Venetia van Kuffeler experiences the opening of a brand-new chapter at Chutney Mary in St James’s
We were lucky enough to have dinner at Chutney Mary just eight days after it opened in its new St James’s Street location. Chutney Mary revolutionised London’s restaurant scene when it opened on the King’s Road in 1990, attracting ambitious young chefs from India who raised the bar for cooking from the subcontinent in the capital. Owners Ranjit Mathrani, Namita Panjabi and Camellia Panjabi went on to revive Veeraswamy on Regent Street, as well as launch Michelin-starred Amaya in Belgravia and the Masala Zone group. Now, as the restaurant embarks on a new lease of life, its King’s Road site has become Masala Grill and Chutney Mary has reemerged in St James’s, taking over the site that was most recently Wheeler’s.
Out front is a large, stylish bar, suitable for a snack or something from the extensive cocktail menu. The rose and lychee martini was subtle but outstanding. The bar only housed a handful of guests, which was misleading as we turned the corner to find the dining room was as packed with the capital’s smart Indian community as it was lavishly decorated. Enthusiastic General Manager Kanwal Singh was keen to tell us that the re-launch had been so successful that some people who had come for lunch had returned for dinner that very same day! There was a full house.
With too many delicious-sounding starters to choose just two, the Goa crab cake, squid bhajias and baked venison samosa were a total hit, and a sign of the things to follow. The crab cakes were perfectly crunchy served with chilli raita and tamarind chutney, bhajias fragrant and even tastier when dipped in the lime chutney, and the samosa arrived as two cones of wafer-thin pastry filled with rich, minced meat. Our waiter insisted that we couldn’t leave without trying the fragrant Afghani chicken tikka, so he also gave us a tiny portion of that which melted on the tongue. These dishes were worth going back for alone.
For our main courses, we chose Tandoori Wild Arabian Sea Prawns from the ‘Indian Grills’ section of the menu, which was rich and delicious, served in a fire red, oily sauce with burnt chilli, turmeric and curry leaf, and the Lobster Calicut Biryani from the ‘Slow Cooked’ section, served with Kerala spices, curry leaf, coconut and a prawn pickle on the side. This was all topped off with some buttered spelt naan and some kachumber raita.
Although we were groaning with full stomachs by this stage, our persuasive waiter advised us to have the stunning wild strawberry mosaic with pineberries, black pepper and sorrel ice cream, along with a salted caramel kulfi served with an orange toffee sauce for pudding. Tasty, indeed.
The wine list is extensive and the service is smart and efficient. There are two beautiful dining rooms downstairs offering amazing venues for private events. I advise you to go to Chutney Mary with an appetite; this is outstanding Indian food. With breakfast soon to be added to the list of attractions, Chutney Mary is likely to be around for another quarter century…
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