Former head chef at the Michelin-starred Tamarind, Peter Joseph has now opened his own restaurant in west London’s Sloane Square. Kahani, which literally translates as “story”, is a high-end Indian restaurant with a focus on flavour. Entirely subterranean, the restaurant is carefully lit with frequent yet tempered lighting in the restaurant, icicle-esque spotlights above the bar and the oh-so-Instagrammable up-lit staircase.
Textures of velvet and marble add depth to a space which is already dripping in style. The back wall is made of glass - affording diners a view of their expansive wine collection. Sitting near a large stone fireplace in chairs which each had a door knocker on the back, there were subtle hints of rococo elegance.
The menu consists predominantly of small plates so seven dishes are suggested for two people. We started with the char-grilled Scottish scallops, which were juicy, generously proportioned and came with a sauce of star anise and spiced raw mango and coconut chutney.
The delicious soft shell crab, the presentation of which can sometimes be quite macabre, was served in a delicate fashion. Four precisely portioned dollops of tomato and roasted red pepper sauce added a rich, umami flavour to the dish.
The poussin showcased two ostensibly similar ways to flavour chicken. One featured paprika and garam masala, while the other had less garam masala but the addition of turmeric. The latter almost tasted fruity - highlighting the alchemy of pairing and preparing these spices. Furthermore, this dish was served with a mint and coriander sauce which, remarkably, I very much enjoyed. After years of dismissing mint as the taste of toothpaste, it was life-affirming to see that it is indeed misused in most cases.
At first glance, the venison keema looked like it might be rather dry. However, it was actually so soft it acted as a sort of paté to put on the truffle naan which, sadly, was perhaps too light on the truffle. But now it was time for the sea bream - which we would later decide was the standout. Texturally, the bream was so soft you couldn’t tell where the fish ended and where the delicious aubergine chutney began. Meanwhile, the lamb ghost brought some of the heartburn-beckoning heat with which Indian food is associated.
However, at this point, our new centrepiece for the table arrived. The lobster three ways features grilled, curried and steamed lobster and makes for a visually impressive dish. That said, it costs £48 ($62) and would be difficult to share between more than three people. This is partly because the steamed portion is largely inedible, unless you are able to coax the meat out of its legs using some kind of marine voodoo magic.
Dessert took the form of a chilli chocolate mousse bomb with gulab jamun bits and “melt in the middle” raspberry cheesecake. The spherical shell of the chocolate bomb melts away, revealing the mousse inside, as your waiter carefully pours over its warm chocolate sauce accompaniment.
Served in a
deconstructed reconstructed manner, the cheesecake takes the form of balls and, though less theatrical, is more balanced. Light and refreshing, it is devoid of the biscuit base which gives this dish its familiar heaviness.
Drinks are also a key part of the offering. The cocktails are incredible and the Khatta Gin, which again features just a suggestion of mint (in addition to gin, Amaro Montenegro, lime juice and egg white) is a mixology lesson in itself. In another restaurant, the cocktails might have stolen the show but at Kahani, they are merely part of the experience. The wine list is extensive too with the choice, for example, of eight different Rieslings.
Kahani’s approach is definitely unique. One might not expect to see something like venison on the menu of an Indian restaurant. But Kahani doesn’t serve fusion food, Joseph tells me. Their focus is using traditional Indian techniques and high-quality ingredients in an original way. Fantastic food in a stylish setting, Joseph has created a restaurant worthy of commendation.