MOTI MAHAL - 8th FEBRUARY 2006
After a quick drink at my club, The Agency, I joined a chum who was in from California for supper.
He was in a high end mood and I had chosen MOTI MAHAL, a new upscale import from Delhi.
I usually find this sort of thing beyond vile like Benares, Tamarind and the truly odious Cinnamon club. But, I have to say this was a turn up for the books. I am not sure about the whole"let's shoehorn Indian food into a french format" schtick and the room was featurless and cold , but the cooking was really on point and its treatment of the dishes and respect for the ingredients was amongst the best I have tried in a long time
We arrived to an almost empty room, but to view a table set for a party of 32. We persuaded them to let us sit downstairs in the empty dining room away from the throng and things got better from there
a plate of perfunctory papads with passable chutneys appeared while we looked at the menu from which we chose
SHAMMI KEBABS - so rarely are these cooked correctly, soft melting insides with a crunchy crust. These were the best I have had in London, bar none! truly sublime.
SEA BASS - this was a beautifully marinated piece of fish. maintaining the delicate nature while benifitting from the spices. It has some non descript onion salad on top which added nothing
TAMDOOR LAMB CHOPS - probably among the best tandoor I have had in London. A suitable crunch and yet the meat was not tough, but was tender and the flavour permeated right through giving evidence to the length of marination.
For the main courses we tried
BAIGAN BARTHA - eggplant with peas. I liked this and the fact that the peas were still al dente. The spicing was, however, very muted.
VENISON DUM KOORMA - cooked in a hydrebadi style in a sealed pot with rose petals. My friend identified the meat as being very dry and it lacked flavour. The sauce was good and redolent of the roses, but I do not think it was cooked with the meat
MURG MAHKNI - to all intents and purposes a butter chicken. Well done and better for use of the dark meat of the bird. The sauce was rich, if perhaps lacking in some spicing.
We had a paratha with the main courses and forewent rice.
I was not going to have dessert until they mentioned that they had RAS MALAI on the specials. How could I resist cottage cheese balls with condensed milk and pistachios? Very very good indeed.
My friend's dessert would have been a disaster had it just been the flavourless rock hard peach which never showed any sign of having been in the tandoor which the menu claimed. BUT and it is a big but, it was served with a welcome glop this is a technical term beloved of all proper foodies ) of Payesh, a rice pudding with pistachios and cardamon which was so good that the waitress brought us another bowl from the kitchen.
With a disappointing quinto de duoro (£23) and two bottles of sparkling water, the bill came to £112 for two including service which was charming and very amiable if not hugely knowledgable.
That's a lot to pay for an Indian meal, but, with cooking of this dexterity, it is well worth another visit as this is a kitchen that knows what it is doing which compared to a lot of its high end equivalents in London, is a rare treat.