Tracey Nightingale embarks on an Indian culinary adventure with a difference...
Tucked away in a smart end terrace on a side street off the swanky King’s Road, Vineet Bhatia London looks like any other Georgian townhouse – you even have to ring a doorbell to go inside. In fact, if it wasn’t for the subtle signage, you may be mistaken into thinking that you’re about to enter a pop-up in a posh private home. But groundbreaking chef Vineet Bhatia’s tasting-menu only venture is far from it. From the moment you step through the door of this intimate 32-seat establishment you know you’re in for a treat.
A reincarnation of his previous restaurant Rasoi, Vineet Bhatia London has been created with a discreet private members’ club feel. The interior has none of the dark colours and heavy fabrics commonly associated with Indian restaurants. Instead, think fashionable greys with hints of yellow. The flooring is a combination of bright Moroccan-inspired tiles in the corridor and warm wood in the two cosy dining rooms – one at the front and one at the back of the house, linked by the small bar area.
We were seated in the front room, next to a classic marble fireplace and overlooking a sleepy residential street. The atmosphere is formal, yet relaxed and friendly. There are crisp white tablecloths, as well as dainty rose-gold cutlery and a menu that eschews the traditional a la carte for an 11-course tasting experience. But this is no eatathon, each of the small, carefully crafted dishes are as refined as the setting, fusing complex flavour combinations that will tease your taste buds to try more. So put aside any notions of naan bread and poppadoms – you won’t find them here. This is Indian food, but not as you know it.
Vineet Bhatia, who in 2001 became the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star, is famed for his progressive cuisine that’s inspired by his Mumbai heritage and global travels, and this imaginative new menu is no exception. It begins with a selection of beautifully created canapés and ends with desserts to die for. But before you dive into the deliciously zesty lime soup and smoked prawn chaat, order one of the expertly mixed Crazy Gin cocktails – you won’t regret it.
Out of three sensational starting dishes, special mention goes to the amritsari haddock, which is coated in a crispy black squid batter and camouflaged on a bed of black stones. ‘Don’t eat the stones!’ quips the waiter before our forks crack the light, crispy batter to reveal delicately seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth fish.
There are five slightly larger dishes to follow. The creativity that goes into them all is masterful, delivering unique, exciting flavours and a feast for the eyes. The spicy and oh, so moreish glazed pork chop is a delight to the senses and served with a flourish (and a dainty purple pansy on top), while the striking beet foie gras is quite simply a work of art, arriving on a black jagged plate with a dusting of red powder and an eye-catching beetroot macaroon.
There are also a couple of excellent Indian classics – duck korma and the Punjabi Patiala chicken – but as you’d expect each offers greater complexity. And the popular sweet gulab jamun is also on the menu, as part of the chocolate cure, accompanied by a crunchy chocolate nest, tasty turmeric caviar and a fancy white-chocolate feather. As well as nods to tradition, there is one of Bhatia’s bestsellers, too – the signature chocomosa. It’s served with a plate of divine petit-fours, and you can see why it’s a crowd-pleaser. After all, what’s not to love about a savoury samosa stuffed with sweet dark and white chocolate?
Bhatia’s menu is modern, refreshing and unlike any Indian food I’ve tasted before, so expect the unexpected. If you’ve got a special occasion to celebrate or simply fancy sampling some pretty superb Insta-worthy dishes, Vineet Bhatia London won’t disappoint.
The tasting menu costs £105 pp or £175 pp with wine flight, and there is a vegetarian option, too.
Vineet Bhatia London,
10 Lincoln Street,