Kahani in Chelsea: Unique Indian dishes that tell their own story
There are few foodie experiences as satisfying as discovering a tasty Indian gem with great atmosphere in London. Located below street level, almost hidden from view whilst walking along the flowery Sloane Street, is the relatively new solo venture from Peter Joseph, already a name in the fine-dining scene as the head chef who helped maintain Tamarind’s Michelin star for ten years.
The semi-lit restaurant offers a delicious menu accompanied by spiced drinks and a warm, pleasant setting situated somewhere between homey and sophisticated. Dramatic high chairs stand next to simply designed wallpapers, while a neat bar overlooks tables featuring decorative rounded motifs and a ceiling-high wine cellar. Kahani, in Hindi, means story, and it is this deeply human desire and disposition to storytelling that has inspired Joseph to tell his guests about Indian food culture.
A key concept of Kahani is the combination of traditional recipes – those the chef learnt at home, wandering around the kitchen since childhood – with prime British produce. The spices used are the same for all the plates; it’s the proportions in which these are mixed together that makes the final results so different and so unique.
While entrusting our selection of dishes for the night to the manager, we are left crunching – and finishing – some poppadoms with chutney and a more original pineapple dip. The fruit is also the main element in signature cocktail Tandoori Ananas, a specially refined rum-based concoction.
The meal begins with the unforgettable Soft-shell Crunchy Crab, delicate inside while strongly enriched by tomato chutney. In comparison, the golden Beetroot Cakes make a bit less of an impression: sweet with a tangy kick, this second small plate is well paired with the crispy crust of the former.
Very soon, though, we have found our favourite. Among the Kahani Klassiks, the Smoked Malabar Prawns are likely unrivalled. Covered with spices and coconut, the chargrilled crustacean absorbs all the seasoning in the oven. The cooking maintains the tenderness while giving the prawns a more solid consistency on the outside. The juicy free-range meat is particularly exalted in the mild Chicken Tikka, moderately covered in mace, ginger and quite a lot of coriander.
This latest ingredient is also notably present in the Thalasseri Biryani. The main, which we go for in the lamb option, comprises of excellent aromatic rice under which the meaty chops lie, for the diner to mix together with the spices right at the moment of serving. If constrained to only one plate, we recommend choosing the Kahani Butter Chicken. The smooth sauce of tomato makhani and fenugreek leaves in which the pieces are immersed is a creamy delicacy that goes down smoothly, rich in flavour with scarce traces of greasiness. As our sides, we are served a tasty Ajwani Okra and fragrant naan.
To complete our dinner, we try a nice range of desserts. The classic kulfi are the fresh and fruity option from the menu, featuring a medley of salted caramel, rose malai and pistachio cardamom. The carrot fudge is tasty and warm, although a bit too spongy. A nice surprise arrives in the form of the Raspberry and Mint Cheesecake: a soft ball with a zesty raspberry jam core. With the prettiest presentation of all, the Peanut Butter Parfait is an intense and gratifying note to finish on.
Contemporary cuisine exquisitely meets South-Indian recipes in the hands of Peter Joseph. In the hectic cultural melting pot that is London, it can be easy to get lost in the fusion of styles and extreme experimental dishes. What Kahani offers is not only food with character, authentically traditional, but a true story – the chef’s story – a tale of balance with a blend of ingredients and cooking methods that you would only find in a real community.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Maria Barrios
To book a table at Kahani, 1 Wilbraham Place London SW1X 9AE, call 020 7730 7634 or visit their website here.