Atul Kocchar’s good-all-round, but slightly suburban-feeling Marylebone Indian; we couldn’t quite avoid the feeling that his pricier Mayfair flagship offers rather better value.
tul Kocchar is the golden boy of the capital’s subcontinental catering scene. His recently relaunched Mayfair flagship, Benares, now with 140 seats, is, we’d guess, one of the capital’s top two biggest-grossing upmarket Indians. Last year he opened a smart establishment, Vatika, in a Hampshire vineyard, and that’s been well-received too.
And now he’s gone into the middle market, launching this new ‘bar, grill, private dining’ establishment, just off ever-trendier Marylebone High Street. A thoroughly professional establishment it is too, with notably charming service a highlight. The setting though – not least the poorly-proportioned dining room – doesn’t entirely succeed in shaking off a slightly suburban feel.
The food is good, however, and sometimes surprising. Highlights of our meal included (English) veal two ways – Atul’s cooking often imports Continental concepts to his subcontinental party. It came dressed with a ‘vindaloo’ (actually rather subtle) sauce. A particularly satisfying dish of mutton was also very well received. Pudding – we shared a pretty plate of pear fritter ’n’ ice cream – was something of a highlight too, and – for an ‘Indian’ restaurant – the standard of the espresso was also remarkable.
The menu initially looked pretty reasonably-priced. Until, that is, the amiable waiter had informed us that this is a ‘sharing’ menu, and that a typical dinner might involve three dishes per person. Start off with a couple of not-very-filling pancakes, say, for around £10, and proceed to a couple of meat dishes around the £12 mark each, and you’ve already spent £34 on food for one. Add a couple of (rather small) side dishes for £4 each, and you’ve made that £42. And that’s before pudding and (not inexpensive) drinks.
So, if you want to Indian cuisine à la Kocchar, it’s not at all clear – at least to us – that there isn’t rather better value to be had by saving up and making the pilgrimage to his Mayfair gaff instead.