This was bound to be good. I knew the chef, Peter Joseph from a Michelin-star Indian restaurant, so I was expecting good things. The location held the promise of a smart venue. But I wasn’t prepared for the culinary joy and polished style of Kahani, near Sloane Square.
This high-end Indian restaurant is in a side street just a stone’s throw from Sloane Square Underground station. Its entrance could be that of a townhouse, with ironwork, pillars and a warm welcome. The dining area is found down an anonymous flight of stairs and passing a gorgeous private dining room on the mezzanine floor along the way.
One finds oneself in a sumptuous space which isn’t overtly Indian. There are a few nods to the ethnicity of the dishes one is about to enjoy, but the restaurant speaks more of confident cooking to impress discerning guests. There is an open kitchen which offers a little culinary theatre, although it’s likely that the dishes on the table will grab all the attention.
The raised wine room will captivate those who appreciate great vintages chosen by a rather able sommelier. There are a good number of wines-by-the-glass at Kahani so one isn’t expected to push the vinicultural boat out at every visit, and particularly at lunch. The attractive and well-stocked bar offers both classic and house cocktails, and a cosy nook with a fireplace.
The menu tempted with innovation and flair but nothing intimidating or overtly pretentious. This was good cooking writ large and it just happened to be Indian. Golden beet cakes with mustard, curry leaf and poppadum crust with cranberry chutney was my guest’s starter of choice. A lovely little plate offering flavour and texture. Beetroot of whatever colour needs a bit of support or it’s liable to be offputtingly earthy. Chef Peter worked with the natural sweetness of this oft overlooked vegetable and enhanced it with deft seasoning. That coating of crushed papad is an idea I will unashamedly be stealing. If Chef wanted to keep that little gem a secret then he should have proclaimed it to be cornflakes, thus confounding all prospective imitators!
Must-try at Kahani
Samosa platter was my starter and although sounding traditional, this too was a good step away from the expected savouries. The trio of triangular pastries is a must-try at Kahani. Punjabi aloo, kolhapuri chicken and chettinad venison were the fillings, and all were well-balanced and flavourful. A perfect plate for sharing but I honestly wouldn’t. Order several of these for the table, to nibble while perusing the rest of the menu.
Tandoori double poussin marinated with red and yellow chillies and ginger was my main dish. A simple grill but perfect in both flavour and form; nothing frilly but just entirely correct. Travancore Fish Curry was a gravy dish spiced and simmered with shallots, turmeric and tamarind. This was a delicate and thoroughly moreish preparation and will surely become a signature dish at Kahani. The fish may vary from day to day, but the memorable quality of this sauce will remain.
And there were side dishes, too. It’s not often that they get a mention but here they hold pride of place along with their more usually noticed parents. Kahani duo dal was indeed a double serving of comforting lentil dals. Dal Maharani was dark and rich and best suited for meat dishes, and lighter tadka dal works well with almost anything. It’s inspiring to see both options as one menu item.
Mouthwatering before the first bite
But then there was marinated tandoori broccoli! Could a restaurant make its name with a vegetable? I am not sure Kahani will, as there is such strong competition from all other dishes, but it’s a close-run thing. I didn’t ever expect to use the words extraordinary and broccoli in the same sentence, but here it is. That little charred mound will have mouths watering before the first bite. The smoky aroma, the texture, the colour and the taste make this the best vegetarian dish I have had in many years.
Tandoori pineapple with coconut-favoured steamed yoghurt was our dessert and it was pretty as a picture, and a refreshing composition of singed fruit and its accompaniments. A revelation to those who insist they don’t like Indian desserts.
Yes, dear reader, it’s all a matter of taste. There are still those who don’t consider Indian cuisine to be a classic and respected gastronomic entity, unlike French or Italian, for instance. Restaurants such as Kahani will continue to reshape and elevate our expectations, and in delicious fashion. Chef Peter Joseph should be proud of his restaurant, which is a worthy showcase of his talents and his delightful dishes.
1 Wilbraham Place
Phone: 020 7730 7634