Indian fine dining has become quite the queen bee in London’s culinary scene, with some recent openings including the glitzy Farzi Cafe and lavishly furnished Chokhi Dhani in Battersea.
We were excited to visit Kanishka by Atul Kochhar, which opened on Maddox Street in Mayfair earlier this year. The Michelin-starred chef has curated an exciting menu inspired by the so-called Seven Sisters states in north-eastern India, including Assam and Naharlagun.
The restaurant has a trendy “London” vibe with monochrome flooring, cerulean walls and a bare ceiling decorated with twisting rope that instantly made me think of pipe cleaners. Stone tables, brightly lit lamps and potted plants complete the fun, eccentric look.
Before our meal, we enjoyed a glass of bubbly at the bar and took in the atmosphere. Smooth jazz tinkled through the speakers, and there was a cheerful hum of chatter that put me instantly at ease.
The a la carte menu was just two-pages long, but every dish sounded mouth-wateringly good. Atul has put together a fabulous menu of north Indian cuisine with a nod to British favourites such as venison, scallops and even the humble pie. My dining partner chose Atul’s Chicken Tikka Pie with cumin-scented berry compote, which we were informed is a fan favourite.
I was torn between the smoked chilli spiced scallops and grilled pigeon breast with beetroot ketchup and pine nuts – our waiter convinced me to order the latter as he promised it packed a punch (I like my spicy food).
While waiting for our starter, we nibbled on some fancy popadoms with perfectly spiced chutney. When our first course arrived, I was stunned by the colours and textures on our plates: fiery reds, oranges and yellows were accompanied by bright bursts of green herbs.
My dining partner took her first mouthful and promptly exclaimed: “This chicken tikka pie is genius.” The flaky pie resembled an orange spaceship, and when cut into, oozed with warm chicken tikka filling. My pigeon breast was light and delicious, with its punchy beetroot ketchup and delicate shimeji mushrooms.
For the main course, I chose the Rogani Boti: Tandoor smoked Romney lamb rump with sweet potato, spiced gravy and keema parcel. The lamb was pink, tender and cut like butter. The sweet potato complemented the dish well, and the keema parcel was quite the tasty mouthful. I also tried the Kanishka signature black dahl, which was a revelation – I recommend ordering this side with any of the main courses.
My dining partner ordered the lamb Biryani, which was encased in a sealed crust and served with burani raita sauce. She was impressed with the flavours of the dish, but it was a little fiery for her tastes.
Top tip: Every dish we ordered was well spiced and had quite the warming effect, so if you can’t handle spicy food, ask the waiter to dial down on the chillies.
For dessert, we shared a Rose Bhapa Doi, a vegetarian-friendly glass of steamed rose-scented yoghurt with watermelon granita and honeycomb. It was sweet and light, and I enjoyed the crunch of the honeycomb.
Kanishka has a bright, unpretentious atmosphere, and the food really speaks for itself. Just don’t order too many sides as you won’t be able to waddle out the door after your meal.
Opening hours: Kanishka is open Monday to Saturday from 12 noon to 12am and Sunday from 5:30pm to 11pm.
Getting there: The address is 17-19 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2QH. The nearest tube station is Oxford Circus, and it’s a five-minute walk to the restaurant.