Restaurant Review: Kahani, Chelsea in London
Words by Sally Meeson
Behind the front door of every London townhouse lies a story. Recently, in Chelsea’s Sloane Square, I discovered a new one. Past a large green door and down a wooden staircase, gently glowing with under lighting, I found myself in the area’s new high-end Indian restaurant ‘Kahani’, which means ‘Story’ in Hindi.
This cool basement hideaway is the first solo venture from esteemed Indian inspired chef Peter Joseph. Following eight years as head chef of Tamarind, Mayfair (the first Indian restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin star) hopes are high for this subterranean culinary gem.
The restaurant immediately strikes me as tastefully designed with a relaxed yet sophisticated feel. With open brickwork, brass details, velvet furnishings and indoor palms it captures a cool Soho House vibe.
Calming jazz music plays in the background and a peacock theme runs throughout – in the artwork and in blue and green accents in the decor. As I arrive I spot a group of friends laughing and enjoying their meal by a large open fireplace… the whole place feels homely but elegant.
I begin my evening perched on a pale blue velvet bar stool at the restaurant’s cocktail bar. The list of cocktails is broad and, promising a range of spirits infused with herbs and flavoured liqueurs, sounds instantly appealing. Drinks are divided into sections on the menu ranging from ‘fresh, light and delicate’ to ‘woody, spicy and aromatic’.
I choose from the middle list – ‘fruity, sharp and rich’ – and am mixed a refreshing blend of Italian dry gin with lemon juice, fresh rosemary and thyme, topped up with soda. Chilled with ice cubes and garnished with a sprig of rosemary, this zingy mix instantly perks me up after a long day and proves a perfect palette cleanser ahead of dinner.
Friendly staff then take me to their “best seats in the house”, one of two large salmon pink velvet booths set below an impressive wine wall. Built into rustic open brickwork and set slightly back from the dining area, it boasts separate sections for each region of the world. Waiters intermittently float past to choose bottles for guests as I eat.
As my waiter turns up to take my order he explains how the a la carte menu works, describing an intention to offer a “steady stream of food”. I soon find this to be a pleasant understatement.
Small plates arrive first. There’s soft shell crab with Mangalorean spices, golden beet cakes with mustard, curry leaf and poppadom crust and chargrilled Scottish scallops, coated in star anise with spiced raw mango. They’re flavoursome, presented beautifully and I share them with my dining companion as one would Spanish tapas.
Next come slightly larger dishes, or Kahani Klaasic (classics). These include spicy vegetable kebabs, delicious chargrilled seafood, plus meat and game dishes from venison keema to free range chicken tikka. And then it’s onto the serious business of the Kahani Dawat, or ‘Feast’.
Despite being almost full to the brim I choose the Travancore fish curry (I couldn’t leave without sampling at least one curry!) made with the catch of the day, spiced and simmered with shallots, turmeric and tamarind. A feast indeed! And all washed down with a crisp Indian Sauvignon Blanc (a first for me but something I would now highly recommended) called J’noon.
Over a sumptuous dessert platter (yes I still somehow found room to eat more) I get the opportunity to chat to the top man: head chef Peter Joseph.
“The recipes we combine together for the Kahani concept have stories behind them,” he tells me when I ask him how they came up with the restaurant’s name.
“Some of the recipes are from my mum, I fell in love with food in my childhood… the idea is to enjoy, share, socialise. So that is the concept we created at Kahani with my story.”
He goes on to tell me that, just four months after opening, he’s thrilled to be getting “lots of regular, repeat customers who appreciate the quality of the food”, which he describes as “lighter, modern Indian food”.
As I look around the restaurant definitely has a great buzz and is full of cosy couples, families and groups of the glamourous types you would expect to see in this part of London. There’s also a private dining option for those looking for something more secluded.
“I really love the place and Chelsea,” he tells me warmly. “We’re really passionate about the food and we really enjoy the healthier side of the food.”
He adds that his modern Indian dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients with traditional spices from India. And when I quiz him on whether we can expect to see nods to his previous restaurant Tamarind here he simply smiles and says:
“I’ve just deformalised the curry and made it in my own way. I don’t want to recreate Tamarind because Kahani’s something different.”
Wandering home through the bright lights of Sloane Square, my mind full of peacocks and exotic wines and my belly full of outstanding food, I decide that I agree. Kahani definitely is something different!
Address: 1 Wilbraham Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 9AE
Phone: 020 7730 7634