Tamarind has been one of the most famous names on London’s restaurant scene since it became the first Indian ever to win a Michelin star in 2001. Now it has re-opened after an eight-month refurbishment with a pair of émigrés from two of London’s other most famous Indian restaurants: Karunesh Khanna, former head chef at Amaya, and Manav Tuli, former head chef of Chutney Mary.
Neither chef, however, has managed to replicate the allure of the cooking at the restaurants they have left behind. We loved the roti-like pastry case of a chicken biryani, but the contents within tasted more like casserole than curry. A Keralan prawn curry, meanwhile, seemed similarly under-powered on the flavour front, although there was no faulting the quality nor generosity of the king prawns.
Vegetable dishes may be a better way to go – we adored a dish of caramelised Brussels sprouts with chestnuts that would make it taste deliciously like Christmas all-year round – while an excellent non-alcoholic drink involving molasses made it a pleasure to stay sober.
Khanna and Tuli both have terrific CVs, and we hope that our meal – competent rather than compelling – was a result of them settling into new premises that have more than doubled in size and been completely re-modelled by superstar designer David D’Almada.
The basement dining room has been lightened, brightened (overly so, we felt) and an open kitchen added, while there is a new, more loungey space upstairs; each is linked to the other by a high-shine street-level lobby that looks like the entrance to an especially lucrative private-wealth manager.
Still, we’ll give Tamarind a second chance. This is a restaurant that convinced Londoners of the sophistication of Indian cooking, and it remains a name to conjure with. Fingers crossed the new team can add the magic on the food front.