It is a blustery grey-skied evening in London when we arrive at Quilon, Taj’s iconic South West coastal Indian restaurant, which has retained its Michelin star for the 12th successive year since it opened in 1999.
We are naturally expecting great things and we are immediately transported to India, with the music, the bar and dark wood panelling, taking us to Rajasthan or so it feels, indeed the distinctive décor is in keeping with the cuisine philosophy, featuring specially commissioned artworks from Paresh Maity.
My companion and I are offered a lengthy list of stunningly exotic cocktails, we both opt for a Tamarind Margarita; as we sip and taste the delicious whipped Tamarind cocktail we regret not ordering a second in hindsight. We are then ushered into the main dining room and our beautifully set white linen table-clothed booth.
Chef Aylur spoilt us with a seafood tasting menu and premium wine pairing. I assure my eating companion we will take the evening slowly and assure her we can rise to the challenge. Chef’s style is to consistently use fresh ingredients with an amalgamation of traditional home-cooking techniques with modern dishes to offer a progressive Indian fine dining experience, and this menu did not disappoint. Our server for the evening is the very affable Ragbir (pronounced Rugby) Singha, he is charming and knowledgeable on the dishes and glasses of wine we are served with each course.
Our Amuse Bouche of freshly made poppadoms with spicy chutneys whetted our appetites and anticipation for the seafood menu. Our first dish, a seafood broth made with coriander, was divine and set the scene, this was matched with a Grande Reserve rose from Chateau Sainte Marguerite, 2017 Cotes de Provence, crisp and light.
Next on the menu is ‘The Fisherman’s Catch’ a miniature Goan style fishing boat; consisting of a single but delicious grilled scallop, large pepper shrimp, crab cake and fish cafreal served with selection of tandoori spiced delights with more freshly made dips and a glass of English wine from Chapel Down winery in Kent, a Flint Dry 2017. These dishes were the perfect combination of spice and fresh ingredients with melt in the mouth tender seafood. The wine was clean and minerally and matched this dish perfectly.
The main courses are equally beautifully presented including a baked piece of black cod, fresh lobster cooked in a peppery garlic butter and mini prawn masala with a melt in the mouth freshly made Malabar paratha, this is served with hearty red a Greco di Tufo, Vesevo 2017 from Campania, Italy. The lobster was a stand out dish with its delicate meatiness smothered in gorgeous garlic butter.
Up next was a deconstructed seafood biryani with wonderful succulent pieces of squid, white fish and shrimps in a fragrant and aromatic rice with a side dish of delicately flavoured asparagus and snow peas in mustard seeds and curry leaves with green chillies and sesame okra. This dish was extremely tasty and matched to a full bodied and smooth Malbec classic from Mendoza, Argentina. The biryani here was a standout, such a simple dish by site, but so complex in favours and texture.
For dessert, a favourite of mine is anything pistachio related, and on the menu was just that. I admit I spied the dessert before even looking at the main menu! Dessert is a very light sponge pistachio based cake with home-made ice cream simply scrummy and matched to a delicate and delightful Sauternes dessert wine, perfection on a plate with bold pistachio flavours.
After peppermint tea and espresso we were about to roll out of the restaurant, stomachs full and senses indulged by the most beautiful flavourings, spices and wines. However, then an amazing tree of staggered white and milk chocolate discs with cardamon seeds and rose appear temptingly in front of us. We were a little over excited and overwhelmed by the sight of chocolate and so Ragbir rushes to the kitchen and very kindly offers us a take home gift of more chocolate, which would obviously have been rude to refuse.
We swish our fabulous selves off into the gloomy evening to resume London life until next time, but this with a cheeky reminder of our incredible meal in our doggie bag. If you are looking for authentic but elegant Indian cuisine then Quilon is the perfect restaurant, let Chef Aylur and team take you on a culinary journey, you will not regret it.
41 Buckingham Gate
London SW1E 6AF