Hey, Foodwala’s… Welcome to another tale of the wandering Alfie Foodwala.
I was again in my spiritual home of gastronomy…London.
I wondering the streets of Mayfair, Knightsbridge, and Belgravia window menu shopping, I love just walking the streets and looking at the restaurant menus and checking out the number of Michelin Stars a restaurant is boasting.
Some boast of a single Michelin Star such as A Wong in Pimlico who presumably guard it like a starving person guarding a biryani in a famine. While others straddle the heady heights of two Michelin Stars like UMU in Mayfair and then we reach the glorified hights of the unicorn of the restaurant world…3 Michelin Stars which is so elusive that only living legends like Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsey can achieve the ultra-exclusive status.
However, the Michelin Stars can be a double-edged sword, as Marcus Waring found out this year when he faced the ignominy of being downgraded from two stars to one.
As a restauranteur and a Foodwala, I was curious what was the requirements of a Michelin Star, we hear Michelin Star urban legends spoken in hushed reverent voices by restaurant staff, stories like inspectors come in pairs and they place a fork under the table and time on a stopwatch how long a member of staff takes to notice the fork and whisk it away.
To settle my professional curiosity I spoke to a stalwart of the Indian Michelin star restaurant scene and the first Indian chef to win a Michelin Star, Chef Peter Joseph.
Chef Joseph laid a number of preconceptions to rest and added, In order to earn a Michelin Star, you must produce consistently high-quality dishes. Chefs should be able to produce all dishes to the highest standard and show a “mastery” of their trade.
Furthermore, your menu should have personality that distinguishes your restaurant from other establishments. The Michelin guide aims to highlight standout restaurants, so you’re unlikely to feature if your Indian cuisine is no different to the Indian food on offer up the street.
My companion on this occasion was the head of the Alfie Foodwala chapter of Elgin… Qismat Foodwala
We decided to try out Chef Josephs new restaurant called Kahani, its located in a handsome townhouse in Belgravia.
We were received by a gracious and friendly hostess and escorted downstairs via a floating staircase, it was as if we were descending into the layer of a Michelin Star chefs laboratory.
The dining room was decorated in an “Ambani chic” style.
We kicked off the proceedings with a Tamil amuse–bouche, It was featherlight and fluffy curd dumplings topped with mint chutney, sweet yogurt, sev, and pomegranate pearls.
It was a promising start to the afternoon’s proceedings.
The Chicken tikka was marinaded with saffron cream and delicately cooked without losing the moisture from the delicate chicken breast.
We were feeling particularly healthy so was opted for the roast butternut squash and Quinoa Salad, it was light and delicate but it was too avant-garde for my palate and it felt under seasoned.
As a rice fiend, I excitedly opted for the lamb biryani from the Dawat section of the menu, the rice was as you can expect expertly cooked with the grains standing individually and proudly
The lamb was sensational and was the most tender I have had for a long time, the biryani spices was just right without the overwhelming taste of cardamom most biryanis have these days
The tandoori baby chicken was marinated in ajwain and flash cooked in the charcoal tandoor, as opposed to the gas brethren, thus giving delicate smokiness to the flesh of the baby chicken.
The twice ground lamb kebab was smooth and creamy in texture with spices which did not overpower the lamb, however, a slight downside was the kebabs were cold when they came out to the table.
In conclusion, the food was sublime as can be expected from the kitchen of Chef Joseph, however, there are some teething challenges as can be expected from a 2-week old restaurant.
The young lady who was serving us was from Korea, however, she did not know what Halal was and had to go to the kitchen a couple of times.
The service was friendly and well-meaning however it lacked the je ne sais quoi that Indian Accent and Jamavar had.
I am sure with some staff training and guidance from an experienced maitre d’ this can be resolved.