Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Mon Nov 28 2011
Budget-price Indian street food canteens are currently in vogue, but this recently opened Notting Hill restaurant bucks the trend with a fine dining menu priced at the sharp end.
Chakra is furnished in shades of biscuit-cream, with chandeliers, crisp napery and padded, dimpled walls creating a sophisticated vibe. The service team is clad in siren-red outfits, which adds colour.
Restaurateur and executive chef Andy Varma previously ran the upmarket Chelsea restaurant, Vama. For his latest venture, the ‘royal’ cooking styles of the Indian courts are emphasised.
Chefs at Indian palace kitchens in the 1800s were a feisty lot – competition was fierce and culinary boundaries were pushed to the limit. Live birds flying out of puffed puris, pulaos made from pistachio nut slivers instead of rice, and a folly of a feast made from caramel provided wacky and entertaining diversions.
‘Royal’ cooking today, however, covers a spectrum of cookery styles, from the delicate cardamom-spiced kebabs favoured by the Nawab rulers of Lucknow to smoky game grills loved by the Rajputs in Rajasthan.
At Chakra, our lamb chops – inspired by the Patiala palace kitchen in the Punjab – were well marinated in yoghurt, tart lemon juice and ginger, then cooked Punjabi-style over charcoal, delivering a triumph of tenderness and robust flavours. Equally tasty, the palak paneer – velvety-textured spinach purée, lightly seasoned with nutmeg and ginger, and cradling pillows of paneer (white cheese) – was a faultless rendition.
The occasional nod to London-style fusion cooking didn’t always work, however. Griddle-seared garlic scallops anointed with garlic-chilli oil were unremarkable. One modern interpretation that did deliver the goods was a juicy, slightly caramelised tandoori black cod fillet, marinated in sweetened lime juice, spiked with cracked peppercorns.
The puds sounded promising – although mango kulfi, frozen in a wafer-thin chocolate case and topped with mango compote, was disappointingly rock-solid when it came to spooning it up. And – like the kulfi – the service might benefit from being warmed up a bit.
Minor gripes aside, the cooking was top drawer. On a week night the place was busy with well-heeled locals and out-to-impress couples. You might have to pay a Maharajah’s ransom for a meal here, but it rivals feasts served by upmarket West End competitors.
30% Off Your Food Only
Get 30% off your Food Only when ordering a minimum of 2 courses from the a la carte menu. Maximum of 8 diners. Includes VAT, excludes service.
Offer valid until Aug 16 2013
Chakra 157-159 Notting Hill Gate
020 7229 2115
- Opening hours:
Lunch served noon-3.30pm daily. Dinner served 6- 11pm Mon-Sat; 6-10.30pm Sun
Tube: Notting Hill Gate tube
Main courses £7.95-£22.50. Set lunch (Sat, Sun) £16.95 buffet. Set dinner £60 4 courses
- 157-159 Notting Hill Gate
- 020 7229 2115
- 157-159 Notting Hill Gate
Eating out. Fine dining