I am on vacation in India but I have a bunch of passionate foodies hard at work in London, sampling the best that the city has to offer, so that you, my readers can continue to get the latest reviews, news, and views from the world of food – after all someone’s got to continue doing all the hard work while I party ;). A few days ago my buddy Harish, who is also a passionate foodie went to Chakra to sample their menu and this is what he thought. Having just returned from a two-week-long vacation in India, the flavors of my real home were ever-present on my palette reminding me of the good times spent navigating the gastronomical haunts of both Delhi and Mumbai. Expectations were thus pretty high when Flavia, an Italian colleague of mine from work, and I made our way to the swanky Indian restaurant in Notting Hill called Chakra for dinner this last Wednesday. We arrived for our 8 pm seating and were promptly shown to our table, amidst an already buzzing restaurant which clearly indicated its popularity amongst the locals. The interiors were dim, the décor modern and the music modern; all adding to the distinct vibe of this favored Notting Hill establishment. A plate of spicy mini “papads” accompanied by a sweet mango chutney made their way to our table first. The appetizer was crispy, not too oily, and very flavorful just perfect to set the stage for the meal to follow. An amuse-bouche followed the “papad” plate. Rajma Galouti – mini red kidney bean kebab with yogurt chutney. This was particularly disappointing, as it was cold and lacking any flavor. Having seen previous reviews, I knew that the dish was dressed down. A part of the meal the management team can safely omit from the offer. Appetizers followed and Flavia and I decided to get a mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. We decided to go down the more traditional selection path and got ourselves a portion each of the Malai Kebab Ke Dande, tender chicken breast pieces marinated in yogurt and fresh cream grilled to perfection in the clay oven, Tandoori Paneer, gorgeous chunks of cottage cheese marinated in yellow masala and cooked just right and finally the Chakra specialty, The Lahori Kebab. These succulent skewers of lamb seasoned just right, just melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more. Simply scrumptious. Chakra is fairly unique in its offerings of the main course. Strangely it offers up the vegetarian options in half portions (sides) with a similar option lacking from the non-vegetarian options. Needless to say, there was plenty to be thankful for, for what we were about to be served was an absolute delight. Central to our order was a Blackened Cod Fish. Tender, well marinated, and again cooked to perfection. By the beaming smile on Flavia’s face and the mutterance of approval in Italian, I knew she was pleased. Frankly so was I. I can safely say that the tandoori Black Cod marinated with lime juice & a cracked pepper yoghurt marinade is reason enough to visit Chakra. The supporting cast to the Chakra Black Cod performed appropriately as well. The Butter Chicken (perfect blend of a delicate tomato-based gravy and shredded chicken), The Kali (black) Dal (black lentils which were buttery yet not overwhelming) Zeera Aloo (sautéed tender baby potatoes with cumin seeds, ginger, and chili), and Chakra Saag (paneer tossed with spinach, petit pois flavoured with ginger & nutmeg & fenugreek) accompanied by Tandoori Rotis (Indian bread) were just wonderful. At this point in the meal, I am usually loosening my belt, being stuffed to the brim. But somehow the meal at Chakra did not end up having a similar effect. The concept of sides is simply brilliant and allowed the Flavia and myself to experience the full spectrum of offerings at Chakra. I say we have a wined with this concept. We had eaten like royalty. The Nawab of Hyderabad himself at this point would have been twirling his mustache and rubbing his belly experiencing nothing but utter satisfaction. But no Indian meal is complete without the essential “sweet dish” (dessert). Flavia chose the Gulab Jamun (3 Indian sweet dumplings in sugar syrup, accompanied by vanilla ice cream) and I the Mango Kulfi. The Jamun’s were sensational; Piping hot with just the right texture, sugar syrup seeping through and all. They brought back fond memories of my recent wonderful trip to Delhi. That is what good food is supposed to do; excite all the senses and throw up a flashback or two, of good times, spent with those near and dear. This was the perfect end to a perfect meal. On our way out I asked Flavia what she thought of Chakra. She instantly replied “I must go to India and eat”. If this is the response that this Notting Hill establishment (Chakra) can generate from one who hails from one of the most gastronomically gifted countries of the world then I can safely say this. “If you haven’t been to Chakra yet, you must do so now”. Experience the true flavors of India, without leaving Notting Hill, London. **** In my book of great eats.
*With thanks to Humayun Hussain and Chakra for the invite. No monetary compensation was offered for a positive review.