Just off New Bond Street’s designer shops complete with their glittering facades lies a true gem of an Indian restaurant. The opposite end of the spectrum to the traditional “curry houses” Indian restaurants tend to be associated with in this city, Indian Accent has no curries listed on its menus whatsoever. Instead come inventive new takes on what the subcontinent has to offer, spearheaded by Manish Mehrotra, a chef who also looks after two other Indian Accents, one in New York and the original in Delhi; the latter holding the coveted title of Best Restaurant in India.
Being of Indian origin myself, I have to admit that Indian Accent is a bit of a relief. Instead of colonial-era mahogany walls and hunting relics, we enter into a simply decorated, modern room with flecks of green and silver. This is a restaurant that wants nothing to come in the way of the food. The booth we are seated in nestles in the back of the restaurant, and is adorned with multi-coloured flora.
We opt for the 7-course chef’s tasting menu. First comes a well thought out amuse bouche of a perfectly spherical mini blue cheese naan, alongside a taste of pumpkin and coconut soup, the sweetness balanced by fragrant garam masala. I start wondering whether they can do the blue cheese naan in extra large when we are served a nice-enough course of five puchkas, a twist on the famous Indian street snack pani puri, with different flavours of water under each mini puri. The spectrum starts sweet, coconuty, then tamarind, and to end, a green chilli-flavoured water, my favourite.
I always feel that fish works especially well with a tandoori oven, and that notion is executed to another level here with the tandoori salmon and black garlic cream. I note that the size of the dishes are not the biggest you’ll have in London, but I am happy to try more options on the menu this way.
Off the tasting menu, you will find what is perhaps the stand out of the evening: soy keema, quail egg and lime leaf butter pao. A charming little clay pot is served with a skewer of perfect miniature buns, gleaming with lime butter. I mix the freshly cracked quail egg into the keema and notice how creamy the sauce is, but the taste is a revelation. Incredible depth of flavour, almost reminiscent of a thick Indian bolognese, is spiked with ginger, garlic and chilli. The dish is apparently a nod to Chef’s mother, a vegetarian who wanted to recreate the richness of a more traditional lamb keema, and made this often for Manish as a child. I would come back here for this dish alone.
Other dishes on the menu include Kashmiri morel mushrooms filled with more finely chopped morels on a bed of parmesan sauce. Texture is added through a sprinkle of walnut powder and a tuile of parmesan – not the usual for an Indian restaurant! Along with the mains of lamb chops and sea bass, come more of the stuffed kulchas that Manish is famous for, ours with a moreish butter chicken and spinach.
There is also something to be said about the service at Indian Accent, non-intrusive yet terribly efficient and knowledgeable. Our sommelier suggests a couple of well matched wines and cocktails to go with our dishes. We elect for “transcendental meditation” and a very well-made dry gin martini with a twist. The bartenders here know what they’re doing.
We end with a magical Makhan Malai and a sticky barfi treacle tart. Makham Malai is a heavenly ball of light airy saffron milk topped with rose petals, almonds, and jaggery (sugarcane brittle) that provide a delicate crunch. The tart is a dense sticky mound of treacly goodness served with a decent vanilla bean ice cream.
Not just another upscale Mayfair restaurant: Indian Accent is a necessary and innovative addition to a city already saturated with high-end Indian restaurants. To book and find out more, visit: indianaccent.com/london
By Geeta Kana