This ground-breaking Indian restaurant finds its home in the other-worldly Victorian surrounds of the former Westminster Library, making a happy marriage out of two of the UK’s most cherished passions: its history and its adoption of curry as a national dish.
Two of the restaurant’s walls are covered in classic books – the result of a fairly recent £1million makeover – which reaches the ceiling and frames the gallery level to create a fairy-tale feel. Despite the pretty surrounds, the atmosphere can sometimes be lacking due to an absence of music and a very male-dominated clientele (which perhaps isn’t surprising given the restaurant’s position near the Houses of Parliament) that means there is one loud hum to proceedings.
Background noise aside, the food fares much better than the ambience. Head chef Vivek Singh trained classically in India and the plates carry the hallmark of someone who has spent years perfecting their craft and has then been brave enough to put their own spin on things.
Octopus to start comes soft-centred with gloriously intense crispy bits and potatoes in a bright curry sauce flavoured with sharp lemon. Indian food often lends itself to family-style dining, but communal plates have had a fine-dining makeover here. Rich butter chicken is served on a silver platter; the curry house classic is familiar and elevated at the same time and comes with a creamy black dal, pilau rice peppered with whole fragrant spices, plus a punchy garlic naan to mop up the generous quantities of sauce.
To drink, pretty cocktails promise a colourful riot of exotic flavour, though we found the in-house creations erred on the side of the saccharine; better to investigate a groundbreaking wine list that expertly matches the qualities of individual grapes to the intricacies of complex spicing.
Despite any gripes over atmosphere, Singh’s careful balance of flavours offers an exemplary Indian dining experience and with a permanently packed dining room, we’re not the only ones with an appetite for his clever cooking.