I’ve long been a fan of Cyrus Todiwala and eaten many times in his Café Spice Namasté in Whitechapel, as well as cooking from his recipe books. He’s also famous for his many TV appearances, including his BBC series The Incredible Spice Men. So when I heard he’d opened a new restaurant in Canary Wharf I was keen to give it a try.
Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen is located inside a new hotel, the Lincoln Plaza London, Curio Collection by Hilton, in an area of Canary Wharf where glass office blocks are mushrooming. As a result, it’s not the easiest place to find and actually is in Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs, so count on a 15-minute walk from the station.
Inside the restaurant, you’re greeted by a large elephant on wheels and pendant lights, plus a collection of copper pans, hang from the high ceilings. The large windows and brightly-coloured walls make it an airy space and sari fabrics and terra-cotta Indian bowls add a touch of the exotic. Todiwala’s menu reflects both his Parsee culinary heritage and traditional Indian street food, with an extra French twist.
We decide to go for the five-course set menu which includes vegetable side dishes, rice, naan, raita, papad, chutneys and dessert for £50 a head. A selection of homemade pickles are first to arrive, completely different from the usual standard Indian restaurant fare. Finely chopped spiced onions and a tangy hot red sauce make good dipping for the mini papadums.
We start with a trio of vegetable starters, a crisp onion bhaji, a puffed poori stuffed with potato and chickpeas and a simple potato cake. Delightfully non-greasy and light as a feather, an ideal precursor for the Tandoori Tikka Platter consisting of chicken, salmon and, unusually, Barbary duck. It’s been marinated in yoghurt with tamarind extract, crushed red chilli, toasted fennel, ginger and roasted cardamom, then chargrilled to a medium rare. It’s slightly chewy but the spices give it a distinctive flavour.
Clearing our palate for the main courses with a cup of slightly spiced daal soup – our curries are served in sharing bowls with saffron rice, cucumber raita and slices of cheese naan. The mildest curry is the Murgh Makhani Pasanda – breast of chicken stuffed with cheese, blended with pistachio, crushed almonds & roasted fennel, partly grilled then simmered in the creamy tomato sauce. It’s enriched with puréed cashew nuts and almonds, flavoured with shredded ginger, green chilli and crumbled fenugreek. Perfect for those faint of heart.
Goan prawn curry has large tiger prawns in a sweet tomato sauce, the spicing subtle, yet delivering an extra kick. Lamb Dhaansaak is a typical Parsee dish made from five different types of lentils cooked with vegetables, pureed and blended with lamb that’s been cooked in hot red masala. Of all the dishes, we eat, this reminds me of great evenings at Café Spice Namaste, Todiwala’s first restaurant
Accompaniments are Baingan Bharta, smoked aubergine chopped and simmered with onions, tomato, garlic, green chilli and cumin, topped with freshly chopped coriander, beaten yoghurt and dices of fried aubergine. Tadka Daal is a combination of toor and masoor daal cooked and sizzled with chopped garlic, cumin and red chilli. This is a large amount of food, yet has none of the heaviness that you feel after eating Indian meals.
Finally, we just have room for two different Kulfis, one flavoured with refreshing rose extract, the other with honey, saffron and cardamom, with a strawberry plonked in the middle. As with all the food here, presentation is particularly impressive and flavours have a hint of heat, rather than the full-on experience of high street Indian restaurants. It’s more expensive than your local curry house but this is sophisticated dining, with service to match.
Tell Me More About Mr Todiwalas Kitchen
The Kitchen Tasting Menu costs £50 per person. Main course curries are around £20 each.
Lincoln Plaza London, Curio Collection by Hilton.
2 Lincoln Plaza, Canary Wharf, London E14 9BD T: 0207 9871157