It’s rare that I visit restaurants more that once for reviews. If I do it’s because they have food festivals to cover, an event to promote or a new menu. Seasoning in Fulham was worthy of a second bite just because, well, it’s Seasoning.
Owner Salil Bhatia arrived in the UK in 1988. He enjoyed an illustrious career with the celebrated Gaylord restaurant where he further honed his managerial and catering skills. He was the first to offer high-end Indian function catering in London and has looked after the great and the good in the Asian community. Anybody who has attended an Indian wedding will know that presenting guests with the best food served with grace is a serious business. Salil can feed a group of hundreds for lunch and dinner for several days, and he can do that at any suitable venue anywhere in the world. His recent projects have included catering in both Portugal and Morocco.
The restaurant element of his extensive enterprise is Seasoning on Lillie Road in Fulham. It’s a shining culinary light offering food that would not be out of place in a more central location. It has good transport links via both Underground and bus and it’s only a short walk from Earls Court, so ideally situated for exhibition visitors looking for exceptional Indian dining.
Seasoning is a contemporary space. Its gleaming whiteness welcomes one even before the door is reached. There is a smart marble-clad terrace that is laid with tables during the warmer months. The main dining room is cosier than I remember on my first visit, but the walls were almost bare in those days and now they are hung with contemporary Indian art and ornaments. Nothing kitsch, but just enough to introduce a bit of exotic ambiance. Brown banquettes offer a rich softness.
The huge wine cabinet reminds the diner that Seasoning has a creditable wine list and even the house wine is rather good. The bar offers a good selection of spirits and mixed drinks as well as signature cocktails. A small seating area is the spot to lounge and relax before making your way to a table.
Perspex chairs add still more style. Salil admits that he was not too sure about them initially but they are comfortable, they are striking and practical and the customers like them, so he has warmed to them over the last couple of years. Crisp white linen and low evening lights help to make this a rather romantic dining experience. Tables are well spaced to give privacy but the seating is flexible and attractive for groups. Larger gatherings can be accommodated in the basement function room.
The Executive Chef is Nirmal C. Save. Salil generously remarks that this young man is a genius and that the restaurant appreciates having him. The menu showcases some of his outstanding skills, but it also includes some of those classic dishes that Indian food lovers in the UK have come to crave. Old favourites are here, like Butter Chicken; Chicken Tikka Masala is also featured – well, let’s admit it, it’s the national dish and it’s well loved. It’s called ‘culinary evolution’, which is also illustrated by some Chinese-inspired dishes, and these will not seem at all strange to any Indian who visits Seasoning from the Subcontinent. Chinese food in India is almost as popular as Indian food in the UK.
Seasoning has a menu that will appeal to meat eaters, fish lovers and vegetarians alike. The vegetarian starter platter for two gives an attractive and flavoursome introduction to the artistry of the chef: Hajjis and samosas along with the unique and delicious stuffed mushrooms that could become addictive. The tandoori paneer is moreish. Piscatorial aficionados will be drawn to the Tandoori Tilapia. Fish is delicate and can be so easily overcooked in the fierce heat of a clay oven; chef Nirmal has a deft hand and presents fish with a hint of agreeable charring, the flesh remaining moist.
Carnivores need not feel short-changed even at this top end of the menu. The grilled lamb chops here are becoming legendary. Well-balanced spices enhance the tender meat: this must surely be a signature dish.
The main courses will tempt those looking for familiar comfort foods but will equally entice diners seeking the savoury richness of the exquisite Duck Chettinad – a dish that is found on a few respectable Indian restaurant menus, but the version at Seasoning can hold its own with the best of ’em. This is one of my favourites and a must-try.
For those that hanker after some home-style cooking (well, from someone else’s kitchen and you won’t be doing the washing up) try the Keema Mattar, a traditional dish of minced lamb and peas. Bhaigan Bhartha will appeal to guests who prefer a non-meat option. This is finely-chopped baked aubergines cooked with tomatoes and onion. This is a smooth and aromatic concoction that only needs a little bread for scooping. A delight.
India has some marvellous desserts but few of them can be sampled in British restaurants. Yes, there are sweets but they are unfortunately sometimes of poor quality and seldom made in-house. Seasoning is proud of its puds and offers some typical ones that the unsuspecting would usually have received straight from a catering pack. Here they are made from scratch, so save some space. Firni is well worth trying, as is the Gulab Jamun which I can never refuse. The Kulfi is creamy and tangy and comes in several flavours, and makes a cooling end to a fine meal.
Seasoning is a gem. One can consider lots of flowery reviewery phrases that might well win me a prize for gastronomic eloquence, but suffice it to say it’s a nice place to be and the food will assure your return visit, as it has done for me.
84D – 86 Lillie Road, Fulham, London SW6 1TL
Tel: 020 7386 0303
Fax: 020 7386 5888
Visit Seasoning here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018