicely.
Back to my opening point on Indian restaurants: one of my biggest bugbears is that desserts tend to be considered an afterthought. At many restaurants, there isn’t much else available for pudding other than “Indian” ice cream or gulab jamun. Not that I have anything against gulab jamun, but I could eat that at home every day and would love to try something different every once in a while. Again, Kutir exceeds my expectations. We order a “Malpua – Rabri” which is transcendent – sweet Indian pancakes bathed in a sea of saffron-infused reduced milk and berries. Oh and two healthy servings of deeply spiced creamy proper masala chai.
The best Indian restaurant in London?
I am extremely glad to have finally found the jewel in London’s Indian restaurant crown in Kutir. At last I won’t be flummoxed when people ask me which Indian restaurant is my favourite. Rohit Gai will also be opening a new restaurant in Mayfair later this year. In the meantime, run, don’t walk down the Kings Road and let the wonderful team at Kutir welcome you into their home. I am sure it’ll soon become your favourite Indian restaurant too.
To discover more, visit: kutir.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Rohit Ghai / Kutir
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