Rohit Khattar (pictured below left) already owns a brace of the best Indian fine dining restaurants, in Delhi and New York. He’s now opened this hat-trick restaurant, his third using the Indian Accent name. It’s more than just the name that’s crossed continents. Chef Manish Mehrotra (pictured below right) has moved to each new opening, his dishes wowing as he goes; and he has now returned to London to run the kitchen at this new opening in the city where he first made an impression more than a decade ago. Restaurateur Khattar already had this Mayfair site, previously as the quirky Chor Bizarre restaurant; this used to do okay until the rival Gymkhana restaurant opened almost opposite. Khattar has upped his game with a lavish refurb, rebranding, and – most importantly – his top chef, the real jewel in this small empire’s crown.
There’s a small cocktail bar at the front, run by a talented barman. You’ll be greeted on arrival by the staff and moved through to your table with no fuss. It’s very smart, very slick, and the tables are discreetly well-spaced; the background noise is a low hubbub.This makes it an ideal restaurant for business meetings.
Indian Accent’s so polished you could be forgiven for thinking the menu will be tame. Not a bit of it. Mehrotra’s taken plenty of offbeat ingredients and turned them into thrilling dishes that push out the boundaries of modern Indian cooking.
An appetiser arrives. A tiny tumbler of coconut and pumpkin broth, delicately spiced and served with a Pringle-sized baby naan, stuffed with blue cheese; both are sublime, hinting of what is to come, and making clear the kitchen’s ambitions.
Amla, sometimes called Indian gooseberry, is a wild tree fruit that tribal villages collect and cook; with twenty times the concentration of vitamin C you find in an orange, the ascorbic acid need to be cooked to render the flesh palatable. Here amla’s turned into a fruit confit, mixed with pomelo, cashew, tindoor (tiny ivy gourds) and served as a toothsome chaat (snack, or in this case, appetiser).
The humble dosa, a crisp pancake that’s breakfast for many south Indians, is here turned into a cloche-like cone that, when lifted, reveals a spicy melange of water chestnuts and enoki mushrooms, layered with complex spice flavours.
What might sound like a bad experiment in multiculturalism – a kulcha (Punjabi naan-like flatbread) stuffed with black pudding – was a surprisingly toothsome combination of crisp crust and moist filling.
Mishti doi is a Bengali dessert of sweetened yogurt, but here it’s used to replace ricotta is Sicilian-style cannoli: an inspired combination.
Diners who know traditional Indian cooking will find these innovative dishes very surprising, but there was consensus at our table that despite sounding outlandish, they were all successful: Indian cooking, but pushing far beyond the boundaries of the familiar.
The cocktails have distinctively Indian accents, with subtle use of spices and other Indian flavours. It’s a challenge to find wines that work well with Indian dishes but they’ve done a good job, with feistily aromatic grapes; you’ll not go thirsty.
The staff are well-trained, gracious, and know enough about the menu to answer almost any question. The booking process is a different matter. I was called back the day after booking by phone to be reminded that I only had the table for two hours (for lunch at the start of week), a call which was not only unnecessary – I had already agreed to the two-hour window – but is also a call that doesn’t exactly make you feel welcome. However on arrival, everything was sweet and light. The Indian manager in particular won me over during the meal with his enthusiasm and impressive expertise on the dishes; by the end of lunch we were almost exchanging Diwali cards.
London’s not short of excellent Indian restaurants, but Indian accent is quite different to the others. The cooking is highly original, unique even, and will appeal to both pundits and diners who are less familiar with Indian food. The service is slick, and the prices not grasping. A Michelin star wouldn’t be surprising in the October 2018 awards. You’d best book now, while you can still get in.
Mon-Sat 12noon-2pm, 5.30-10pm.
Three course lunch £30 per person. Tasting menu: £80 per person. Dinner for two: around £150.
16 Albermarle St, W1S 4HW; +44 (0)20 7629 9802;