Of one thing there’s no doubt: Peter Joseph can cook. The former head chef of Mayfair’s swanky, Michelin-starred Tamarind has opened this equally smart, not-yet-Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Chelsea. And the food is superb. It’s modish, prettily plated stuff (hiya, tyre man!) that will flirt with your senses too. Best of all, most dishes come in small sizes (as well as the odd it’s-all-mine-leave-me-alone type portion). I don’t know if this is a homage to Le Cercle, one-time occupant of this space and a small-plate trailblazer, or just a happy coincidence. But I like it.
It allows you to maraud around the menu, trying a bit of everything. First on your hit list should be the mini samosas: one potato, one chicken, one venison, each dense filling thoughtfully spiced before being wrapped in buttery gram-flour pastry. Also, the soft-shell crab. It was testament to the skill of the kitchen that the coastal, seafood-flattering Mangalorean spicing allowed the sweetness of this crustacean to shine through. Strewn with micro-herbs and teeny cubes of fresh tomato and cucumber, it also came with blobs of smooth and tangy tomato chutney. Finally, get the smoky, moreish Malabar prawns. Only the guinea fowl tikka was better on paper than in practice.
But Kahani does have a few issues. Firstly, the service veered from smooth (the lovely manager) to irritatingly obsequious (our waiter). And, sadly, no amount of tasteful, luxurious decor could compensate for an empty room. If (when) it picks up a star, it’ll fill this swanky basement space. For now, it’s all about the food.