It was cold and raining and I’ve just finished sipping on cocktails and gambling away in the hippodrome casino waiting for my table at their restaurant Heliot. Come 5:30pm I suddenly get a call from the hostess telling me that unfortunately the restaurant will not be opening this evening. Very frustrated I go on an aimless walk around Soho looking for an alternative. Thirty minutes later and I’m on Marylebone high street still no better off. Then i stumble upon the recent michelin star awarded Trishna, somewhere I have been meaning to try for some time.
Finally out of the rain we take a seat in this calm tranquil restaurant with pale grey walls and exposed brick work, the authentic Indian music quietly in the background was also very relaxing, I felt a bit like I was in a spa, it was all very serene. Trishna London is the sister restaurant to Trishna in Mumbai which has fantastic reviews, especially its seafood and it’s the same story here. While the food in Mumbai may be more traditional looking with its menu, Trishna London has definitely conformed to a more western influenced menu and is very refined. Still, I quite like it this way, it’s unusual.
We decided on the set-menu with matching wine flight, this was £35.50 for four courses including 4 x 100ml glasses. Two neatly folded poppadoms shortly arrived at the table with some mango sauce and tomato chutney, both of which were delicately spiced and rich in flavour.
The first courses that were to come out far exceeded my expectations. On paper, potato chat sounds pretty simple, but how wrong could I be. Deep fried cubes of crispy potato with chickpeas, tamarind, sweet yoghurt, shallots and chilli, I was salivating on my first mouthful. Lots of acidity rushes through your mouth until you get a dose of tamarind/yoghurt sweetness. It was lovely, and just the right amount.
Quail pepper fry with Keralan spices, black pepper and curry leaf was equally as good. Tender morsels of quail in a thick, slightly spicy sauce and very fragrant, the small portion size is again just enough with such intense, bold flavours. Everything in this dish was cooked superbly, even the green beans.
When I’m ordering in an Indian restaurant these days I never think to choose paneer, probably to do with the fact I’m extremely greedy and it would feel like I’m missing out by not having meat. But I am so glad I choose it. A slab of dense Indian cheese with a smooth consistency, it had been tikka marinated and cooked on charcoal grill which gave it a lovely fragrant smokiness. The fenugreek and corn chat was light and went great with the cheese. The Tokaji dry furmint white wine also went really well. This dish has really made me think seriously about paneer.
Guinea fowl tikka with fennel seed, star anise and masoor lentils was still proving difficult to fault. The guinea fowl was perhaps even a better alternative to the usual chicken, it had more flavour, held the spices very well and retained a lot more of its juices. The tikka marinade they use is excellent and whoever does the charcoal grilling needs to give me a masterclass.
The main of Malwani jhinga curry, which is prawns with Malwani spices and coconut, is a good dish with soft flavours and subtle spice. It’s not outstanding but it is probably a dish closest to authentic Indian food you might get in this restaurant and conforms to what you may expect of a traditional curry. The Indian chardonnay from Fratelli was rich and buttery, a great match and my first experience with Indian wine.
The curry is accompanied by two delicious naan breads, basmati rice which was fluffy and very fragrant, spinach corn and amazing Hyderabadi dal. I should mention that the service here was really good and not overdone, every dish was described and explained when it came to the table, and water was filled regularly.
Cardamom kheer, which is an Indian version of rice pudding, was presented in an attractive small copper pan. Mixed in with it were some figs, raisins and pistachio. At first glance it’s not something I was overly interested in but once you take a mouthful it all changes. A light creamy rice pudding with cardamom running right through it. The cardamom really lightens the dish, it almost felt as though it had some citrus in it, but there is not a trace. The figs and raisin add hints of sweetness.
Spiced chocolate mousse cake with cashew-pista chikki was excellent. A dense chocolate cake which was light on the palate and had a thin layer of crunchy nuts. I didn’t get much spice form the cake itself but the pista chikki was delicious and tasted a bit like a dime bar, but without the chocolate covering. The scoop of ice-cream helped to wash it all down and the clear plate only reminded me of the animal I am when it comes to food.
So for me Trishna is a revelation. It’s a cross between a modern curry house and western cuisine with a focus on seafood and charcoal grilling, both of which I’m a fan of. Every dish was cooked extremely well and executed superbly, without being overdone. It may have some criticism for not being authentic enough, but it doesn’t have to, it’s perfect the way it is.