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|Address:||112 Cheyne Walk, London SW10 0DJ|
|Tel:||020 7351 5232|
|Price: £47.00||Wine: £21.00||Champagne: £60.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sun 12N-2.30pm 6-10.30pm (Sun -10pm)|
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The English Dictionary’s definition of Heron:
noun – “Any of numerous long-legged, long-necked, usually long-billed birds of the family Ardeidae, including the true herons, egrets, night herons, and bittons.”
No mention of colour, stripes, dots or multi-coloured oily feathers, yet The Painted Heron (restaurant and not to be confused with an actual painted heron – interfering with animal protesters and the RSPCA) in Chelsea, is certainly flying in the right direction.
Somewhat isolated along Cheyne Walk (sparsely separated like many fine dining Chelsea establishments: Chelsea Brassiere, Ramsey’s), the restaurant boasts The London Restaurant Award 2008 and a nomination for The Best Indian Restaurant 2008.
Head Chef Yogesh Datta’s innovative recipes make up the intricately flavoured dishes and the menu that has Indian restaurants up and down the country talking: Cornish albacore tuna in tandoori spices & fried cashew nuts, wood pigeon supremes tandoor roasted medium rare with hot & sour spices, tandoori Grouse (whole) with crispy fried potatoes, slow cooked lamb shank in hot curry with Rajasthani red chilli paste.
Datta has earned free reign over The Painted Heron after displaying magnificent techniques and creations at the Tabla in Canary Wharf, his signature style defined as, “Classical Indian cooking to the European environment by using carefully selected, top quality fresh indigenous and imported ingredients.” So that’s that then, maintaining all the spice, tickle and kick of classical Indian cuisine but with a stylish manner and modern-hand, presented in minimalist style to a European environment.
It is fine Indian cooking. The poppodoms were good, the dip choices superb. A cold avocado cools the taste buds back down to reality after both a cherry curry and garlic, onion and tomato mix. A terrific introduction. A glass of Sauvignon de Touraine followed (£5.50 175ml).
Wild catch soft-shell crabs fried in sesame & chilli batter (£7.50) was wonderful, a little tough, but packed a punch in flavour in only a small apt-sized appetizer. My father enjoyed the same choice (perhaps the greatest and most tested fan of soft-shell crab there is? Choosing to base himself by the Dorset coast for this very reason I think?).
There’s a blissful nonchalance about lunch here, notably that there are only three diners in the restaurant: my two guests and myself. It is surprisingly quiet. No rushing about the floor is needed. Like private dining, invitation eating, VIP treatment with the ego-blowing tofs looking down on the economy diners, except there weren’t any to gloat at! A weekly lunchtime table is perhaps not the best pick for a thriving atmosphere in an Indian restaurant; indeed I’ve never even had an Indian for lunch, have you?
Our meals arrive with plaudible timing and for now, we are the restaurant. I’m later informed that they are to full capacity tonight, though I will not be there to see.
Duck in green chutney curry with mint and coriander (£14.00) sent my tongue rolling. Meaty duck is just wonderful. On-the-bone duck chunks were a hassle to free but worth the sweat. There’s a well-sourced selection from the vegetable side-dishes and rice and breads: okra and mushrooms, stir-fried with dry mango powder, raita with home set yoghurt and cucumber, and my spinach & baby corn with cumin & garlic (£5.00). A simple boiled basmati rice (£3.00) is plain and unfussy, soaking up the flavors and spices of my dish, it needn’t be anything too overbearing. A second glass of Sauvignon followed.
That bendy, melting, rubber-tang cheese naan from the takeaway down the road makes me happy. This redefines the British perception of Indian cooking and the naan. Imagine coconut & pistachios nann (£3.00) and sweet with mango naan (£3.00), warm and fluffy with a nutty softness. The perfect envelope shape to wipe up the chutney curry in true peasant style. Delicious. A third Sauvignon.
There’s a sticky-sickly pudding of chocolate fondant. Whether it’s a case of 2 + 2 = 5, and that it’s working in the wrong direction from the menu, running head-on with the Indian main dishes, I’m unsure? It was too much, too thick and gloopey, too sweet a dish to follow. Not the palate-cleanser I needed. A scoop of soft ice-cream may have instead been the way forward? A traditional cooling lasse was missing.
And a fourth glass of Sauvignon.