People who love to eat are always the best people
Riddle finds an Indian corner of calm serenity in London’s Kensington
Review by Catherine Ferguson
On a sunny Friday afternoon in late Spring, with glorious sunshine and early afternoon revellers spilling out of garden terraces, Holland Street in Kensington felt like the prettiest corner of London.
With white washed walls and cobbled streets, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to enter a tiny French bistro to feast on garlic mussels and crusty baguette. Then the door opens to Chakra and the most glorious, heady mix of fragrant spices heralds an afternoon of North Indian delights.
Chakra promises “traditional Indian flavours blended with contemporary flair to bring the bright taste of something different.” Indian philosophy believes that Chakras are key to spiritual and healing power within the human body and, when kept turning and working in harmony, they offer a sense of bliss and wellbeing.
Much like its namesakes, Chakra restaurant’s aura is one of calm, serenity and a sprinkling of vibrant luxury with deep turquoise walls adorned with an opulent tapestry of Indian Moghul jewellery, portraits and plants and a ceiling rosette, representing the Swadhishthana Chakra, which they believe controls taste and sense pleasures in the body.
So the ambiance is great, but what about the food and drink? I started with Nimbu Paani, otherwise known as fresh lime soda. At 29 weeks pregnant, I can safely say that this is one of the best non-alcoholic drinks to pass my lips in a long time. A quick Google search tells me that in the northern states of India, the appearance of nimbu paani on every street corner is a sure fire sign that summer is here. Unbelievably refreshing and equally thirst quenching, it kicks your bog standard lime and soda right into next week. Think of the perfect mojito, then double it. Granted there’s no rum, but I’ve got to take my kicks where I can get them for now.
With an à la carte menu offering street food, chota plates (tapas-style plates), Indian grill, Desi classics (curries) and biryanis, the mouth-watering all got a little bit too much for us and we plumped for Chakra’s Nav Ratna sharing menu. With options for veggies and meat-eaters, we kicked off with the obligatory amuse-bouche – papadams, but not as you know them: served in shards with a variety of flavours and textures. I wish I could pinpoint every herb and spice hiding in them, but suffice to say, they hit the spot.
Next up, the Lucknowi Samosa Chaat and Kashmiri Chicken Tikka were beautifully served, with the most succulent chicken, perfectly sized portions and tiny purple flowers. Stick an edible flower on my plate and I’ll love you forever – I’m a girl who just loves pretty food. While a traditional curry might have left us stuffed and lethargic by this point, it just wasn’t the case. There’s something wonderfully delicate about the food at Chakra and they’ve got it just right.
Our Ghar de Mattar Paneer was equally light, although the accompaniments did beat us into submission. While the Jeera and Saffron Pulao and Rai wale Aloo might have been a step too far, we simply couldn’t leave a crumb of the garlic naan behind – much to the chagrin of our husbands, who were hoping for a naan-laden doggy bag.
And so to finish, the ‘Sweet Sensation’ promised by the menu. There was a choice of Kulfi or Gulab Jamuna. Both were new to me, but the sunshine cracking the paving stones outside told me that Kulfi or ‘Indian ice cream’ just had to pip the sticky deep fried dough balls to the post. Rose for me, mango for my friend, what a perfect end to an Indian feast. Authentically flavoured and sprinkled with dried rose petals, my penchant for pretty, floral food was well and truly catered for.
At £40 for two, the sharing menu is a veritable bargain. Great value, wonderfully tasty and beautifully served, what’s not to like? Next time, I’m just hoping it’ll be warm enough to eat outside on the sun terrace, but hey, you can’t have it all.
Enquiries: Chakra Restaurant, 33C Holland Street Kensington, Longon, W8 4LX/ email@example.com/ 020 7229 2115/ www.chakra.restaurant