A relaunch of a grand Indian restaurant, by Gloucester Road tube; the charm that once made it famous has been totally obliterated, and it now charges high prices for a thoroughly humdrum experience.
MG, what have they done to it? Perhaps there should be some sort of law that London hotels just aren’t allowed substantially to refurbish their restaurants? The precedents in recent years really have been dire, and the more cherished the restaurant, the more crass redevelopment seems to be – the Connaught and the Dorchester Grill are cases in point.
As soon as we entered the bar of this (Taj Group) South Kensington Indian – which was quite a place of the moment, when it launched a quarter of a century ago – we knew something was wrong. In the old days, you got an enticing glimpse of the pretty and characterful dining room. Now you come in to an ill-proportioned bar with little furnishing, and zip in the way of charm – yes, this is dentist’s waiting room territory.
Our guest, quite reasonably, had no desire to hang around there, so we went straight on in through the imposing double doors, into the main dining room. With its big tables, white tablecloths, bright lighting and mindless opulence, it screamed ‘hotel’. We moved swiftly on.
Perhaps the old, famously romantic conservatory had escaped ‘improvement’? No chance, of course. The feel is now Travelodge de luxe. It seemed preferable, however, to the hommage à Louis XIV going on next door.
We’d like to report that the whole depressing experience was saved by the food, but it wasn’t. The cooking was mundane, the prices (most notably on the wine list) were absurd, and the kitchen gave the impression that it was manned by snails.
In fact, only the charm of the front-of-house staff provided any link at all with the past. For the waste of nearly three hours of one’s life, however, this was far from being justification enough.