Indian Accent, recently landed in Albemarle Street, London W1, comes trailing clouds of glory. Its sister restaurants in New York and New Delhi have been festooned with awards. Indeed, the latter has been the only restaurant from India in the World’s 100 Best list for the last three years and has been named Best Restaurant in India by Asia’s 50 Best each of the last four years. To say that I have high hopes for their new outpost is an understatement.
London – especially the West End – is currently full of what I call ‘eff-off’ restaurants, establishments with such hearty self-regard that they can hardly bear to let any hungry punter cross the threshold so snooty and aloof they are. No names, no pack drill, but I think you know the places I mean. How refreshing, then, to arrive at a chic and discreet restaurant in the heart of Mayfair and to be welcomed by the warmest of smiles from staff whose only wish seems to be your perpetual happiness.
The modestly-sized restaurant is full but not noisy. There are green banquettes, wooden tables and a couple of booths. There’s gentle jazz on a loop and a light hubbub of chatter. My date and I have a cocktail each – an Albemarle Swizzle (chilli and pineapple-infused rum and amaretto) and a Green Chilli Sour (Hari Mirch-infused tequila, lemon oleo-saccharum and mezcal). These might have been made largely with ingredients that I’ve never heard of but they hit the spot just so.
As we order we’re given an amuse bouche of pumpkin and coconut soup (see recipe below) matched with a minute blue cheese naan. The soup is stunning, an almost perfect taste sensation – light, creamy, faintly spiced – and the naan bread is light as feather. The waiter beams with joy at our delight.
A first course of Kashmiri morels stuffed with mushroom, truffle and cheese is a sensation that renders my date momentarily speechless. The trio of smoked eggplant bharta, duck khurchan and chicken khurchan served in tiny crispy little cones is gorgeous, each one a mouthful of bliss.
The second course of lamb seekh kebab with cumin new potatoes and stilton and sweet pickle pork ribs, sundried mango and onion seeds are appetisingly modest portions, simply begging to be eaten. The ribs might owe more to Chinese cuisine than Indian but they are ridiculously tender and tasty. The lamb is gone in a flash.
The main course of chicken malai tikka is right up my date’s street – morsels of chicken in a light green chilli cream sauce nestled in a bed of sugar snap peas and liberally covered in shavings of truffle. The slow cooked lamb served with a perfectly boiled egg in light batter on a bed of pulao rice is marginally less successful. The lamb is a touch too dry and heavy but the flavour is outstanding with tiny tart barberries and lime raita cutting the richness of the meat perfectly.
The accompanying black dairy dal – made with an outrageous amount of butter I discover – is outstanding. Never have I tasted such a humble dish elevated to such heights. It’s dark, rich, unctuous, savoury and completely moreish. I’ll never eat another dal again.
The wines, too, are perfect and the sommelier is a wise and engaging counsellor. There are more than 100 on the list (including a heartening 24 by the glass) and it takes me an age to choose. I had planned to have a Gewurztraminer from the Alto Adige but my canny advisor discreetly suggests a 2012 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Kabinett from the Mosel instead, and what an inspired choice it is with petrol and honeyed apple on the nose and a deliciously dry, mineral core and an off dry finish. It matches our starters to a tee and I happily follow his suggestion with the red too, a 2015 Hans Nittnaus Blaufrankisch from Austria, spot on with the lamb.
We feel well fed and happy rather than stuffed and remorseful as we so often do at the local tandoori. Indeed, I find that I can even manage a morsel of milk pudding with gold leaf and saffron. Not really my thing, but it’s deftly flavoured and palate cleansing and my date happily scoffs what I don’t finish.
Indian Accent is a revelation. Everything, bar my lamb, is gloriously light and delicate, neither of which are words or concepts that I associate with Indian cuisine. It fully deserves the formidable reputation that precedes it and although it’s pricey its £30 set menu lunch has to be one the West End’s greatest bargains.
Indian Accent, 16 Albemarle St, London W1S 4HW
020 7629 9802
Three course menu £55; four course menu £65 per person without wine
Head chef Manish Mehrotra’s Pumpkin and Coconut Shorba
Pumpkin (250 gms)
Coconut milk (50 ml)
Chopped onion (5 gms)
Chopped ginger (10 gms)
Chopped garlic (10 gms)
Green chili chopped (3 gms)
Fennel seeds (3 gms)
Star anise (1)
Salt (to taste)
Crispy Bacon (optional) for garnishing
1. In a heavy bottom pan, take roughly chopped red pumpkin, onion, ginger, garlic, fennel seeds and star anise
2. Cover with water and simmer on slow heat till pumpkin is tender
3. Blend it in blender and strain it
4. Place it back on fire and bring to a boil
5. Add coconut milk
6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar
7. Serve hot with crispy bacon (optional)