Escaping a rainy Saturday afternoon in London, there was no better way to avoid the drizzle than sample some delectable south west Indian cuisine at Michelin-starred Quilon Restaurant. Having travelled across Goa and Kerala, I was keen to try the menu that had roots in both culinary strongholds. Once we had occupied a cosy corner, already the spiced fruit scents wafting from the kitchen brought back memories of the tropical south, conjuring visions of trees bursting full of bright yellow mangoes, ripening under shade from the citrus and palms.
Chef Sriram was keen to send out an array of their best signature dishes, and we weren’t complaining. First came some mini warmed popadums along with the heady and fruitily aromatic chilli, coconut, tomato and lime chutneys.
Rooted in south west coastal influences, seafood is the culinary lynchpin of the menu, as well as plentiful game and fish dishes. The excellent fisherman’s catch instantly wowed us. Subtly peppered shrimp was still plump and spiced with ground pink peppercorns, while the crab cake was bound with ginger and curry leaf, muddled with shredded crab claw meat. Exquisitely cooked, the tender halibut cafreal had a kaffir herby coating mixed with Goan spices, and the delicate chargrilled scallop was caramelised with sweet chilli relish. A flying start: we were suitably impressed.
We were in for a treat with the selection of earthy game, meat and vegetarian options, including the excellent stuffed quail legs, served on the bone, which were herbily bound with mustard and ginger. The beetroot chop was an original and delicious creation, spiced with cumin and accompanied with a tangy mango sauce. Mangalorean chicken with fresh coconut was lightly cooked and also tender from the marinade.
I couldn’t have picked a more gorgeous creation in the botanical garden, which was laced with gin, grapefruit, sweet basil, pink peppercorns, cucumber and coriander. Equally tempting, the raspberry martini was a delicious blend, with chambord and fresh rose foam.
Next, the fish course. Flaking apart in caramelised layers, baked black cod was succulent and tender; a real standout dish. The huge and meaty masala prawn marinated with onion tomato, mustard, curry, leaves and coconut masala was a hearty meal in itself.
Braised low and slow, the lamb shank was flavoursome and tenderly pink with just the right amount of chilli and ground spices. Alongside, the basmati rice had the fresh pep of tomato, chilli and mint, accompanied by cooling pomegranate-studded yoghurt. The chef was certainly on point with all spice tempering across all the dishes.
Malabar paratha was made up of golden doughy layers of bread and ghee, cooked in a skillet – definitely one that will break the diet.
Meanwhile, the red-hot chilli pepper creation was its very own shade of spicy, married with a mixture of rum, honey and cranberry. The el diablo of the cocktail selection.
It seemed like an unachievable feat after the generous feast that came before, but we managed some of the light pistachio cake with pistachio ice cream. Swiped with melted black sesame fondant (a nutty ebony-hued sesame paste), some miniature nuggets of sugared pistachios peppered the plate prettily.
Tempered with ginger and mixed spice, the sumptuous chocolate fondant had a rich ganache atop an almond, pistachio and nutty base. A bright red smattering of goji berries completed the exquisite chocolate artistry to a tee.
To finish, a steaming silver pot of headily spiced masala chai tea made the exit outside to the London drizzle a little easier, after whiling away a few hours in this south west Indian style enclave. We were absolutely wowed with the array of dishes we tried on our visit, and already had our eye on the tempting beer tasting menu at Quilon for our next visit.
The Quilon Restaurant
41 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AF