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10 Lincoln Street
Vineet Bhatia London closed permanently in February 2018
Vineet Bhatia was one of the brightest stars of Indian dining in the noughties, but as he went on to open restaurants around the world, there was a sense that Rasoi, his refined London flagship, was being eclipsed. Now, the first Indian chef ever to win a Michelin star is back to challenge our preconceptions once again, re-naming Rasoi as Vineet Bhatia London and offering a no-choice tasting menu for £105 (£175 with matched wines). What’s more, it is served with no music, no lunch service and almost no carbs (so no rice, poppadoms or breads). What you do get is cooking that’s as startlingly inventive as ever, from Bhatia classics such as tandoori smoked salmon, or chocolate samosa, to freshly minted creations that reclaim for Bhatia the mantle of Indian food pioneer. Tandoori lamb chop comes in a sweet, rich marinade of coffee and jaggery; salted caramel kulfi is served atop a slab of pink Himalayan salt; and, best of all, half a dozen amuse-bouche size starters include Bhatia’s interpretation of pav bhaji, a soft bread roll stuffed with curried vegetables and melted butter. The presentation sometimes lapses into pretension (tuna tartare borne aloft by a cloud of dry ice), but flavours and textures are never less than vividly precise – and endlessly enjoyable. Bhatia’s wife Rashima has given the Chelsea townhouse’s two small dining rooms a snazzy makeover in grey with splashes of sunburst yellow; service, from suited staff, is on point throughout. In all, a very welcome comeback.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here about Marianne Lumb’s colourful career as a private chef and the benefits of operating one of London’s smallest kitchens.
Best Private Rooms: <10
10 Lincoln Street
Sloane Square Tube Station 336m
South Kensington Tube Station 925m
Sloane Square 183m
Peter Jones 184m
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Go the restaurant’s website and you will be told that “the journey begins.” Diners at Vineet Bhatia will apparently experience “intrigue, surprise and adventure” on their visits to this restaurant. If I were asked for three adjectives to describe what I wanted to get out of a dining experience – and particularly one for which I was paying £175/head (admittedly with paired wines included) – then these would not initially be the first that would come to mind. Overall, our experience was very good, but by no means outstanding. The eponymous Vineet Bhatia is certainly a luminary or trail-blazer when it comes to Indian cuisine, and indeed was the first Indian chef ever to win a Michelin star. He has also shown a clearly capacity for reinvention, having changed both the name and décor of his restaurant at least once in recent years. The location is a discrete Georgian townhouse in Chelsea which holds around 25 covers spread across two dining rooms. When we arrived at 9pm on a recent weekday evening, the place was full, but since most diners had chosen to dine earlier than us, the place became curiously lacking in atmosphere as the evening progressed, especially since the restaurant has a no-music policy. This is just one of several strictures at Vineet Bhatia, perhaps a conscious decision to ensure that all diners have a ‘journey’ rather than just an old-fashioned meal: the restaurant is not open for lunch, so it’s dinners only; and here, just a tasting menu, no a la carte options. The amuse-bouche introductory tasters set a very high standard, which was sadly not maintained throughout. Nonetheless, they were indicative of what Vineet Bhatia is seeking to achieve here: we had a sample of lime soup accompanied by smoked prawn chaat for me and smoked broccoli chaat for my vegetarian comrade. The presentation was first-class and the flavour intensity (particularly from the smoke) inevitably drew one towards the dish. The tastes lingered long after. It was a pity though that there was no wine available with this sample (nor to accompany the second amuse-bouche) and indeed we had to wait until our first tasting dish some 10 minutes later before getting anything beyond water to drink. Things generally felt out of proportion: small and intricate dishes, but full-size glasses of wine to accompany them. Great fun, but not necessarily a recipe for sobriety, especially with no starch (another Vineet Bhatia policy of attempted differentiation) to mop up the alcohol. I would have preferred better balance throughout. The wine choices were superlative and showed some daring (switching between white, red and sparkling across the meal rather than making a more conventional progression), but these tastes perhaps will stay in the mind longer than the food itself. Beyond the amuse-bouche, probably only the foie gras starter could be counted as truly memorable. In summary, if you want intimate dining, then go to Marianne; if you want better Indian food in London, then go to Trishna. And, if you want to see true Indian culinary innovation, then let’s hope that one day Gaggan Anand opens a restaurant in London; failing that, it’s a trip to Bangkok…
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