There are some restaurants that I simply don’t want to share with anyone.
Just occasionally, I visit a place so special that I’m loathed to tell others about it for fear that its soaring popularity will prevent me being able to make further bookings.
Kahani falls neatly into this category. Hindi for ‘story’, Kahani is just that, and like all good stories, it has a beginning, middle and an end.
The experience starts with a bang, as the taxi pulls up in a quiet Chelsea street.
I looked around to see an elegant doorway, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, behind which sits a lady waiting to take my coat and lead me down two flights of stairs.
From my seat, I can see the kitchen, other diners and more importantly, new comers.
The layout out of Kahani was well planned and designed to keep diners entertained. Alerting all the senses is an important part of the whole dining experience, and that begins with sight, and warm, indulgent interior that creates a sense of calm.
Eastern inspired design does just this, with help from a muted colour palate embracing metallic tones of matt gold and bronze.
This is fine dining, but with not even a hint of stuffiness, no mean feat for this area of town, but admirably achieved.
This begins with the staff who are all knowing and all seeing, without being obtrusive.
Manager Ali and his team are there in a split second, if you need them, but also leave the diner to enjoy the experience.
The brainchild of Michellin-starred chef, Peter Joseph, who brings influences absorbed while learning to cook at his mother’s knee, while growing up in Chennai.
He combines the ingredients and flavours of home with experience he gained working in British kitchens, creating his own signature modern twist on Indian cuisine.
It is easy to see his ethos of making Indian fine dining ‘more communal, more informal and offering diners a wide range of palate-pleasing flavours, whilst remaining true to his heritage.’
With this is mind, two friends and I sought out a selection of dishes to share.
Octopus and calamari chaat, kasoondi mustard, sweet potato, grapefruit – for some reason we expected it to be a hot dish but it’s a salad.
Super fresh fish made this an exquisite dish, and the lightness that the other ingredients added was refreshing and against the perception of Indian cuisine being on the heavier side.
Along with a few poppadoms, which came with home-made chutney, there was enough room for another small plate that caught our eye. Soft shell crunchy crab, delicately seasoned with Mangalorean spices, kachumber and smoked tomato chutney hit the spot nicely.
Cooked to perfection, it was a winning combination of slightly crunchy texture and sweet to taste.
I went my separate way with the main course, looking for the healthier choices on the menu, turning straight to the chargrilled section.
The trio of chicken tikka tandoor grilled chicken supreme with cream cheese, mint and pickling spices, and lamb seekh kebab, green chilli, coriander, ginger, garam masala was just what I was looking for.
Always the best option when in search of a tasty dish that won’t cost you a day’s worth of calories – both were divine. Well marinated, no doubt overnight, and delicately spiced and grilled to release the flavours. F
Feeling like something was missing from a plate that wouldn’t include rice, I ordered the duo of dahl – mahkani and tadka – and a tandoori roti. I absolutely love dahl and it’s a great way of creating a healthier sauce than curry provides.
My friends shared venison keema tossed with shallots, fenegreek leaves and truffle naan. I had a little taste and we agreed that mince is far less gamey than the usual haunch of the meat and serving it on a bread base made for a light dish.
Smoked malabar prawns marinated with fresh turmeric, coconut, curry leaves and a side of okra completed the meal.
Surprisingly full despite sharing so few dishes, we decided against a pudding, but Ali insisted on a sharing platter, including a medley of kulfi – salted caramel, rose malai and pistachio.
A visit to Kahani is a culinary experience like no other, the likes of which everyone should experience just once.
We’ll be back, it’s just a question of when and if I’m lucky enough to get a table. We’ll see.
Kahani, Wilbraham Place, Belgravia
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