Mark Bibby Jackson tastes the new menu at Kanishka Mayfair to discover a refreshing take on the capital’s Indian restaurant cuisine.
When I heard that Kanishka restaurant had launched a new menu with a strong emphasis on regional Indian cuisine, I knew I had to try it out. Traditionally Indian food in London has been viewed as one homogenous cuisine that is quite frankly insulting to a race that has around 1.5 billion people and distinct geographical and climactic regions that lend themselves to different cuisines.
Kanishka by Atul Kochhar Menu
Chef Atul Kochhar’s concept when opening Kanishka restaurant was to demonstrate the great variety and heritage of different cuisines across India, now with the launch of his new menu he has taken the pan-Indian approach further.
“India is huge and the national cuisine varies so much from region to region and that’s something I’m very keen to showcase at Kanishka,” he says.
Launched in September, the menu combines flavours “from Punjab to Kerala, Kolkata to Delhi and everywhere in between”. These dishes have been given an added twist by combining them with local ingredients you might not discover in a normal curry house.
So, a Cromer crab bonda fritter sits alongside an Orkney scallop podi masala.
Despite the launch of a new six-course tasting menu with paired wines, we decided to stick with the a la carte. I opted for the aforementioned Orkney scallop dish while my vegetarian dining companion went for the malai broccoli.
The former was excellent. The twin scallops were wonderfully succulent, with sufficient spice to bring out the subtle flavours of the delicate seafood without overwhelming. The broccoli got a thumbs up from my companion, that is when she was not sipping some of the Silver Lining chardonnay from Adelaide Hills recommended to us by the admirable Nipul.
Throughout the service was impeccable too with each dish beautifully explained and wine pairing suggestion on point. Sufficient distance was also maintained so we could enjoy the beautiful environs in peace.
Other dishes new to the menu include: a bihari ahuna lamb curry with chilli, fennel and stone flowers; ajwaini jhinga, tandoor grilled prawns with smoked aubergine baba ghanoush; and lagusta Xec Xec, a lobster curry with Goa xec xec gravy. We settled for the paneer aur palak makhani, which involved a spiced fig filled with paneer tikka, and the baghar-e-baigan aubergine steak, accompanied by the Kanishka black daal and some paratha bread.
I was intrigued to taste the baghar-e-baigan as this is a dish I cook at home often, although with sliced or chopped aubergine rather than steaked. This allowed the vegetable to soak up much of the flavours allowing us to appreciate the subtle variations of flavour as well as the layers of spice.
For me, this is where quality Indian restaurants such as Kanishka show their real value. The flavours are textured rather than hitting you en masse as if delivered by a sledgehammer.
This was demonstrated perfectly by the paneer aur palak makhani, which was a beautiful melange of flavours, spices and textures with the slightly charred paneer absolutely divine.
Proof of the Rice Pudding
Neither of us being dessert people we almost skipped the final dish, which would have been a mistake. My companion admitted to being “blown away by the coconut cardamom rice pudding with tandoori pineapple and sorbet”. The flavour combination was incredible.
A wonderful sensual journey through India, Kanishka is an excellent and atmospheric Indian restaurant in the heart of London, with unique dishes and excellent service. Well worth a repeat visit – perhaps next time to sample the tasting menu.
Kanishka New Menu
The new tasting menu costs £85, with lunchtime tasting menu at £65, and set lunch menu priced £38.
Kanishka by Atul Kochhar
Kanishka Mayfair is a short walk from Oxford Circus underground station. Led by Atul Kochhar, Kanishka provides a gastronomic journey through the various regions of India, and is part of the Atul Kochhar Hospitality Group. For more information visit: www.kanishkarestaurant.co.uk.