Tamarind has been operating since 1995 and when I heard it was the first fine dining Indian restaurant in the world to win a Michelin star, I couldn’t wait to try it with my gastro gangster compatriots, so we secured our booking on a cold January evening in 2014. The walk down the spiral stairs into the restaurant, created a sense of something quite polished. It’s dripping with opulence with the gold pillars, elegantly set white table clothed tables, with matching hospitable service.. It feels right at home in Mayfair. Head Chef Peter Joseph has been been running the kitchen since 2012, leading a team of 14 who deliver in essence, posh Indian grub.
We kicked off with poppadoms that came with tomato, tamarind and gooseberry chutneys that were crisp and light – a definite appetite whetter and appeared to be on the house as they were excluded off the bill. The meal was off to a good start.
We washed it all down with bottles of Belgium Chimay (£11) which was fruity and packed a punch in flavour and price!
For starters we ordered a multitude of dishes comprising of grilled scallops (£16.50), St Kalonji Jhinga (£34.50) (spicy tiger prawns), St. Peshawari Kebab (£39.50) and St. Malai Tikka (£20.75). Our waiter instructed the kitchen to divide the starters evenly onto each our plates which was a lovely touch. I couldn’t fault any of the components on this plate of food which were so perfectly spiced and cooked so well. The scallop’s spice was apparent but controlled enough to allow the sweetness of the flesh shine. The tiger prawn followed suit and was so incredibly juicy and sweet, as was tender tikka & aromatic kebab alongside it.
For the mains the first dish that arrived was the Rogan Josh (£21). The lamb was cooked to tender perfection, but overall the dish seemed uninspiring and really lacked flavour.
Next up we had the Murgh Makhni (£19.75). The chicken came super tender but the dish seemed to be missing spice and was rather bland, a shame really as we’d expected something more.
Malabar Prawn (£22.75). Tiger prawns with sautéed onions, chilli, fenugreek seeds and coconut. This dish was more promising – the sauce brought out the flavour of those juicy prawns.
Jeera Aloo (£8.15). This missed some excitement too – granted it’s a humble potato dish spiced with cumin but at £8.15 a pop it seemed to be day light robbery! We also had a Bhindi Do Pyaza (£9.75) that was cooked and spiced beautifully – the bhindi kept it’s colour in the cooking process which was nice.
Zaffrani Rice (£3.95). Light, fluffy and served its purpose for soaking up all the sauces.
Hyderabadi Shank (£24.95). Slow-cooked lamb shank with turmeric, yoghurt, and freshly ground spices. Fall off the bone tender, but too delicate in flavour – it needed an extra punch for it to make an impact.
Tandoori Ananas. (£8.95). Grilled pineapple spiced with chaat masala, ginger powder, softened with honey, and perfumed with rose ice cream. I’ll reserve judgment on the ice cream as it wouldn’t be something I’d have again but the pineapple was interesting.
Gajjar Halwa £8.50). Carrot fudge topped with silver leaf, pistachio, served with vanilla ice cream. This was super rich and very indulgent, perhaps too much for my taste buds.
Pistachio and mango kulfi ice cream. £7.50. Rich and creamy – Indian ice cream does go down nicely.
Orange muscat 2o1o (£8.50) was recommended to pair with our gajjar halwa. It was a very sweet drink and overwhelmed my palate!
The salted caramel truffles and whole mint leaves covered in white chocolate were awesome petit fours to round off the meal.
The damage: Expect to pay £80-£130 per head for 3 course including drinks.
The good: The starters were faultless, really high quality products were used but the spice was under-powered. It’s a shame the meal lacked the wow factor. The service was on point with luxury surroundings. We were also greeted by Peter Joseph at the end of our meal – it’s always a highlight when you meet the chef.
The bad: Don’t expect bang for your buck here and inspiring flavours.
20, Queen Street
W1J 5PR, London
T: +44 (0)20 7629 3561