Eating out in today’s times, especially in London, leaves one spoilt for choice, not just with the plethora of amazing eateries offering so many popular cuisines but also, supper clubs and pop-ups. Especially for anyone looking for authentic regional cuisine or craving a more personal and homely dining experience, home run supper clubs are just the thing. And for all my vegetarian and vegan friends, I am happy to say that London has so much to offer!
Having hosted a few pop-ups myself, I am always excited and curious to explore this facet of the food culture in the capital.
Recently, I was invited to a modern Indian vegan supper club by Chef Saurav Nath, who has worked with some big names in India and London like the Taj Group and Gymkhana in Marylebone to name a few. I met him when he was heading up the kitchen at Inito – an Indian street food restaurant in London’s Spitalfields, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. (Interested to read my review of Intio? Go here)
Ever since, I have loved his style and creativity and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see what his interpretation of modern vegan food would be like in the context of Indian cuisine. Also, an opportunity to enjoy a meal with my fellow food blogger and friend Heidi is always welcome.
The venue was Chakra on Holland Street (read my review here), set in the swank Kensington area of London. After a fashionably late start to the evening, which Heidi and I, noticed was due to the late arrival of some of the guests, we were served a very refreshing aperitif called – Kheera Jhal Jeera a zesty and moreish Cucumber & cumin refresher which was followed soon by an excellent Amuse Bouche. Gajjar aur Suryamukhi ka Shorba or Jerusalem artichoke & Chantilly carrot soup infused with curry leaf, mustard, asafoetida & sunflower seed. This mini portion served with bite-sized crunchy kale pakoras was a great teaser for the palate.
So far I was delighted by everything, the taste, the creativity, presentation and the beautiful names of all the dishes on the menu.
The starter was a bold combination of tofu and kidney beans to create a vegan version of the famous Awadhi mincemeat galouti kebabs, which I personally found to be okay. Considering I love eating meat, I think it was more to do with what taste I am familiar with than the dish itself. The wasabi yoghurt was good but the edible coal chutney sounded very exciting but didn’t do much for my palate.
Another interesting part of this menu was a fabulous mid-course dish called Chukandari Tikka – Tandoori grilled sous vide, braised beetroot tikka flavoured with aromatic garam masala, coconut chutney & mushroom pickle. The beetroot tasted good and the complex mix of flavours from the garam masala really packed a punch. I really liked the mushroom pickle too and I think it was a good combination with the beetroot, unlike the coconut chutney. The coconut chutney though delicious on its own, seemed a bit out of place with the other two stars on the plate.
After what seemed like a long wait, the beautifully presented mains were served. I must say I wasn’t expecting to see Patra – or plates made from dried leaves used to serve the mains in – of course, supported by regular plates below.
This traditional Indian disposeable environment-friendly plate is made from dried leaves and is very popular during Hindu poojas and normally prasad is served in them. I love this kind of patra as it has very convenient litle ‘compartments’ or depressions to serve daal and vegetables seperately!
The edible flowers added a nice touch to the Khichadi. The wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli khichadi was okay, but the rhubarb chutney it was served was beautiful in every sense of the word. The Shahi jeera or royal cumin flavoured soya dumplings were tasty but very filling and the sauce they were served it was very good. Not easy to pull off am sure, considering the total lack of dairy flavouring! The kiwi raita was a pleasant accompaniment too.
To share, we were served a generous portion of Turai Poriyal, Dal Palak and Roti. Hot off the tandoor the roti was comforting with the spinach daal and felt very homely and wholesome, although I would have loved a big blob of ghee on the roti 😉
The Turai poriyal or courgettes cooked in grated coconut were really tasty and another dish that I would love to eat again. My tummy had given me the full capacity signal loud and clear, so nibbling on the dessert was the best I could manage.
The pineapple & coconut halwa samosas sat on a bed of gooey and sticky sago pudding. These were garnished with a dusting of gram flour caviar – or crumbled motichoor ladoos and pomegranate soil. Now motichoor ladoos, I could never resist and sago pudding albeit in a different version, is something I have grown up eating – we make it for days when we fast for religious purposes and it is a very welcome texture for my palate and therefore a familiar and very welcome taste. Coconut – both fresh and grated feature heavily in both our masalas and in our coastal curries and I like pineapple too. So a combination of these two popular tropical flavours that remind me of my Maharashtrian coastal cuisine was obviously a winning combination but can’t say I was a fan of the vegan outer casing of the samosa in which these beautiful ingredients were packed. Again something I shall say is a very personal opinion and interpretation.
Though some of the dishes didn’t shine through as much as the others, it was only because some of the dishes like the vegan shorba, the beetroot tikka, wasabi yoghurt, mushroom pickle and turai poriyal totally dominated over others on the menu. I would give five stars to the menu for its sheer creativity and the deceptive ease with which these dishes seem to have been created. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to create vegan versions of many of these dishes and serve a packed restaurant all courses at the almost the same time – which in my humble opinion is one of the biggest challenges any supper club host faces and therefore, a measure of success. Apart from the delay between the mid-course and mains, I really cannot think of anything to complain about – except that I would have loved to gulp down several glasses of that gorgeous aperitif – Kheera Jhal Jeera!
Modern interpretations of classic recipes are always difficult to pull off and even more so for an audience as discerning as the one from London. But I think Chef Saurav Nath has really pushed the boundaries and created some truly beautiful vegan versions of popular Indian dishes. So would I recommend going to his supper club? Oh absolutely! ( Oh and while you are here, why not have a gander through Heidi’s blog and check out her views on the supper club here)
*With thanks to the host – Food and Hospitality Consultant Humayun Hussain, Chef Saurav Nath and Heidi for an invite. All opinions expressed are as always, my own. No monetary compensation was provided for a positive review.