I walked with my friend down Lincoln Street in Chelsea and reached No 10, then looked up at the unassuming green door of a stately townhouse and checked my phone again to make sure we were in the right place. Indeed, here it was: Kutir, the recently opened Indian fine-dining restaurant by chef Rohit Ghai and front-of-house Abhi Sangwan.
It’s Sangwan who opens when I ring the doorbell and warmly welcomes me into the main dining room, through a corridor covered with intricately designed floral wallpaper, softly lit by a crystal chandelier. It feels like stepping into a private club. The decor is warm and elegant, with green walls, colourful fabrics, parquet floors and marble fireplaces. A spacious conservatory room at the back of the house is bathed in natural light from the glass skylight. The only giveaway that we are in an Indian restaurant is the delicate design of etched elephants on the second floor’s private-dining-room walls.
There is, anyway, no need to look for validation in the decor as Rohit Ghai’s food speaks for itself. Ghai started his career working, with Sangwan, at heritage hotels across India before making his name in London at Mayfair establishments Gymkhana, Bombay Bustle and Jamavar, where he gained a Michelin star – but this must be special to him, as his first solo effort.
We scan the menu to choose the best plan of attack and order a large selection of small plates followed by a main and a few sides to share. Aloo tikki (£8) is one of my favourite Indian street foods – crispy potato cakes with honey yoghurt, tamarind and chutney. I love it because it’s sweet and tangy and Kutir’s version satisfies my craving for it. In a dhokla gram flour cake (£8) with apple, chilli and honey, Ghai elevates a simple Gujarati breakfast food and packs it with flavours. The paneer makkai (£10), made with cottage cheese, yoghurt, sweetcorn and fenugreek, on the other hand, is in my opinion too mild and overpowered by the sweetcorn. A prawn masala (£12) with coconut, sesame and Roscoff onion is a successful dish of crimson “pink” prawns with an aromatic seasoning. The real surprise, though, is the broccoli khasta (£10): broccoli cooked in the tandoor oven and wrapped in two small filo pastry parcels. It’s my favourite small plate though, for the price, the portion feels small.
We ponder over the elaborate main courses such as truffle khichadi (£18), a rice lentil kedgeree with wild mushrooms and fresh truffle, or guinea fowl biryani (£20), with garlic and fried onion, before settling on a rather less subtle choice: chicken tikka masala (£16). I love finding this popular British-Indian dish on the menu at Kutir (under “Classics”) and enjoy every last morsel of freshly baked naan dipped in rich curry sauce.
Sides of Kutir kaali dal (£8) and steamed rice (£5) meant that we were too full for pudding, but they include dishes like bhappa doi (£8), a raspberry “steamed” yoghurt pudding with honeycomb; falooda rabri (£8), that classic rich, sweet and liquidy dessert made with saffron, basil seeds and strawberries; or a Valrhona chocolate and banana confection (£9). For me, a cup of jungle chai (£4) prepared the proper way with loose black tea, milk and spices was just the right conclusion to our meal.