This corner of London remains one of the most expensive and sought-after. Cheyne Walk has a mix of stylish houses, and has been the address of choice for the worthy and notable for the past couple of centuries, although it might be best remembered as the home patch of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. It also has The Painted Heron!
Near Battersea Bridge, the Painted Heron enjoys an enviable location with its easy transport access. Its unobtrusive exterior barely hints at the nature of this pillar of the Indian dining scene. Its name doesn’t suggest Indianness in any way. No cinnamon, saffron, mango or tamarind over the restaurant door to tell the diner that its fare includes some of the best Subcontinental-inspired dishes the capital has to offer.
The Painted Heron is celebrating its tenth anniversary and has undergone some refurbishment. Its walls are a subtle grey and the architectural features of alcoves and columns play their part in presenting a contemporary dining space that is cosy rather than austerely Zen. Tables laid with red glass chargers offer splashes of hot colour.
Proprietor and cigar aficionado Charles Hill has taken advantage of the no-smoking laws and has turned the rear courtyard into a striking (pardon the Swan Vesta-esque pun) outdoor Cigar Lounge. I am not a smoker but I do enjoy sitting with an after-dinner spirit and being enveloped by fragrant cigar smoke. No, a packet of Woodbines just does not have the same cachet. The Cigar Lounge is also fitted with a retractable roof, and that’s probably a blessing.
Chef Yogesh Datta is one of the UK’s most respected Indian chefs and has worked with the Taj Group and Sheraton Hotels in India and then at Tabla in Canary Wharf before launching The Painted Heron in Chelsea. It’s a fine-dining concept befitting the area, and it’s buzzing even on cold, wet, mid-week evenings.
The wine menu as well as the food is surprisingly reasonable. The portions are substantial and the presentation enticing. It’s the attention to detail that elevates The Painted Heron above many other Indian restaurants. We were teased with the best papadoms I have ever crunched and the home-made pickles alongside indicate the quality to come. Enjoy these while you consider your starter and main course and a wine to suit. I sipped a Prosecco which was priced at only £6.50 – economic but delightful fizz; The Painted Heron has an extensive and thoughtful wine list covering every style.
My guest chose Indian Ocean black tiger prawns, tandoor roasted with samphire as his starter. The mini-lobster-sized crustacea were moist and flavourful, and the masterful addition of that rarely offered samphire showed this chef’s innovation.
I ordered Duck Tikka which was large cubes of tender duck, blush pink at the centre. It would seem a simple dish to make but it’s necessary to have a skilled hand at the tandoor to present meat that remains juicy and flavoursome.
Bird Stew of Duck, Quail and Pigeon with Coconut and South Indian Spices was my co-diner’s main course. Stew doesn’t adequately describe this rather classy preparation. The broth-like sauce bathed the meats that retained their individual and distinct tastes.
South Indian Hot Pepper Chicken Curry sounded tempting and it didn’t disappoint. Once again the meat was perfectly cooked and moist. The name suggested that this might be a spicy-hot dish but it was simply well spiced and none of the ingredients were overshadowed by macho laddish heat. A balanced and delicious curry.
Vegetarians are not forgotten at The Painted Heron. Ayurvedic Vegetarian Thali is a platter of various vegetable curries cooked in accordance with traditional ayurvedic principles of food for both the body and soul. I look forward to trying that in future.
Chocolate Mousse sandwiched in Almond and Hazelnut Cake, served with Caramel Ice Cream was honestly a dessert to share. It was attractive and not over-sweet. The mousse held its integrity and didn’t ooze when the sandwiches were cut; and anything with caramel has my culinary vote.
The Painted Heron has been around for a decade and I would say the next 10 years of success are assured. They do it right here – simply and with imagination. A confident chef with a restaurant to match.
The Painted Heron
112 Cheyne Walk
Chelsea, London SW10 0DJ
Phone: 020 7351 5232
Every day from 11am – 5pm & 6pm – 11pm
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018