John Gregory-Smith returned to Tamarind Mayfair to discover the delights of their new tasting menu
What an opulent affair it is visiting Tamarind in Mayfair. Descending the stairs into the subterranean dining room, to be greeted by a glass of fizz and a plum table looking over into the kitchen. It’s elegant and refined. It’s not cool, but it doesn’t need to be. The food does all the talking and every time I eat at the first Michelin starred Indian restaurant it’s always better than the last.
On this occasion I was here to try their new tasting menu. Nibbling a few crisp papads, dunked into their sublime dips – the beetroot chutney is heavenly – we surveyed the menu. It was classic; chaat, seafood, chicken, lamb and a dessert, with a refresher for half time.
First came a channa chaat – a classic chickpea snack that had been refined within an inch of its life. A small stodgy chickpea cake flavoured with onion coriander and chilli was covered in a sweet tamarind sauce and plain yogurt. Crispy rice puffs were scattered over the top and beneath was the hidden gem – a glorious green slick of wickedly spicy mint chutney that made it all burst to life.
We devoured a beautifully seared, plump scallop, musty with black pepper and sweet from a sticky tomato chutney. Then came heavenly baby chicken that was enrobed in a thick yogurt marinade, spiced with ginger, chilli and garlic. This succulent piece of poultry was cooked to perfection in their tandoor oven and served with mixed vegetable patties and a smooth slick of rich makhni sauce – this luscious Punjabi sauce is made from cream and butter and like all things that go down that path you could sit around doing shots of the stuff for hours after the restaurant had closed.
Smokey hues wafted up from the gnarled lamb chops that had a wonderful tangy flavour from the raw papaya, ginger, fennel and star anise that was used to spice them. They could have been a way pinker for me, but the rich slick of onions cooked down in saffron, cardamom and lamb stock made sure that they were more than juicy. Frankly, to me this is everything that is so good about Indian food and why I will be booking a table at Tamarind next month.
I love eating, my belly and bank balance are testament to that, so I started to get a little nervous about the portions. They were not mean, it’s just if that the thought of leaving a good restaurant hungry can bring you close to tears you will understand. A side of Tamarind’s Malabar prawn curry did the job beautifully, topping up the lamb that came with rice, dal and spinach.
Desserts were extra special. A retro green, creamy pistachio kulfi served with a mound of warm grated carrot that had been cooked in milk, with raisins and ground almonds. This sweet, nutty pulp worked beautifully with the intense kulfi and was the perfect end to another cracking dinner.
The six course tasting menu at Tamarind restaurnat costs £65 per person and £115 with wine pairing
Tamarind Mayfair 20 Queen Street, London W1J 5PR