My first contract role in London was based in Kensington and I must admit it was not a bad part of London to ease myself into the trauma of working again after four months of gallivanting around the world. The company I worked for was in an industry as far from glamorous as you could get yet we shared a building with a rather chic interiors brand and a carpark with a well-known record company. There were also always rumours of people spotting Prince Harry at the local M&S; I never quite believed that one, but hey, it’s High Street Ken darling, anything can happen.
During those six months I got used to rotating my lunch options between the usual high street chains, having the weekly splurge at Whole Foods, and basically spending my pay cheque before I received it on lunch break shopping trips. It wasn’t financially ideal but compared to where my office is based now, it was just lovely. Then we moved offices and I never ventured back because I didn’t have a reason to. I certainly didn’t expect that when I did, it would be for a midweek curry.
Yep, loads of curry houses within five minutes of our flat and I decide to drag a certain someone forty-five minutes across town to have a curry. Have I lost my mind? Perhaps but that’s got nothing to do with this. The reason for this quick trip down memory lane was a visit to Chakra, a modern Indian restaurant tucked down Holland St. Wanting to make the most of the London heatwave week, we settled into a table outside with a bottle of Viognier and mini poppadoms, and watched a world much posher than ours pass on by… Sitting in the shaded terrace, we almost felt like we were on holiday again.
As for the food, that also did a great job of whisking us away to distant lands… We kicked off with the tandoori paneer with basil and mint chutney, and the gigantic dill crusted tiger shrimp with beetroot ketchup. The tiger shrimp came highly recommended, and after sinking my teeth into them, I can confirm those sources can be deemed highly reliable!
Meaty, juicy and full of spice, the tiger shrimp went perfectly with the sweet beetroot chutney. I know they were going for the artistic smear on the slate but I would have forgone the style points for a little bowl of the chutney for dipping, because my sauce addiction is alive and well. The paneer was a surprise hit. I could tell a certain someone was skeptical at my cheesy vegetarian choice, but I almost had to fight him for my fair share. Again, the spices and heat levels were excellent and the texture was just right, not at all chewy and rubbery.
We then sampled the lamb korma with courgettes, almonds and cashew nuts and the clay oven cooked black cod with green chilli and garlic yoghurt; both very appetising but a little lacklustre after the flair and flavour of the starters. They were a tough act to follow. The lamb itself was tender and the sauce creamy, rich and just screaming to be mopped up by our basmati rice and butter paratha which is always a win as far as I am concerned. We agreed that the addition of the nuts and courgettes was positive, both added texture and sweetness, elevating an otherwise simple dish.
In between bites, the cod was the subject of quite a discussion between a certain someone and I, and later, Chef Tai. We certainly couldn’t fault the flavour but we also couldn’t help think that the use of black cod on the menu is unnecessary. I understand the restaurant source a premium product from the best supplier possible but I think the dish would be just as successful if done with a locally sourced product. I loved that we were able to have a really open discussion with Chef Tai on the pros and cons of the situation; it showed that he knows his dishes inside out and cares about customer feedback. Obviously, any qualms I had didn’t actually stop me from devouring it… it was a tasty dish, and I certainly wouldn’t let such a highly sought after ingredient go to waste!
I don’t often go for Indian style desserts; they’re usually too sweet and spiced for my liking but I couldn’t resist ending on a sweet note – any excuse to linger a little longer. I ordered the mango kulfi with fresh mango and mango sauce which was not only scrumptious but also a bit of fun to eat. I slurped the kulfi and sauce together and finished with slices of the fresh stuff; a really vibrant dish to end the meal with!
We had an absolutely stunner of an evening at Chakra; the food and atmosphere were fantastic which made the trek across town worth every tube change! My highlights were definitely the tiger shrimp and the mango dessert, both demonstrated perfectly what Chakra’s ethos is – traditional flavours executed in a modern and fun way. This is certainly far more elegant than your usual curry house but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, the restaurant is a welcoming neighbourhood gem… good to know that if we ever decide to make the move from Tooting to Kensington, we’ll still have a great local curry spot!
Do you love Indian food? Do you prefer it traditional or are you a fan of the modern interpretation?
Thanks to Chakra for an evening of delicious Indian cuisine, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!