Restaurant Review: Amaya, Belgravia in London
Dining with theatre and style is the order of the day at London’s Michelin Starred eatery, Amaya.
With a philosophy of serving food from the counter to your table in seconds, as soon as it becomes available and whether you are ready or not, you know you are receiving the freshest of fare. How do you know? Well the wall to wall open kitchen is the centrepiece of the restaurant, and an enchanting one at that so you can see for yourself just how fresh your food is.
With three clay tandoor ovens, a striking salad bar, coal flame grills – sigri – and a tawa section (that’s griddling and searing on a very hot plate) – there’s a lot to garner your interest. The plethora of chefs work away and your food is brought to your table mere seconds after it is plated up. Sometimes this can be quite soon after another course or at the same time but you certainly aren’t rushed and the dishes can be enjoyed simultaneously with no fuss.
I visited one Sunday lunchtime (the place was packed and full of a chatty buzz) and I was recommended the Amaya favourites – 5 stages; a tasting menu of sorts, to be enjoyed by the whole table at £45 per person. With seven dishes and two accompaniments, and a varied selection of meats, my taste buds were tantalised and I happily accepted the recommendation.
It wasn’t long before our introductory course was brought out. Consisting of snow peas, fennel and endamame salad, with the odd pine nut and pomegranate thrown in, it was a light, fresh, gentle and tasty start to the meal. Next up was black pepper chicken tikka, which was served with a peanut sauce, and some deliciously crisp naan breads arrived as well. The chicken truly epitomised the word succulent. It was the most juicy I have ever sampled and, at that moment, I vowed to install a tandoor oven in my home. The light peanut sauce was gorgeous and complemented the heat of the black pepper – a delightful dish.
The naan was thin and crisp and was elevated with a peach chutney that had arrived along with a spiced tomato dip, ground nuts and ground rose petals with coriander and garlic. Next up was a tandoori ocean wild prawn – a large, meaty number with good texture, lots of flavour; a top quality piece of seafood. This was followed by a beetroot chop, which arrived at the same time as a tandoori chicken chop. The beetroot patty was flavoursome with all sorts of extras in there including sultanas and a bit of heat. The texture was mushy but it was a welcome break from the meaty textures. (There’s a great selection of vegetarian dishes to choose from on the menu too). The chicken chop was so succulent again, falling apart at the touch of cutlery, and this time had more earthy flavours and it was very tasty and eye-catching, as reflected in the previous courses. Occasionally plates were put down with no explanation and the menu is brief so there was a bit of guess work with the ingredients but for the most part the service we received was fantastic, friendly and welcoming.
A smoked chilli lamb chop was our next course and the spices here were complemented well with a bit of the peach chutney and some ground nuts. The quality of the meat, again, was superb. I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir (Marlborough, NZ) with my lunch – it was a nice light red that suited the spicing on the lamb particularly well. The biggest course came out next and consisted of chicken biryani and a raita with pomegranate, chilli, rose petals and lentils. The lid of the biryani was lifted, the chicken and rice mixture was stirred and gorgeous aromas were released. This was the spiciest part of the meal and it was delicious, with tender chicken and the raita to accompany, with the rose adding a lovely touch.
We had consumed just the right amount of food at this point and were done in an hour. The food came out as and when it was ready, as expected, but it filled us up a little too quickly so we asked for a gap before dessert so that we could fully enjoy it. Everything so far had been presented in a clean and simple way with lots of colour – I think Indian food has the ability to look striking on a plate due to the use of colourful spices and sauces.
I took a moment to look around and take in the modern décor. Opened in 2004, the restaurant has followed the success of sister eateries, Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy. The concept of Amaya was to use vibrancy, sophistication and theatre in its cuisine and surroundings and the interior certainly embodies this. With splashes of colour sitting alongside dark wood under an atrium roof, a sleek, glossy, smart and contemporary space is created. There’s a large, colourful canvas and the open kitchen is backed with lit orange panelling, while above mirrored panels reflect the light. In contrast, the other side of the restaurant is more low lit with red leather chairs, mirrored or black pillars and a red bar area to create a rather sumptuous ambience.
Enough time had been taken to look around and I was ready for dessert, my sweet tooth was calling out. Out came a trio of mini desserts consisting of blackberry kulfi, damson brulee and chocolate rasmalai. The kulfi had a dense creaminess that I liked and the berry flavour was refreshing next to the rasmalai – a soft, cake/ganache textured sweet and the floral brulee.
I do like to take time over my food and savour every bite (especially when I’m writing such extensive notes!) but I did like the casualness of the way the food was served. My dining partner, Nick, would have liked a popadom or two but overall we really enjoyed our dining experience at Amaya. The quality of the meats that came out were fantastic and served in a variety of ways.
In a nutshell
Fantastic quality food, well flavoured, cooked in front of you and served up in a contemporary environment. It’s buzzing, modern and a concept that overall I enjoyed.
Address: Halkin Arcade, 19 Motcomb St, Belgravia, London SW1X 8LB / 020 7823 1166