Indian food has been redefined at this innovative restaurant part owned by Atul Kochhar
Atul Kochhar is a busy man, he quickly came to the attention of the foodie community when he was head chef at Tamarind where he was awarded a Michelin star. In 2007 he opened the highly acclaimed Benares and a second Michelin star soon followed. Since then he has opened restaurants across the globe and he is one of P & O Cruise’s Food Heroes, responsible for the Sindhu restaurants on the ships.
The good news is that Atul is also very active in the UK and has opened a number of regional restaurants. I was thrilled to hear that one of them, Indian Essence in Petts Wood, is close to where I live. My wife and I recently had dinner at Indian Essence and it proved to be a culinary eye opener.
The restaurant is steps away from Petts Wood station which is half an hour from London Victoria. Inside, the dining space is light, airy and tastefully decorated and on the evening we were there a pianist / saxophonist was playing. The combination of the musician and large number of diners gave the restaurant an upbeat atmosphere.
A we looked at the menu we nibbled on plain and cumin poppadums and three home made chutneys and sipped a Kingfisher beer. There were a number of unusual dishes on the menu like grilled marinated rabbit as a starter and a goat curry. British twists were also in evidence, Railway Lamb was served with masala roast potatoes for example. The staff are very helpful and can talk you through the dishes or another option would be to have the tasting menu.
Everything on the menu looked appealing, our final starter choices were pan seared scallops and lamb seehk kebab. Before starting the meal a nice and unusual touch was an amuse bouche of a delicious spinach and sweetcorn fritter. My wife’s scallops, served with cucumber textures, were moist and tender and my lamb kebab, which had been coated with peppers and onions and cooked in the Tandoor, was the delicately spicing. The careful spicing added to the natural taste of the ingredients but didn’t overpower them, this deft flavouring was a clever re-definition of Indian food.
Before moving on we were given a raspberry sorbet which prepared the palate for the next course. My wife’s main was the Indian Platter while I had chosen the Murg Makhani. The platter was an impressive array of meat and fish kebabs from the tandoor. There were lime scented king prawns, lamb chops, mustard salmon and hariyalli chicken tikka. It was all good and the prawns were particularly notable. My chicken tikka served with a creamed tomato and fenugreek sauce, again had been spiced assiduously. Our sides were rice with spices and okra, which had been stir-fried with a tangy tomato-onion masala and dried mango powder, and was excellent.
The drinks list was comprehensive, the cocktails had Indian twists and the wine selection was a good mix of old and new world favourites and featured both Indian and English vintages. Our wine match for the evening was the Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc in France. Both this grape and the area is very on trend and the moment. This white had crisp pear and citrus aromas in the bouquet which developed into more aromatic tropical fruit on the palate with good minerality and lively acidity. The finish was clean, fresh and persistent.
The desserts offered a number of inventive fusion delights which were tempting but we were quite full so a shared pistachio flavoured kulfi (Indian ice cream) was enough. Our last indulgence was a plate of petit fours, a fitting end to an exceptional meal.
If you want to experience an entirely different dimension to Indian food then this is the place to do it. When you have eaten at Indian Essence you will understand why Atul Kochhar’s Michelin stars are so well deserved. The food is inventive and the flavours well judged. This combined with the very friendly and professional service made it a memorable dining experience.
176-178 Petts Wood Road
01689 838 700