If you know me well, you’ll know how much I love dining out and how it took me quite some time to get used to the new wave of supperclubs across the capital over the last few years. The idea of eating quite complicated food in mostly casual dining outlets and bringing my own wine was never something I’d have imagined doing regularly, but well here I am doing just that, for about the 20th time this year. In fact supperclubs have for me become an opportunity to build relationships with chefs and discover them while they themselves are discovering their own cooking before most likely going on to open their own restaurant or build on an existing position.
One chef whose cooking I’ve experienced previously is Saurav Nath. The man knows everything there is to about Indian cooking and has one hell of a CV. Having worked at The Taj hotel group, Michelin-starred Benares, head chef at Colony restaurant in Marylebone and even worked at the ever popular Michelin-starred Gymkhana, in Mayfair.
Now Saurav Nath is head chef of the modern Indian restaurant Tapasya @ Marina in Hull, occasionally gracing us with his presence here in London at these supperclubs. When I got the invite to dine at his latest instalment at Chakra, a modern biryani feast – I simply couldn’t resist. Especially knowing the very charismatic Humayun Hussain was hosting once again. We arrived, took our seat, enjoyed a refreshing welcome drink and of course – ordered our wine from the bar.
At the previous supperclub, one thing I did feel was that portion sizes were far too generous, leaving you feeling uncomfortable. But this time around they seemed perfect. Still very well fed of course but at least we could still finish dessert and the key was our first tasters. An amuse bouche of shrimp jhal muri was a real palate teaser, preparing us for all the spice and flavour we were about to experience. A mixture of crispy puffed rice tossed with pickle shrimp, Bombay mix & nylon sev – served with a side of tomato tea. A lovely traditional street snack and the perfect start to our evening.
Just as delicious was the dahi bhalla chaaturad dal dumpling. A popular Indian snack of deep-fried lentil dumplings which is usually served during holidays. They’re then dipped in natural organic yogurt and topped with crispy wheat chips, tamarind sauce & sev.
One dish I fell in love with and that really delivered in flavour was the Seviyan chicken biryani. A gorgeously moist and fragrant mound of vermicelli chicken biryani, served with a perfectly cooked piece of tamarind glaze quail tikka, complimented by flavours of apple, chilli raita & beet chutney – though I don’t think the raita quite made it onto the plate.
While I loved that quail dish, our fish course was a real showcase of what this chef is really capable in my opinion. Play around with the presentation a little and this really could be plucked straight from today’s London Michelin starred restaurants. Kachi Machli ki biryani was a dish of wild rice cooked with mackerel in a banana leaf parcel, served with wild prawn raita. The fish was perfectly cooked, the spices subtle but refined and that raita really brought everything together.
Given this being a biryani style feast, we had rather high expectations for the main event and it didn’t disappoint. In fact it exceeded our expectations and was rather generous too. This Luknowi dum biryani was the stuff of dreams. Encased in its pastry cooking pot, opening it up let out a warm aroma of soft spices, fluffy layered Himalayan basmati rice and moist slow cooked lamb. I’m sitting here writing this on a train at 4am, wishing I had a bowl right in front of me again.
This accompanying sides, a refreshing cucumber raita also offered a little spice & while the aloo mutter curry wasn’t quite needed given a whole biryani each, it was a very enjoyable bowl of food.
We finished up on a really excellent dessert of the classic Indian rice pudding, this version topped with nectarine and packed with chunks of gulab jamun and rice pudding espuma. Ending the evening with a warm cup of mint & ginger chai.
It was so nice to return back to the scene of the first supperclub I attended of chef Saurav Nath and seeing how much his cooking has changed and how much more refined it has become. If you’re looking for an Indian supper club with authenticity and a little imagination then you may just well love this as much as I did.
NB: My meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.