Posted on Friday, 5th March 2010
Like restaurants such as Benares, Amaya and Rasoi, Chutney Mary falls into the category of Indian fine dining. It doesn’t possess a Michelin star, but it does have a New King’s Road location, fine cutlery service, a luxurious decor and prices that are ‘higher than-your-local-Indian’ to make it worthy of a fine dining classification.
We settled on the 6 course tasting menu which is priced at £45. First up was a scallop caldeen. A fat, succulent piece of Atlantic scallop, it had been cooked to a beautiful doneness that left it with an opaque sheen. The accompanying caldeen sauce had a lovely cumin and coriander kick to it, and it worked with the tomato and ginger salsa that dressed the top of the scallop. This was a masterful display in spicing and flavour matching. This starter was served with some lovely, fluffy naan bread.
Goose galouti, a moist piece of minced goose meat kebab, had been spiced with cloves, caramelised onions, cinnamon and sufficient chilli to give it lots of firepower. The combination of spices proved to be quite exotic, and the accompanying blueberry chutney worked well with the spicy, hot meat.
A piece of tandoori prawn was plump, tender and moist. It was accompanied by some strawberry chutney, which tasted more like sweet strawberry jam. The prawn worked better on its own.
A piece of lamb chop was meltingly tender and flavoursome. A subtle hint of chilli and coriander gave it some character, but a heavier use of these ingredients would have provided the dish with more drama.. The lamb was again served with the ill-fitting strawberry chutney.
There are three mains to choose from in this menu, and we selected the Goan prawn curry and the lamb handi korma. The curry included two jumbo sized pieces of delectable prawns smothered in a tamarind-rich curry sauce. The lamb dish, described on the menu as being similar to ‘osso bucco’, came with meltingly tender meat on the bone, and some mouthwatering marrow. The lamb was tasty, but in comparison to some of the other dishes, it was rather unexciting due to the lightness of its spicing. Mains were served with some warm spring onion naan (kulcha) and pilau rice. However, there were no sides of vegetables which was odd for an Indian restaurant and disappointing as the menu cried out for some greens to balance out the heavy protein nature of it.
Desserts could be chosen from the a la carte menu, and we selected the gulab jamun (dumplings in sweet syrup) served with buttermilk rhubarb ice cream. The dumplings were resplendent with the perfume of rosewater and the punchy nuttiness of pistachios. A mango kulfi was equally pleasing, although a few tiny ice crystals had formed in the ice cream.
With its intricate and accomplished flavour matching, the highlight dish of this menu was the scallop caldeen. However, as the menu progressed, the dishes seemed to make less use of complex spice combinations, although they were still very tasty. Some might prefer gentler, cleaner flavours, but for me, the essence of Indian food is the spicing. But ultimately, what let this menu down was the lack of vegetable dishes. Starters range in price from £8.50 to £11, and mains from £16.50 to £23.50. Readers would probably do better to avoid the tasting menu, but to choose 3 courses and sides, including vegetable dishes, from the a la carte menu to share instead. This would also come out at about £45 each, and you would also have the benefit of more choice.
On its own merits, the food at Chutney Mary was very good. I would have enjoyed having some vegetables in the tasting menu and more intricate spicing in some of the dishes, but overall the restaurant was a reasonable contender in the Indian fine dining stakes.