Leanne Kelsall reviews the new Experience Menu at fine-dining Indian restaurant Vineet Bhatia London.
For me, Indian cuisine has always been an invitation to over-indulge. Wonderfully fragrant and enough for two; curries leave me satisfied yet mildly comatose.
Admittedly, It’s not the first cuisine that comes to mind when I think of refined dining. But when Vineet Bhatia arrived in London some 15 years ago, he brought with him a desire to change what the British believe to be Indian food.
Vineet is enormously inventive. He grew up in Mumbai and, upon moving to London, became the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star, at Zaika, Kensington. He’s launched several successful restaurants since and we were to join him at his latest venture; Vineet Bhatia London, in which he brings his rich heritage and passion for creative cooking.
Vineet’s self-titled restaurant opened last November and the newly-launched Experience Menu has already set the bar high.
The restaurant – a restored Georgian townhouse – is tucked away off Chelsea’s Kings Road. Exclusivity starts at the front door as you ring the doorbell for entry. And since this isn’t your typical Indian eatery, Vineet has made sure it has its own distinct look, too.
The dining room is refined, with its tall ceilings, slate grey walls and pops of yellow from the furniture. Every table has a Himalayan salt candle, to add a touch of Punjabi culture. It’s an elegant yet relaxed space, with room enough for 32 lucky guests.
There’s no music, so as not to distract from the food and you’ll find the staff extremely attentive with more than enough of them for the number of tables. Everyone who works at VBL is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the food and will happily talk at great length about Vineet’s creations, or leave you be if that’s what you’d rather.
When it comes to the food, you’ve got two choices; meat or vegetarian. The 11-course Experience Menu covers a selection of amuse-bouches, several slightly larger mains and four rounds of desert, all an exploration of India’s finest foodie regions.
Now, it might sound like a lot of food but the dishes are dainty and for the most part, carb-free.
Before we get to the food, Vineet’s tableware deserves a special mention. Each course comes with its own custom-designed plate, adding another element to your dining experience. Vineet works with a potter in Ealing to craft his hand-designed plates, of which there’s even one that’s smashed in half.
We began with Martinis made using Crazy Gin. It’s a quirky gin with an unusual rule; it can’t be served with tonic. This intriguing spirit fuses British and Indian cultures by blending lassi (a traditional Punjabi drink) with botanicals. Delicious.