Posted on Monday, 2nd November 2015
Quilon opened in 1999 and quickly established itself as one of the pre-eminent Indian restaurants in London. Located in the St James Court Hotel, Quilon exudes an air of smart, refined elegance. Chef Sriram Aylur discovered his love of food at a young age when he first stepped into his father’s kitchen. He gave up a career in law to pursue his cooking career, joining the Taj Luxury Hotel Group in 1989. Chef Sriram hails from the South West coast of India, and as such, seafood is at the heart of the Quilon menu. Despite that, Quilon also offers an eclectic range of meat, poultry and vegetarian options, with many dishes designed for sharing. Chef Sriram’s approach to Indian cooking is contemporary and progressive, importing many of his spices from India. In 2008 Quilon won a Michelin star which the restaurant has retained ever since.
A starter with a fitting name of Fisherman’s catch (£16) contained a selection of lovely, fresh seafood. On the plate were some well-flavoured pepper shrimp; a crab cake plump with fresh, sweet crab; a beautifully cooked piece of lentil fish topped with a gorgeous chilli and mango relish; and a succulent piece of grilled scallop.
A number of dishes were offered in smaller portion sizes, making it ideal for those diners that prefer the option of trying lots of different dishes. One of these was the baked black cod (small portion – £15) which had been perfectly cooked, with the result being a piece of fish that was succulent and moist. The cod had been subtly spiced with Kashmiri chilli and Kashmiri methi (fenugreek) and was fragrant and interesting. There was also some palm jiggery which provided a delicate hint of sweetness to the fish.
The spicing in a dish of prawn masala (small portion – £14) had been exquisitely prepared. Made with a combination of onions, tomatoes, mustard, curry leaves and coconut, the masala was fragrant, delicious and well balanced. The prawn masala contained two generous sized prawns which were tasty and firm in texture.
The seafood options had been delicious so far, but in contrast we found the lobster (large portion – £41) cooked with butter pepper and garlic to be disappointing. The large portion was miserly and seemed poor value at £41, and the sauce was bland and under seasoned. This dish did not work.
Moving onto some meat dishes, the braised lamb shank (£24), slow cooked with chillies, freshly ground herbs and spices of garam masala and fennel was pleasant and fragrant. The lamb was tender and succulent and was wonderful with the delicious sauce.
Quail legs (£20) stuffed with quail mince, chilli, ginger, brown onion and spices of garam masala, mustard, coriander and chillies was delectably exotic with a beautifully balanced array of flavours. Served with mustard, the quail had been roasted and was succulent and juicy.
The desserts that we tried were very enjoyable, especially the moist and buttery pistachio cake accompanied by a worthwhile melted black sesame fondant and pistachio ice cream (£10). A ‘Coco coco nut’, chocolate, hazelnut praline and cardamom coconut (£10) was original and skilful, with a smooth texture, although this dessert was perhaps a little sweet.
There was some wonderful food to be had at Quilon. The spicing was smart and balanced, the cooking expertly executed with touches of refinement. We experienced some disappointment with the lobster dish, but otherwise we enjoyed everything else, especially the tomato rice which was spectacular. The service was charming and extremely professional.
1. The tomato rice – this was exquisite.
2. The stuffed quail legs.
3. The masala prawns.
4. The professional service.
5. The smart decor.
1. The lobster dish.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5
£45 to £80 a head, excludes drinks and service.