It’s not often you find an Indian restaurant with a dress code (or have I spent too much time frequenting my local after a night out in Brighton?) But the recently refurbished Kahani in west London is in a league of its own.
The Vibe at Kahani
Situated on a tree-lined side street, a stone’s throw from the iconic Cadogan Hall, is a discreet doorway in a red brick townhouse, which you could easily pass by. However, the frills of Kahani are definitely on the inside. You’ll be welcomed on entry level with a concierge to take your coats and direct you to the restaurant which is a spacious affair in the basement of the building, and upon entering the main dining room, you can’t help but feel like you are making a grand entrance as you are seated by an elegant waistcoat-clad waiter.
What it lacks in natural light, it makes up for in ambience, and funky furniture, which makes those pre-dinner cocktails seem all the more acceptable. The comforting, sumptuous menu is by Michelin-starred chef, Peter Joseph who has already created ripples in London at Tamarind, however, Kamali’s focus is on inventive Indian fusion, which draws inspiration from across the whole of India, as well as incorporating nuances from his travels around Europe.
After a recent refurbishment, the dining experience is relaxed and intimate, as I was joined by a friend at the table for two next to the stunning stone fireplace. Admittedly, I got the bird’s eye view as I could see the whole restaurant, which was gradually filling up, whilst Vickie got to look at me (and the fireplace!) The 90-cover restaurant is inspired by Peter’s upbringing in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India. Kahani, which translates to ‘story’ in Hindi, will be centred around Peter’s philosophy of community eating to celebrate, bring people together, break boundaries and share tales.
The Food at Kahani
The extensive menu boasts an array of fusion dishes, ‘small plates’ (read: starters) and mains, including butter chicken, tandoor lamb chops rich with Kashmiri chilli and warm clove, and fist-sized Malabar prawns, slow-braised Kashmiri lamb shank and Keralan chicken curry with a hit of fennel and poppy seed. However, both myself and Vickie are pescetarians, so it was a no-brainer to order sharing plates, which are in keeping with the tapas vibe.
From the poppadoms, accompanied by three traffic-stopping, colourful chutneys as the entree to our feast, we decided on three dishes. I was intrigued to see what the classic street food, Papdi Chaat would become in a high-end restaurant, and I can confirm that it was delicious. The spiced chickpeas, sweetened yoghurt, mint, tamarind chutney and slivers of deep-fried padpi were finished off with a pop of sour berries; whilst the soft shell crab was spiced with Mangalorean spices and yellow tomato chutney, and the savoury Pani Puri donuts were blissful pillows of tangy sweet potato and chickpea, which quite literally could melt in your mouth.
I think we chose well, but with dishes like grilled scallops, mushroom and cassava cake with cumin, ginger and chilli and green apple and blue cheese salad, winking at us for next time, I have no doubt I’d try something different next time.
We also shared our mains, which included my all-time favourite fish curry. However, the Joseph recipe for his Alleppey Fish Curry consists of a bass, simmered with shallots, turmeric, tamarind and coconut to create a rich, spicy affair, complemented by huge chunks of white fish. Or second main was Saag Paneer, a cheese-tastic, pureed spinach delight, tossed with onion-tomato masala. We even managed a tandoori roti and Pulao rice to help soak up the sauce!
Needless to say, we made a night of it, and rolled out onto the streets of Chelsea, with fond memories and tight waistbands! But this hidden gem is now on my treat list, so I will definitely be back!
1 Wilbraham Place