TRACY BORMAN is wowed by the chic Chelsea Indian's unique take on traditional dishes
The words ‘hidden gem’ have been used so much that they have become a cliché. But there is no better way to describe this exquisite Indian restaurant, tucked away in a quiet side-street close to Sloane Square and the bustling King’s Road. Set in an elegant town house with a sign so discreet that it feels as if you are visiting a (very rich) friend, Kutir has an atmosphere of serenity, enhanced by the perfectly harmonious decor. If the intention is to clear the mind in preparation for the sensory feast to come, then it works a treat. The delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen had our tastebuds tingling before we had even opened the menus.
We opted for the set lunch menu, which changes with the seasons. At £25 for three courses, plus an appetiser and petit fours, it is excellent value. It was summer when we visited, and the menu made the most of the season, with a choice of a light and fruity strawberry gin cocktail or a deliciously creamy mango lassi to begin, and plenty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables evident in each course – from aromatic mint to plump vine tomatoes. My starter of salmon mooli with dill raita was unctuous and aromatic – one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. My partner was in no fewer raptures over his starter of tandoori chicken chops with lentils, garlic pickle and salad. The main course offers a similar choice of vegetarian, meat or fish. The jackfruit with sautéed kale, dumplings and vine tomatoes was divinely delicate, and there was nothing ordinary about that staple of Indian restaurants: chicken tikka masala, here served with fenugreek, tomato and Kashmiri chilli. Both came with sides of tadka dal and rice or naan bread.
The portion size was just right, allowing enough room for dessert – not something that can be said about the average Indian meal. The mango cassata with cranberry, pistachio and caramelised rose was light and refreshing, but the star of the dessert show was the malpua-rabri, a saffron-infused custard with pancake and fresh berries.
Kutir is a perfect haven for flagging shoppers, but it is also a destination in its own right. Those lucky enough to live nearby owe it to themselves to work their way through the entire menu. Although it is not exactly on my doorstep, I consider the hour-long journey less a chore than a pilgrimage. And the fact that the menu changes with the seasons gives me the perfect excuse to return.