Kutir, I’m told, means “cottage” in Sanskrit. To be fair, perhaps it’s the closest word to “town house” in the language, which would be a more accurate description of the restaurant’s location.
There’s all sorts of culinary history going on there. It’s the new (ish) venture from Rohit Ghai, former chef at JSK Restaurants, who helped make Gymkhana such a must-visit, and then snagged a Michelin star at Jamavar. The building – a converted townhouse just off King’s Road – was previously the rather elegant setting for Rasoi Vineet Bhatia – also starred, if memory serves. And, before that – a long time before that – it was The English Garden. That’s probably not a restaurant that sticks in many people’s minds but it does mine because, in February 1996, that’s where my wife and I held our wedding breakfast, back in the days I was thick of hair and thin of waist rather than today’s vice versa. All of which means yes, I am THAT old and also that, when the opportunity came up to return to the scene, we had to take it. And we’re rather glad we did.
Funnily enough, we were shown into the sunlit back room, the sort-of-conservatory part of the building where we had our celebration. It’s somewhat different now but equally bright, and a fitting home for what is, I must admit, rather more accomplished, interesting food than our somewhat safe wedding chicken.
For the next few weeks (to September 2019 should we forget to amend this review for a while), there’s a menu called, wonderfully, Jaltarang, which is a “seafood expedition” and comes in at really rather bargainous £55 per person. That’s exceptional value for some exceptional cooking.
Soft Shell Crab, Chickpea starts proceedings, and it’s a joy of textures and great spicing – Tellicherry pepper, garlic and mustard – with that crunch of crab into melting soft flesh, and the nutty resistance of the pulses. Saying that, it’s possibly eclipsed by the second dish, Scallop, Aubergine. Again, it’s a textural triumph, all perfect cooking and subtle mustard spicing.
Jheenga, Mooli is next up: King prawns, dill raita, pickle, a deceptively simple sounding dish but really jolly wonderful. The char of the prawn, the rich flesh, the freshness of the raita, and that bite of pickle combine to very satisfying effect. Even so, it’s the next course that’s the true stand out. Lobster, Coriander is a rich, life-affirming stew of shellfish, black pepper and cumin, served with dal, rice and a superbly flaky, buttery paratha. It’s cracking stuff.
There’s a choice of two desserts, so we do one of each. Chocolate, Banana combines my wife’s childhood memories of banana fritters and a more recent love of Valrhona chocolate, while Cassata, Mango is a smart Italian twist on the kulfi theme. It’s a hugely Instagrammable slice of pistachio sponge, fruit-dotted mango kulfi, and cranberry kulfi with pink peppercorns. Happily, it’s almost as tasty as it is beautiful.
Service is lovely, and the room is bright and flooded with natural light and, in our case, happy memories. There is that theory that you can never go back and, with such dramatic changes, this is a visit that could easily have backfired. Well, not easily, as such, hell, it’s still Rohit Ghai in the kitchen, but you know what I mean. Instead it’s a second vary pleasant memory at this postcode. The Jaltarang menu is great but one suspects the a la carte or signature menus are equally great if not better. Perhaps we’ll report back next anniversary…
10 Lincoln Street