Kanishka by Atul Kochhar (Indian, fine dining) – LondonAdvertisement Advertisement
In many ways, this unfortunate episode, which Atul has publicly apologised for, and not least in his latest interview with us titled: Atul Kochhar: ‘Darkest year of my life’ since anti-Islam tweet, illustrates the double-edged nature of social media.
It highlights not just the obvious dangers of complacency in relation to such tech, but also how social media can stoke extreme levels of vindictiveness, hostility and a lack of tolerance and compassion. The fact that we are also the first Muslim news outlet to approach Atul since then, says it all!
There were then those who, following the publication of said interview, came out vehemently to refuse any and all apologies, intransigently choosing instead, despite any evidence to the contrary, to question his intentions while accusing him of having ulterior motives.
Having said that though, these people were, thankfully, in the minority, with many others readily taking his words at face value and thus, while citing and reminding of what Islam teaches by way of mercy and forebearance, quick to forgive.
In any case, Kanishka in London’s Mayfair is Atul’s comeback as one of the UK’s leading Indian chefs.
On this occasion, however, his seasonal menu is somewhat different to those of the past, in that this is the first time he’s sought inspiration for recipes from the north eastern region of India popularly known as the Seven Sisters – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
The 100-cover restaurant is a smart and spacious one, with a large alcohol bar located on the ground floor; but with plenty of space downstairs for around an additional 40.
During his interview with us, Atul repeatedly mentioned his concept of forgiveness revolving around love of God and love of humanity.
To this end, and in the spirit of reconciliation, he has teamed up with us to offer a specially made dessert he’s dubbed ‘Love’ (read more about it in the Desserts section below)!
Let’s start with the best of the trio of beverages available – Elderflower and Kaffir Lime Spritz. This was an outstandingly good concoction of subtle spikes of sour amidst an otherwise refreshingly sweet glass of non-alcoholic wine, which had an almost sherbet-like taste to it. Quite superb.
As for the similar looking Spice of Life and Tropics of Pineapple, then these split the crowd. While one Lion found the latter so overwhelmingly powerful that he “couldn’t muster another sip”, the other two, aside from being able to easily handle its sharp-cum-bitter aftertaste, couldn’t pick up much more. As for the former, then the acrid edge of the burnt orange shrub came through lightly to combine well with the subtle spiciness of the seedlip.
You might also want to note that mocktails can be prepared on request.
The spices that made up the Aromatic Lassi, however, didn’t come through anywhere near as strongly as we’d anticipated given the strength of its aroma. With the cumin quickly giving way to the fragrance of the fennel, this smooth and creamy lassi was altogether more milky than aromatic.
Anyone familiar with Atul’s menus will recognise his propensity for presenting pies with that undeniable spicy twist to ’em. And this tendency arose only after he’d entered a pie-making contest with an Indian-inspired recipe which, much to his surprise, ended up winning the competition.
In any case, Atul’s Chicken Tikka Pie deserves its designation as a signature starter, because, in all honesty, this is one of the best pies we’ve ever had!
Not only was this the crumbliest flakiest… er, pastry you’ll ever enjoy, but the combination of that soft and succulent spicy chicken along with a fantastically good sweet berry jam accompaniment with its edge of sharpness, had us enjoying this right till the end.
This busy-looking surf ‘n’ turf Masala Mixed Grill starter comprised of attractive looking proteins, served with an unbelievably fresh and vibrant mint sauce, and a large spoonful of finely diced tasty salad that was topped with a not-so crispy papadum cone.
Of the four, the one we couldn’t get enough of was the Frenched lamb chops. Pink and juicy on the inside, with a tremendous char achieved on the out, we found ourselves gnawing at the bone with these.
The malasa-fried prawns were also quite delightful. Plump and juicy as you’d want, and with a finger-lickable spicy marination, we gobbled these down in one bite before slowly savouring them.
The fish was so thoroughly grilled, that not only was its skin solidly charred and crisped-up, but given its thin size, turned out quite firm, resulting in this being the weakest of the bunch.
As for the chicken tikka, then it was soft, tender and fleshy, with a delicate marination that was enhanced by a good squeeze of the wedge of lime.RECOMMENDED
You simply will not get scallops cooked any better, which in this case didn’t so much melt than dissolve in the mouth.
With a gorgeously golden sear achieved on top, these Naga Scallops were paired with pan-fried cauliflower florets, which brought texture, and a pair of red and yellow sauces sprinkled with a few diced red chillis. While the yellow was more a creamy mayonnaise than anything else, its counterpart was a mildly spicy tomato with a touch of acidity. All in all, a fabulous plate.
Couldn’t ask for anything more when it comes to this Bhalla Papdi Chaat. Everything was superbly executed, with each element playing its respective part, however subtle, in making this a complete dish. At the heart, were these soft lentil dumplings of saturated goodness covered in yoghurt, a sweet and sour saunth chutney, and a mint sauce, before being sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Textural contrast was assured by a bed of sev, as well as these delicately crispy discs of pastry, all revolving around a dollop of frozen yoghurt.
The meaty morsels of tender chewy lamb had a pleasing hint of smokiness courtesy of the intensity of heat in which this Lamb Sapta was flash-cooked.
And apart from how beautifully spiced this was – the gentle heat building up to a strong but comfortable level before lingering soothingly thereafter – this was also a great portion for a starter (could have passed for a main to be honest).
As for that squiggly white mass of rice noodles on top, then other than visuality, it’s best to just brush ’em aside.
This was certainly different to almost all soft shell crabs we’ve had thus far. For one, and as you can see, it has a far darker and more vivid colouration.
Thanks to a fairly robust though medium-hot batter, which glistened in oil, this was more chewy in texture than crispy, which was a surprise. And had it not been for the mildly tangy papaya salad paired with the sweet creamy chutney, it would have been a rather ordinary affair. All in all, a decent soft shell crab.
This Purani Delhi Ki Gosht Biryani was no exception, particularly after lifting the pastry top and being met by a waft of the most decadent aromatic spices imaginable.
And yet, this collective euphoria wasn’t maintained for long. Given the high standards, some of us, while agreeing that this was easily above average, were perhaps expecting something more.
Hence, despite everything being thoroughly mixed in a fairly wet masala mixture, one Lion felt the lamb wasn’t as moist as it could have been, and the second simply expected more than just above average given its initial attractive good looks.
Accusing his colleagues of antisappointment, however, the third said he had little complaint, and particularly enjoyed the way in which the “layers of rice and lamb kept the entire thing moist and fragrant”.
This biryani was also accompanied by a fairly small, yet exquisite bowl of burani raita – a thick yogurt with a hint of sweetness to it, which you might require more of to dampen those bold masala spices.RECOMMENDED
The humble Monkfish, when done right, has a texture reminiscent of really tender chicken, but with a flaky firmness to it.
In this case, what made this one of the stand-out dishes of the review, was not just its masterful execution, but the assortment of seemingly disparate ingredients that came all together to create this uber interesting Macher Malai Kori.
Take, for instance, that creamy curry sauce. The touch required in balancing the mild sweetness of the coconut with the heat of its spices made us wish there was an entire jug accompanying this dish than what was.
But what really impressed us was this odd-looking beetroot ball, which had a claggy texture, almost like the classic Indian sweet known as a ghulab jaman, and succeeded in adding a sweet-earthy richness to every given mouthful.
Served with a mixture of diced courgettes, broad beans and a few pomegranate seeds, we couldn’t stop picking at this and that, and spooning that delicious coconut curry.RECOMMENDED
You won’t get very many better goat curries as simply prepared, and yet as luxuriously full-bodied and as full-flavoured, as this Sagolir Manxo.
Its secret? The sheer quality of the tender chunks of goat therein, whose meaty richness helped infuse its thick and creamy, onion-based curry, and complimented expertly through the use of the cumin and gentle heat of the blackpepper.
As one Lion put it: “The curry flavour is a bar you’d wish all your kormas could attain.”
Despite one Lion describing this relatively thick and creamy Kanishka Signature Black Dal as “too saucy [with] not enough lentils”, the piquancy of the tomato therein was nicely masked by its spices to make this daal makhni a satisfying one.
In any case, it went better with the Cumin Basmati Rice than the serving of Naans (see below).
This was the most challenging dish had on the evening, and probably the one we’ll remember of Kanishka, though for all the wrong reasons, in bygone days.
What made this such a notorious one in the end, was the unique ingredient of Mizoram Bamboo Shoot. Hence, while two of the Lions were intrigued by the flavour combo of the meaty mushrooms and crunchy green beans, their initial enjoyment was short-lived once the pungent and, quite frankly, malodorous odour of the bamboo shoots began to slowly come through for them.
The third Lion was able to detect said odour well before the tasting session and simply couldn’t get past that. An odd bowl indeed!
This one, on the other hand, was simple and straightforward, with lightly spiced soft cauliflower florets mixed in with plenty of scrambled egg which doesn’t offer much in terms of flavour other than textural contrast.
Although Kanishka offers here a choice between three options: naan, paratha and roti, we were provided with all three for review purposes.
In all honesty, and despite the semi-crispy exterior, these weren’t very well made, with all of them being a little on the thick side, and thus doughy in texture and slightly undercooked in places.
This was decently made, with the distinct fragrance of the cumin in the background, though with a reheated feel to it.
‘Love’ is a dessert especially designed by Atul Kochhar in his continued efforts at conciliation over a wrong he’s acknowledged, sought forgiveness for and suffered the consequences of.
It is essentially his gesture of goodwill in reaching out to a community by beginning with the readers of Feed the Lion. And, to be honest, we hope our readers will, in the spirit of love and forgiveness, accept his apology at face value and show some love and forgiveness by going down and giving this delicious dessert a try.
In short, the mango and rose kulfi was lovely, and being paired with a slice of fig that was nice and soft, and complimented by the sharpness of the berry coulis.
But the star of the show was that pomegranate mousse, speckled throughout with tiny bits of chewy fig. To be more precise, this was more ice cream in texture than mousse; and that’s not a complaint, because it meant having something there to enjoy for longer.
Although this won’t exactly quicken the heartbeats of dessert connoisseurs, this Peanut Butter Chikki Parfait was decent enough for what it was. Made-up of two elements, you might want to start with and enjoy the caramelised banana first, thereby allowing time for the chilled parfait to melt.
As for the former, then its thin crispy sugary top was sprinkled with crushed peanut butter chikki, which is that traditional Indian sweet made from peanuts and jaggery. The parfait was firm on the inside, even after allowing for time to melt, but quite rich nonetheless.
A well made creamy-cum-milky rice pudding with fresh seasonal berries – in this case blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries – all sprinkled with crushed pistachio.
If you’re looking for something light and not too sweet to end a meal here, this would be your dessert of choice.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
In the case of Kanishka, Atul Kochhar has put together a fairly well rounded menu for one that's derived its inspiration from the unexplored cuisine of the North East of India. Then again, you wouldn't expect anything less from the man who's successfully been doing that all his career.
It's true that, given the novelty of the cuisine, we encountered one or two dishes with ingredients that we certainly found challenging. However, we're wiser for that and thankful for the chance of trying something uniquely new, which we otherwise would never have been able to. On that note, therefore, innovation and surprises abound at Kanishka, and for that reason alone, this place is most definitely worth the visit.
And don't forget to extend your hand of acceptance and reconciliation by ordering the specially made dessert 'Love' by Atul, while also utilising the generous 25% discount Kanishka has offered our readers.
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