Restaurant Review: Kanishka, Mayfair in London
Leading food writer Anuja Gaur dines out at Atul Kochhar’s much-hyped Mayfair eatery Kanishka.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had an ever-faithful love for India and all things Indian, having been born in the UK to Indian born parents.
While many Indian restaurants have failed to catch my regular attention, Mumma Gaur’s home cooking being the culprit, it wasn’t until news spread of a new kid on the block in Mayfair that my interest was piqued.
Kanishka is another of chef Atul Kochhar’s ventures. Responsible for finally putting Indian cuisine on the Michelin Star map with Tamarind and Benares, both tucked inside the millionaire streets of Mayfair, he tasted bonus success through TV appearances and the release of a cookery book enabling us to experience fine dining in the comforts of our home. A victim of the tweet curse, aimed at a high flying Bollywood name, which cost him his lucrative job, respect is deserved after he chose to hold his head high by opening this new jewel a stone’s throw away from his former Indian homes.
Sharing a neighbourhood and right by the exclusive Maddox Gallery, Kanishka welcomes you with a gorgeous, bright display of rainbow flowers and faux green grass elephants; the two floors inside being just as easy on the eyes in soft colours of rich blue, green and aquamarine. The colour palette in the bathroom sticks to the green/blue theme however masses of plant foliage hang from the ceiling, creating a jungle style vibe.
We arrived early and the lovely waitress told us the table was ready should we want to sit, but we opted to sit at the beautiful bar for a pre-dinner passion fruit Martini, Kanishka’s signature cocktail, which held the perfect balance of sweet and sour and a tiny bit of Bollywood spice. Ready for dinner, I salivated over the special tasting menu offered in celebration of the opening, starting with their special floral cocktail arriving with a beautiful purple flower top. The cocktail was delightful with subtle hints of orange and floral blending perfectly with the light fizz from the Prosecco.
Starters consisted of bhalla papdi chaat (lentil dumplings with mint and yoghurt) Kolkata puchkas (wheat parcels with beetroot water and vegetables) and Gangtok momos (India’s version of dim sum). I was super happy before even tucking in, just seeing India’s street food favourites presented on a luxury menu. Portion sizes were generous, the papdi chaat dumplings were soft and moist and worked beautifully with the crispy bread wafers and creamy yoghurt mixed with a slight spicy tang of mint and chutneys. The puchkas, a street food favourite, were super crispy and I showed my friend the process of adding the beetroot water in the crisp parcel, which was filled with potatoes, and popping it whole in the mouth for the full flavour explosion. She was hooked and tucked into the rest. Lamb momos were chosen over the chicken and vegetarian options and they were divine, moist and deliciously spicy.
Moving onto the mains, the lamb biryani was a real treat and served beautifully in a ceramic pot, slow baked and sealed with a puff pastry top. There was a very generous serving of melt-in-the-mouth tender and spiced lamb pieces with the rice, along with a serving of raita (seasoned thick yoghurt), to ease the richness. The murg makhani – butter chicken – was equally soft in a delicious buttery tomato gravy and complemented the thin crispy naan, which accompanied the mains. No Indian feast is complete without a vegetarian dish of some sorts; in Kanishka’s case their signature black dal, which complemented the biryani perfectly.
Stuffed to the brim, I couldn’t help myself eyeing up another table’s gorgeously chocolatey, melting bomb pudding. Debating on a dessert order we eventually rejected for a time when stomach space is available, although, being my friends birthday we were provided with a little dessert platter, which held a moist, rich mini brownie with fresh strawberries, home-made orange gelatine sweets and fudge.
Upon leaving I spotted Atul Kochhar himself warmly greeting people and wholeheartedly acknowledging the two of us as we gathered our belongings, checking how our evening was and extracting a promise to return and sample the other delights.
Kanishka is already making its mark on the Mayfair restaurant scene for all the right reasons; prime location, stunning decoration and gorgeously delicious food presented beautifully. Atul has hit the mark, blending modern age with traditional Indian heritage, providing us with a culinary feast truly fit for royal.
Address: 17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair, London W1S 2QH / 020 3978 0978
Image credit at the very top of the article credit: Johnny Stephens Photography