Leading food writer Anuja Gaur visits Kahani, a fine dining Indian restaurant in Chelsea.
Despite its glossy streets, well-heeled locals and shiny designer doors, Chelsea’s high-end restaurant scene seemed to suffer an ill-fated premature death (RIP Le Cercle, Canvas, Salmontini). However, news soon spread of Mayfair’s Michelin starred chef, Peter Joseph, waving goodbye to his glittering ten-year journey at Tamarind and opening a new chapter with his very own beautiful restaurant, Kahani – translated as ‘story’ in Hindi – to bring some delicious luck to the glamorous SW1.
As I approached Kahani’s rich green door and ventured down the grand wooden under-lit staircase, I knew I was in for something special; the restaurant echoed sophistication with white walls, wooden tables, velvet chairs and artistic lighting. The waiter led my friend and me to a semi-private spot complete with a warm fireplace, walls with beautiful India motifs and stunning, deep sapphire velvet chairs with jewelled lion’s head door knockers.
I was handed the bottomless brunch menu, starving from the deliberate lack of breakfast in anticipation of this gorgeous feast and spotted that Proseccos were limited to two glasses each so, not one for the free-flowing fizz fans.
We started with the spiced green pea cake with cranberry chutney and a chaat dish of chickpeas, pomegranate, yoghurt and mint chutney. The green pea cake was piping hot, gorgeously crispy and loaded with generous helpings of sweet peas and light spice. The chickpeas in the chaat dish were perfectly cooked with lashings of creamy yoghurt and flakes of crisp-like snacks mixed in with the spicy chutneys, giving a full flavour explosion. Temptation arose to order another round of starters, but I resisted in order to enjoy the other brunch dishes first.
The next serving saw a helping of chicken tikka and grilled spiced broccoli resting on a plate of yellow yoghurt topped with nigella seeds. Eyeing up the broccoli with interest and curiosity, the guests to my right assured me that I would be pleasantly surprised, and indeed I was. I practically swooned with the first mouthful of this green tree-like vegetable I used to grudgingly munch on; it was incredibly tender, packed with delicious spices and it worked perfectly with the silky yoghurt as well as being stunningly presented.
Blown away by the starters, beautiful surroundings and brilliantly attentive service, I was positive that the main courses would be equally as delightful. After a brief break and Prosecco top-up, an array of mains arrived comprising of chicken thighs in spiced coconut curry, paneer and yellow lentils complemented with rice and roti flat breads. The waiter asked if we required anything else and I found myself requesting an extra helping of broccoli – yes, broccoli!
I took the first bite of the chicken coconut curry with a little hesitancy, having experienced one too many sickly-sweet mouthfuls of coconut cream, but this was an absolute delight. Loaded with fresh spice, mild coconut hints and melt-in-the-mouth chicken, I felt like I was transported to my great-grandparents’ cooking, with home ground spices, coconut scooped fresh from their shell, all slowly cooking on real fire stoves. The paneer was a tad on the chewy side, but the lentils completely made up for this with delicious flavours of garlic and friend onions. All dishes worked perfectly with the rice and fluffy rotis and, of course, my second helping of broccoli.
The brunch finale was carrot fudge (halva) with vanilla ice cream. Usually a completely sugary-sweet dessert, I was pleased to find Peter Joseph opted for less sugar, more cardamom, and generous shavings of fresh carrot. Real vanilla was spotted in the creamy ice cream and a few berries were added to balance the palate.
As the waiter cleared the dishes, I asked about the beautiful private room I had spotted earlier, to which he insisted on showing me the space. The Peacock room is an exclusive private dining area in stunning peacock shades of exquisite royal blue with a centre piece decorated with peacock feathers. Curtains can be drawn for maximum privacy or opened to witness the elegant restaurant views from above.
In a nutshell
Peter Joseph has made it his mission to break the standard Indian curry stereotype, bringing a fresh, contemporary approach to this worldwide favourite cuisine, using prime British ingredients. He presents his dishes like exclusive pieces of art, fit for royalty, while staying true to his Indian roots. Kahani has created waves in the luxury restaurant world and I hope to see this story build its pages for years to come.
Address: 1 Wilbraham Place, London SW1X 9AE / 020 7730 7634