Just a few well-heeled steps from Sloane Street, cosseted within the bijou oasis of Wilbraham Place, lies Kahani, a hidden gem of a fine-dining Indian Restaurant.
Opened 18 months ago by Peter Joseph, former head chef at Michelin-starred Tamarind, this is proper old school service within a contemporary setting just as it should be for such a prestigious location.
I sensed it the moment I stepped through the glass doors as they silently slid open to reveal a cloakroom attendant poised to take my bits and pieces before leading me down into Kahani’s welcoming embrace.
Kahani means story in Hindu and there’s no doubt Joseph’s food tells a flavoursome culinary tale relating directly to his roots in Tamil Nadu in southern India. A tale less about curries and more about the lighter side of Indian cuisine where individual flavours can shine.
The restaurant was busy for a weeknight, the clientele a surprising mix of business, locals and tourists from the snips of chatter I caught as I was led to my table. I’d already met an American couple at the bar where mixologist Pepe was proudly showing off his fine collection of whiskies and gins. Rumour had it, his Gulab Martini was his party piece, a hit of vodka, lychee liquor and juice, lemon juice and rose syrup.
Tempting as it was, I was saved by the call to dinner. I was given a banquette table, perched on a raised platform at the back of the restaurant, the perfect spot to look over at the open-plan glass-fronted kitchen where an army of chefs was busy weaving culinary magic.
There is a full la carte menu and a six and four-course tasting option with wine pairings if you want to experience Joseph’s full repertoire. I was going for a bit of both, and it didn’t take long for my story to begin unfolding.
Kicking off with three small plate appetizers; a sensational black chicken with Chetinaad roasted spice (a small town in Tamil Nadu) and curry leaves (£10). The chicken pieces were blackened with edible charcoal and tasted wonderful. A plate of spicy chickpeas with sweetened yoghurt, mint, tamarind chutney and papdi, a flat puri (£10).
One of my all-time Indian favourites this, a tangy mix of chutney and yoghurt slathered over the chickpeas. Never fails to disappoint. Lastly, a duo of little flaky cakes made from green peas with cumin, ginger and chilli topped with a dollop of cranberry chutney (£8). Delightfully spicy and crispy, these went down beautifully with a chilled glass of Little Beauty Marlborough Riesling. There were other appetizer options that sounded equally appealing including soft shell crab with Mangalorean spices, kachumber and smoked tomato chutney (£12), and a platter of various samosas with aloo, chicken and venison fillings (£11)
Three examples from the chargrilled section were up next. A trio of different chicken supreme tikkas (£16) one with mint, another with cream cheese and the last with pickles. Deliciously moist, the tandoori spices were a stand-out for me. Two hefty smoked Malabar prawns followed, epically marinated with fresh turmeric, coconut and curry leaves (£16). Then, a Kahani signature plate; tandoori Somerset lamb chops with Kashmiri chillies (£16) a perfect example of how Joseph is intent on showing how quality British produce can hold hands with exotic Indian spices. Of course, it helps when you’re washing it down with a smooth glass of Crozes-Hermitage from the Rhone.
I’ve already mentioned the lack of curries on the menu at Kahani but I had a taste of some from the Dawat menu (Dawat means feast). Chicken Makhani, chargrilled chicken in a tomato makhani sauce and fenugreek leaves (£22), a very tasty Kerala fish curry made from halibut with shallots, turmeric, tamarind and coconut (£24). To round it all off a Hydrabadi lamb biryani (£25) materialised laden with delicate rice wafting of mint and coriander.
This whole experience was Indian cooking fit for a Maharaja. But there was a fitting finale. Indian desserts are infamous for their sweetness and I tend to avoid them at all costs. My tooth is the opposite of sweet. But Joseph’s dessert platter (£15) was the stuff of legend. A duo of home-made kulfis, a peanut butter parfait to die for, and a, not as sweet as it looked, gulab jamun.
Tamarind may well have its Michelin star, but Peter Joseph’s Kahani, already with 2 AA rosettes, will not have to wait very long for its own Michelin accolade. A truly memorable Indian dining experience.
Tell me more about Kahani Indian restaurant
Kahani, 1 Wilbraham Place, London SW1X 9AE
T: 020 7730 7634
Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday, from 12.00 pm to 2.45 pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday, 5.30pm to 10.30pm, and Sunday,12.00pm to 8.00pm
Bottomless Brunch (£35 or £45 with prosecco) includes unlimited brunch of Tandoori
Chicken, Paneer and Spiced chickpeas for up to 2 hours.
For up to 8 People every Sunday, from 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm
Tasting Menu: 6 courses £70. Wine pairing £65
Dawat Menu: 4 courses £52