Simon Wittenberg heads to Kahani, the newly-refurbished Indian fine dining restaurant near Sloane Square in London, to sample a fusion of North and South-Indian cuisine.
Kahani, which means “story” in Urdu, opened its doors in 2018 and is the brainchild of Head Chef Peter Joseph, who decided to launch a solo venture after working at the Michelin-starred Tamarind eatery in London’s Mayfair.
The eatery, which is inspired by Peter’s childhood in Tamil Nadu on the southern tip of India, is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Sloane Square on a relatively quiet Wilbraham Place in the SW1 postcode, overlooking the towering Cadogan Hall. It also boasts two AA Rosettes and can equally accommodate those who eat halal meat.
Upon passing through a fairly discrete doorway dressed in a royal green hue, guests are invited to descend a narrow staircase adjacent to the private dining area and lavish WCs.
They are greeted with a recently refurbished eatery on the lower ground level, so it’s away from any watchful gazes of passers-by. It’s actually an open but intimate space with seating areas for around 90 people at any one time, spread across the main floor area, a raised alcove, whilst, in the far corner, there’s a magnificent stone fireplace with a gas-powered fire, which we were sat adjacent to.
The kitchen area also features a large window, where diners can watch the chefs hard at work, whilst the bar, with stools and an impressive display of spirits, runs down one side.
The décor that greets diners combines dark blue and light green suede chairs and a dark wooden floor, with string-like chandeliers and bespoke wallpaper lined with intricate drawings and golden sunshine-like mirrors.
Regarding Kahani’s cuisine, our host described it as a fusion of north and south styles from India and is a relatively modern take on the gastronomy hailing from this country.
The à la carte is extensive and takes in a couple of tasting menus, whilst this eatery equally has bespoke and tasting options for those who are strictly vegan or vegetarian.
To whet the appetite, and with our hosts navigating the small two-seater table and a candle to present the dishes that had been ordered, we decided on some light and fluffy plain and seeded poppadums with a trio of sweet chutneys (£5), as well as some pickles (chilli peppers and lime and mango pickle) – £4, plus some cool cucumber and mint Raita (£4) to take some of the edge of the spice.
For our starters, where there’s everything from the Small Plates of chargrilled chicken chops and smoked octopus, my guest settled on the two grilled scallops with a red pepper and sesame blend, plus a touch of coconut and curry leaves sauce, served in a giant sea shell (£15). They were exquisite and so good that my dining partner could have easily had more.
For my opener, I headed for the vegan menu, picking the truffle roti (£10). This sounded like quite an interesting and mouth-watering dish on paper but turned out to be seemingly bland pieces of wrap / pitta-like pieces of bread with a spinach accompaniment, so after just having poppadums, this, unfortunately, was quite an un-inspirational dish.
At Kahani, it’s a bit of a lottery as to how much spice there’s going to be, with some dishes being mild, whilst others deliver quite a kick, as we found out. Playing it safe meant that what to have for the mains was an easier decision, as biryani is always a good compromise in terms of spice – subtle enough with a nice level of strength, but not too hot to be overpowering and the dominant flavour.
The Hydrabadi Biryani, back on the regular à la carte, comes in various guises at Kahani, spanning meat and seafood to vegetarian, and I went for the latter (£26). Served in a bowl with everything combined, this main is composed of fragrant basmati rice mixed with exotic spices and pieces of mint and coriander leaves, delivering a tasty and filling course that would defeat the hungriest of appetites.
My guest chose something carnivorous in the form of the Kashmiri Nihari Somerset lamb shank slow-cooked with browned onion and Kashmiri spices (£28).
Presented in a thick sauce and with “melt-in-the-mouth” meat that simply fell off the bone, this was another superb display of the skill of Peter Joseph and his team. Plus, with some pilau rice (flavoured basmati rice with a yellow tinge), and some lentil and kidney bean dal (also known as the Kahani duo dal – £10), which was a touch too hot to be enjoyable from our perspective, this quickly banished a rumbling stomach.
As well as rice, there are a few sides to choose from, which include three different types of Naan bread (£4), namely plain, garlic and a Gruyère cheese variety. There’s no Peshwari – made with coconut and sultanas, so we tried one of each (except for the cheese variant), and it arrived as quarters rather than a large portion where there is normally the task of tearing a piece off for yourself.
At Kahani, there is a good array of beverages, spanning wine to soft drinks, but we both decided on a chilled and refreshing Cobra beer – a staple at many Indian establishments, as it simply works with this genre of cuisine, taking a touch of heat away from the aforementioned dishes.
With just enough room left for dessert, there are seven to choose from, each presented on the menu with a sweet wine recommendation. I settled on the sumptuous chocolate delight, garnished with a sticky and sweet almond brittle (£12), whilst my dining partner had the mango and passion fruit cheesecake dressed with burnt white chocolate and raspberry ice cream (£12).
After a nightcap in the form of a smooth and crisp Macallan Fine Oak 10-year-old whisky (£48 per dram) to finish off what had been an excellent meal overall, it was time to bid farewell to Kahani and climb the stairs back to street level.
This is an eatery that impresses from the start, thanks to its great food, extremely generous portions, elegant surroundings, and warm and efficient service to match. As Peter Joseph’s first standalone venture, this restaurant was brimming with guests and is attracting a plethora of bookings, so he is definitely enjoying success in what is a very competitive market.
That’s kudos to him and his team for creating a success story which sees Kahani entertain guests with the very best of Indian gastronomy, and that now enters a new chapter with a refreshed look. We will definitely be returning next time we are in Sloane Square, and we strongly encourage others to follow suit.
Kahani – Where and How?
Kahani is located at 1 Wilbraham Place, London SW1X 9AE, United Kingdom. For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.kahanilondon.com.
See video highlights of Kahani and what we had to eat on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
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