Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chutney Mary

Catch up: Chutney Mary is a top-rated Indian restaurant, located at the - relatively speaking - low-rent end of the King's Road, Chelsea.

Decor-wise, it's colourful, airy and bright, thanks largely to a conservatory-style addition that's been made to the back of the building, lifting the atmosphere even on a grey, wet summer evening in August. The place is comfortable in another sense, too: the chairs are well padded. Look, I'm bony, OK, and hard chairs are bloody uncomfortable, so this stuff matters!

As we settled in, one immediate thing stood out, namely, a very extensive wine list featuring a range of interesting bottles at pretty reasonable prices. Now this might not seem revolutionary to many of you but that's just because you didn't grow up in the UK with what has become the norm for Indian eateries there: lager, lager and more lager. Beer-wise the choice at CM was the exact opposite - pretty much Cobra or nothing.

We kicked off with a shared platter featuring prawns, chicken and lamb osso-bucco style. From the presentation alone you knew this was going to be special - and it was! White plates, few garnishes, clean and colourful. Dipping sauces included rhubarb chutney and something else I can't now for the life of me remember. The meats used were of the highest quality and cooked just right. A real eye-opener, reminding you just what Indian food could - and should be. Forget bowls of brown sauce with lumps of unidentifiable meat in it. This is a whole new Taj Mahal style of food: clean lines, well proportioned and iconic.

I decided to try chicken tikka for the main course to see what they did with what is all too often a bland and uninteresting dish: 9 times out of 10, think Chicken McNuggets with curry powder. What I was served, though, was about as far towards the other end of the spectrum you could get and still have it be visible. The chicken was tender and carried real flavour from the spices but without that taste overpowering the meat itself. And it was served hot, really hot. Bliss! I get really annoyed in restaurants that try and get all fancy with the cooking but can't even get the basics right, serving dishes that are lukewarm at best. No such problem here, despite the fact that the place filled up very quickly. KF, who I was travelling with, had a sampler dish that included an outstanding and hot (in the spicy sense) Goan chicken curry. Again, very distinct flavouring but despite the strength you could still taste the dish itself.

We gave desserts the miss but I have no doubt that they would have been up to the same standards.

I can easily say this was the best Indian meal I've had in recent times, if not ever. Portion sizes were just right so you could try a number of things and not come away feeling totally stuffed. Including a couple of beers and a glass of wine the bill was roughly 80 quid for two people. And frankly, in this day and age in London, that's a bargain.

Rating: 5 poppadoms out of 5

Cheers, Bobby, and thanks for the recommendation! I will be back.


bayarearunner said...

i felt hungry reading your review - you should consider applying to zagat's for a full-time reviewer gig -- consider the perks, you wouldn't have to fight for a table at french laundry!

check out zaika (kensington) the next time you get a chance.

J said...

Aargh. It was only when I got back and checked the web site I realised they didn't have the menu on line so I couldn't cheat by getting details of the dishes we'd had from there. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation and will definitely go for Zaika next time around. (BTW, also forgot to mention that despite having an on-line e-mail request button for a reservation I got no response when I used it. Minor de-merit for that.)

I said...

this brings back fond memories as after karting we took mr steed to chuyney mary's for his stag do. The only downside was dale winton was in da house!

A good place to try in west end london is Blue Elephant. Thai food. Great place