REVIEW: Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, Belgravia

Who knew, that nestled in the back streets of Belgravia, a Michelin Starred Indian restaurant existed? I for one didn’t. Indian cuisine is something i have a real passion for and to find yet another, just on my doorstep – i got a little excited. Amaya opened its doors in 2004 and quickly gained its first Michelin star in 2006. Its kept hold of it ever since. From my dining experiences Michelin star Indian restaurants have always been mixed experiences. Generally they are of very good value, both in terms of portion size, and cost. Service is always a little brisk, and erratic while decor tends to vary. Amaya apparently just went under some interior revamp, although i think it needs another, tables and chairs were looking incredibly tired.

We arrived for a lunchtime sitting on a Saturday, and couldn’t resist the incredibly well priced weekend set menu of 7 dishes for £26. There was obviously someone far more important sitting next to us when we dined because front of house was extremely confused as to taking my jacket, and our waiter – who managed to lay our napkin on our lap, and pour our water without actually looking (too busy waiting on the important table next door) there was no personal touch to our meal. There were also no introductions for the dishes we ate, very hairy wine glasses (presumably from the poor cleaning clothes) and serviettes covered our trousers in so much lindt we had to pop to the dry cleaners after unless we fancied walking down Sloane Street looking like a couple of snowmen.

Our first course arrived which was a lovely few pieces of organic paneer tikka cooked in the tandoor oven. There wasn’t particularly much of it, but what we did have was very nice. Soft, moist, smokey and not at all chewy. The tikka marinade had a deep and rich flavour, but Trishna in Marylebone are still the front runners when it comes to cooking paneer.

Sides such as this wok spinach puree was an absolute delight. Full of garlic, spice, rich and earthy it even felt good for you when eating it. This served with an accompaniment of warm naan was something i want to rectify back at home on the sofa. Though i’ll make sure it’s a little warmer, instead of luke warm. Which is how this dish arrived. Bhojpuri potatoes (fried potatoes covered in spices) were just as lovely, but again – luke warm.

Two pieces of grilled fillet of seabass were expertly cooked and covered in a thick layer of slightly crunchy grated coconut and fresh herb crust. The little sundried tomato on top wasn’t really needed – and neither was a few small bones. The flavour was all here but textures were a little out of balance and made this dish enjoyable, but quickly forgotten.

Halfway through our meal, and things were starting to finally get serious. Tandoori chicken chops were smothered in a lovely thick chilli and curry leaf paste. Cooked to such sheer perfection you’ll find it hard to get any chicken elsewhere as succulent and tender as this. One piece each was far to little so make sure you order a larger portion. When it comes to cooking meat here, Amaya do have a great set-up.

The kitchen at Amaya boats an open plan cooking area with three sections, the tandoor oven (hot clay oven), sigri grill (over coal flame) and tawa (grilling on hot plate). All of which produce wonderful flavours and the chefs know exactly how to utilises them to their fullest. The venison seekh kebab, stuffed in the middle (where the skewer was) with a pepper sauce was probably the best example of this classic Indian dish i’ve eaten in london. Soft, tender meat, ground down the the perfect consistency but still nice and firm on the outside.

The meal ended with the star dish of our lunch, chicken biryani. Succulent morsels of well marinated chicken at the bottom of the pot and layers of fluffy white rice which was perfumed with delicate spices, rose and i think a little bit of saffron. All encased with a pastry seal it was probably the most delicate, and refined biryani i have ever eaten. It tasted expensive.
We didn’t quite have room for dessert, or the time but in all honesty nothing really took our fancy. There were some excellent dishes here at Amaya, but the lukewarm food, dismal service and tired looking furniture (which is made even more apparent by the freshly painted walls), i can’t quite understand why they still have a Michelin star, the service is not to that standard, and that’s what lets this place down.


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