Manisha Khemka reviews Kutir: Posh Indian offers modern cuisine and an extensive wine list
A TGIF dinner reservation at Kutir, celebrated chef Rohit Ghai’s new-ish restaurant in a three storey terraced property on Chelsea’s Lincoln Street, off King’s Road, was clearly an outing worth looking forward to. Interestingly, this property previously was also home to Rasoi, Chef Vineet Bhatia’s pricey Indian kitchen.
Sweet fragrances of the horticultural past are long gone, displaced along with the nursery sites under the Chelsea Improvement Act of 1845. But new, different smells are in place — fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s reaction to curry aromas wafting in through windows.
My nose guides me to the last house on the street, which looks nothing like a kutir, a tiny, remote cottage. There is a doorbell to ring. Nervous of walking into an unsavoury private domestic, I tiptoed in gingerly, shopping bags and all, and walked straight into the sheer delight of a mini Rajasthan haveli (a grand decorated house).
Intricate jewel-coloured floral and wildlife prints adorn the many quirky small rooms of this townhouse. Fortunately, it hasn’t been renovated into a large open-concept space. There is even an elegant conservatory. The lighting is just right by way of glass chandeliers. The chairs are upholstered in a combination of sink-in leather and soft bespoke fabric in heritage patterns. Textures, colours and motifs run amuck in the house, creating visuals artistic enough to impress nearby Saatchi Gallery. The powder room is compact but exquisite in its wall paper design. It was a sensory high even before I had seen the menu.
Inspired by luxury lodges of wildlife hunting trips, the restaurant menu features distinct, meaty, seasonal game dishes. The food was bold, robust, honest, gimmick-free, heart-warming, even a little heart pulsating — the stuff of wild jungles and brave safari expeditions. Spicing across dishes was restrained, controlled and efficient, without resorting to a full artillery of spice jars.
Chicken tikka pâté in a filo crisp and salmon potato dumplings served with a tempered spicy smooth yoghurt were tasty and substantial amuse-bouches; none of the foam stuff on Kutir’s tables.
The highlights of our expedition were the junglee maas paratha, morsels of flaky warm Indian bread dipped in melt-in-mouth venison and a rich, intense, expertly flavoured sauce, and the quail naan, stuffed with spiced minced meat and topped with scrambled quail eggs, truffle shavings and truffle oil. The naan had the Grey, my dining partner, floating in meat heaven. He called it mind blowing, out of this world and rated it 11/10. Pink prawns in coconut, sesame and sweet Roscoff onion masala was also an excellently fired shot — succulent, plump and fantastically spiced. A must-try.
Dhokla, a spongy square snack made from fermented rice batter, lacked any oomph and character and, sadly, was a plain country cousin best left out of the party.
My wild mushroom khichadi was an opulent version of its humble soulful Indian cousin. The appearance and taste was more of a butter-rich Italian truffle risotto with splashings of wine. I expected ghee, cumin seeds, fried onion, lentils and tiny pieces of potatoes, the staples of any decent khichadi. After incorporating some original bits and flavours, this could make for an interesting and delicious small plate.
Bhappa doi-pineapple, a sweet steamed yoghurt dessert, was as beautiful as its surroundings, and despite its petite size, its subtle interplay of texture, colour and flavour brilliantly reinforced the overall sensory high.
The wine list is extensive. However, I stuck to my rule — Reisling with a curry — and it didn’t disappoint. The Grey sampled a Chateau Lachesnaye Bordeaux, its fruity and sweet spice aromas perfectly complementing the intensity of the game flavours.
Service was on the dot, and as in a typical Indian home, the vibes were of warm and welcoming hospitality. Kutir clearly takes pride in serving its guests.
The bill-sweetener, a dainty pineapple cake topped with a rose cream flower, sealed my bond with this special somewhere-between-a-kutir-and-a-haveli house.
If you fancy trying out exotic and deliciously spiced meaty dishes, then this is a journey well worth embarking. Rohit Ghai seems happy not following trends and, for now, is leading his own unique charted expeditions.
Meat-abstaining slender yummy-mummies or vegan congregators need not run away. Kutir servesa six-course vegetarian tasting menu, as well as a good value Weekender Special.
When it was time to say goodbye, all I wanted to do was to find a comfy room upstairs, move in along with my pashmina, paisleys and shopping bags, and wait to be served my next meal. There was no reason to leave.
Food 9/10, Service 8/10, Decor 9/10
From the menu:
Junglee Maas-Paratha £12
Quail Naan-Truffle £10
Duck Korma £18
Truffle Khichadi £18
Kutir Kali Daal £8
Bread Basket £8
Bhappa Doi-Pineapple £8
2 x Riesling, Spätlese Trocken, Mosel, Germany £14
2 x Bordeaux, Chateau Lachesnaye £15
Total: £172 plus 12.5% service charge
Address: Kutir, 10 Lincoln Street, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS / 020 7581 1144