Chakra, Notting Hill Gate
Sophisticated Indian cuisine... yum.
Inspired by the chakras - energy points thought to vitalise the physical body, apparently - the menu has seven types of dish, using different Royal Indian preparation methods, from clay oven dishes to those prepared on a griddle. These dishes are big enough to share, meaning that we spent a fair amount of time discussing exactly what we wanted and working out which flavours would go together. The waitresses were happy to help with this (but we couldn't help thinking that they must get bored of repeating themselves to every new guest!)
A red kidney bean amuse-bouche to start, along with the tasteful cream decor and ceilings adorned with chandeliers, set the tone for the evening - a far cry from our standard Indian-on-the-sofa-on-a-Friday routine.
We were really impressed with the starters - the Masala Asparagus was adorned with beautiful sesame seeds and a cumin sauce, and our gamble on "Curry Patta Burrata" went incredibly well as it turned out to be beautiful soft cheese dusted with spices and accompanied by grilled aubergine and cherry tomatoes - seriously good, especially when we mopped them up with a selection of mini naan.
At this point we had the delight of watching a waiter changing a table opposite us. Now, we realise that this sounds like it's dripping in sarcasm, but seriously we were enraptured. This man made changing the tablecloth into some sort of art form... a contemporary dance, even. (We don't want to give away the secrets of their trade, but lets just say we didn't AT ANY POINT see the table top. Magic.)
We were then treated to the mains - Black Daal with plain rice, a delicate lamb curry with fresh bottle gourd cooked in yoghurt based sauce (Rehaman Ka Gohst Salan, apparently) and something called a Lucknow Plate. The Lucknow Plate was described as "A delicately spiced lentil and mint kebab, a red kidney bean mince patty, and a spinach and nutmeg kebab." Itchy learnt a lesson last night - a kebab is not always on a skewer, or found in a pitta wrap. These were a KEBAB REVELATION. Sort of like mini bean burgers, this trio of delights complimented the daal and lamb perfectly - it was nice to have a range of textures and colours on our plate.
Before our dessert was brought out we were surprised with a palate cleanser in the form of delicious Elderflower and Rose Sorbet with Mango Sauce. This whet our appetite for the sharing desert, Shahi Tukra with Berries and Rabri, an Indian bread pudding with caramelised cream, strawberries and mango. It was a unique take on a British classic, with spices and sweet bread, but we must admit we weren’t big fans of the decorative silver foil… even though we were reassured that we could eat it, it still felt a bit weird to chew on and took away from the brilliant flavours we should have been savouring. (Next time we might plump for the slightly more reliable chocolate pudding or traditional Kulfi.)
We left feeling happily sated, rather than stuffed, and without so much as a lemon towelette in sight. Itchy would recommend Chakra for an intimate date – the sharing element of the meal means that you’d have to make a compromise with your partner – or for a larger group on a special occasion, as dishes could be shared between friends. Beware: the price does add up to get a lot of dishes, but bear in mind that those with a small appetite could get away with sharing just one or two dishes with rice or bread, so it doesn’t have to break the bank.
If you love Indian but want to try something new – get yourself to Chakra.