Restaurant Review: Quilon Restaurant, Buckingham Gate in London
Leading food writer and restaurant critic Georgie Bentley-Buckle heads down to the Michelin-starred Quilon for a celebration of Indian wines and delicious seafood.
Nestled in the heart of St James’ and tucked from the hustle and bustle of Victoria, Quilon sets itself a charming exterior and a warm, welcoming entrance. Established in 1999 and awarded a Michelin star in 2008 the restaurant describes its menu as the embodiment of a unique blend of ethnic and progressive dishes with seafood at the core but also offering meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes, mostly designed for sharing.
A core philosophy throughout, Quilon presents a menu of south-west coastal Indian cuisine (hence the predominance of seafood) and a world class wine list with a particular focus on some of the finest Indian Wines. Taking a strong pride in both their specifically tailored south-western dishes and diverse wine list, recently the Michelin starred establishment have been celebrating the Indian labels that they offer.
A summary from Quilon’s Master of Wine explains, ‘food and wine pairing is not science, but that it is possible to establish guidelines rather than rules for pairing food and wine. While there are certain combinations that seem natural and ‘correct’, the final decision should rest with you, the diner. And, ‘Some of our wines may be unfamiliar to you but I would encourage you to experiment.’…Which was certainly a favourable option! Amongst the labels you would expect to find they offer a soft and crisp Indian Sauvignon Blanc, imported by Grover and a warming Dindori Shiraz imported by Sula. This celebration and focus on Indian wines runs in parallel with the growing demand and popularity for wines harvested and produced in alternative locations across the globe. Parisians in particular have been said to have a keen interest in pairing their Indian food with Indian labels on menus, and this trend is looking to spread across Indian establishments across the UK and the remainder of Europe.
A modern and contemporary feel throughout, the menu offers traditionally inspired dishes presented in a stylish form. This distinctive way of serving Indian food which is already so frequently eaten across the UK, ensures an experience ideal for sharing. To fully appreciate the depth and breadth of their menu, Quilon avidly encourage the sharing of dishes with fellow diners in order for all to taste the contrast across all exotic flavours and aromas. Of course, everyone comes in with their old favourites as well as a curiosity to explore new ‘off-piste’ recipes and head chef Sriram is happy to tailor to his diners very own requirements.
In partnership with the Indian wine labels, a variety of flavoursome dishes, all with their own characteristics were presented onto our table. Particular favourites included a prawn masala marinated and cooked with mustard, curry leaves and coconut, particularly hearty in size and flavour; a popular choice even with carnivores present. A succulent roasted and spiced lamb was another obvious choice to dive in for seconds for.
Neutralising the flavours of Indian cuisine, any given English diner would usually expect this to be presented in the form of a naan bread or milder onion bhaji. At Quilon they offer in my opinion a refreshing alternative which comes in the form of a Malabar Partha, (in other words, a layered flaky flat bread that is popular across the whole of South India). Traditionally in India they are eaten with plain tea or a coconut based curry or Korma.
On this occasion the sweetness and delicacy of the Malabar Partha was a welcome addition against some of the heavier flavours.
A celebration of Indian wines is enlightening many to new and exciting Indian food pairings with a whole selection of immerging and increasingly popular Indian wine labels. At Quilon the two Indian wines that they are offering complement a variety of dishes on their distinctive menu. The crisp Sauvignon Blanc is a welcome refreshment to the palate for the heavier and slightly spicier dishes whist the Dindori Shiraz’s comforting aromas was a popular choice throughout.
Quilon is an inviting Indian restaurant representing the lesser known niche of south-western Indian cuisine and Indian wine labels. A soft, aromatic atmosphere with friendly service ensured a welcomed evening, cherry topped with a Michelin star.
Address: Quilon, 41 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF, (020 7821 1899/www.quilon.co.uk)