It feels almost lazy to describe an Indian restaurant as colourful, but it’s also hard to think of anything else when reflecting on an experience at Manthan. The peacock-coloured banquette seating runs the length of this petite restaurant on Maddox Street, the second collaboration between Michelin starred chef Rohit Ghai and entrepreneur Abhi Sangwan, and bright, bold dishes fill the menu.
There’s a generosity of spirit that weaves through everything too, from the plush surrounds and sweet service through to the portions, which are reassuringly hearty. Don’t miss ordering a plate of crisp Ghati masala prawns - perfectly cooked and surrounded in addictive, almost buttery-tasting batter, these have an intriguing complexity of flavour. Other winners included a fried buttermilk chicken topped with deeply savoury curry leaves and covered in a pink peppercorn sauce tableside. With every plate we tried nuanced and delicious, we imagine this is just one of those menus that delivers, whatever you choose. An aloo paratha – for instance – wasn’t your regular bread but came with melting home-churned butter on top of it along with a sweet and sour radish pickle.
Mains of rich curries and smoky grills presented a particularly good egg Anda dish with an umami-rich fenugreek and stone fungus gravy and a plant-based ‘chop’ that was surprisingly convincing at imitating chicken (although, truthfully, we missed the bite of real meat). Rice, raita and roti breads completed mains for a spread that saw every last mouthful mopped up.
Desserts were less of a strong suit. In Ghai’s experienced hands they were hardly destined to be bad, but they weren’t particularly memorable, and we’d swap them for one of the top-class cocktails any day.
While the gold taps in the bathroom might leave you in doubt that you’re dining in one of London’s most exclusive postcodes, the kind and charming staff (dressed in sharp dog-tooth suits, no less) create the air of everyone being truly welcome.