It seems there’s a dramatic change going on in London’s Indian culinary scene.
Traditional Indian curry houses are slowly being joined by a sleeker and more sophisticated type of Indian eatery. So when Belle heard talk of newly refurbished restaurant The Quilon, it seemed a perfect opportunity to investigate some Far Eastern dining with a modern twist. With a Buckingham Palace Gate postcode and neighbour to the Crowne Plaza, the expectations were high. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, it has a Michelin Star.
A welcoming green and mahogany wooden exterior with potted window boxes greets you into a warmly-lit reception. To the left is the sleek, trendy ‘Q Bar’, known for its signature ‘Quijto’ cocktail. And to the right is an array of white linen-covered tables enclosed by traditional Rangoli cut-out screens.
The décor is of soft muted tones. And hundreds of flickering tea-lights fill mahogany wood enclaves, giving the restaurant a warm glow. Clay tiles, each with their own unique design, adorn the restaurant walls. Look up and you’ll see an impressive undulating wooden ceiling.
From the fresh orchids that greet you in the washrooms to the calming Indian music, it comes as no surprise that Quilon’s design has been inspired by a Hindu temple.
Its name originates from an area in the former state of Kerala (now Kollam) and embraces the milder cooking flavours of South West India.
After an appetiser of chutneys and miniature poppadoms accompanied by a glass of champagne, we couldn’t wait for our first course of Quilon’s tasting menu – marinated tilapia with a fresh herb crust.
This south African fish came served on a banana leaf with a lentil galette. I watched as my fish-averse guest looked surprisingly impressed with the soft, lightly flavoured white meat. It flaked away with the slightest touch of the knife and left us eager for more.
The grilled tiger prawn with curry leaf coriander chicken was presented as an equally picture-perfect plate. The beautiful butterfly-presented prawn was an exciting mix of meaty fish with red onion and mango relish. The skillet-cooked chicken was soft, and subtle coriander flavours melted on the tongue.
‘Rasam’ was served – a cool tomato soup to cleanses the palate before the lamb buryani arrived. This was cooked with traditional Malabar spices in a sealed pot, with basmati rice and a yoghurt ‘Pachadi’ (made up of pineapple and pomegranate coconut, cumin seeds and mustard). Flat and broad beans were served tossed in masala spice on the side and unbelievably more-ish Malabar Paratha (flaky naans) acted as a perfect side dish.
We just about managed to squeeze in a sweet Bibinca cake served with vanilla ice cream before leaving this haven for the busy streets of London. Notes of coconut, nutmeg and chocolate sauce layers ended what was a unique taste bud experience. Not a single element of service was compromised and I applaud The Quilon’s founding chef Sriram Vishwanatham Aylur for his modern take on traditional Indian cuisine. That Michelin star isn’t going anywhere.
The Quilon, 41 Buckingham Gate (020) 7821 1899. The Quilon Tasting Menu costs £42 plus 12.5% service charge.
By Lucy McGuire