Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quilon will quench your thirst for Indian food in London, UK(8-2-13)

My first night in London was the guest of the intimate 51 Buckhingham Suites just around the corner from the palace. There are several dining options in the complex, but as I adore Indian food, and QUILON (meaning "place"-www.quilon.co.uk) is also a Michelin-starred gem that I knew I would adore.
Lots of modern art is mixed in with the dark wooden panels with a Middle Eastern feel. Light wall panels made of blond sand dollars were novel. The music was definitely Indian in feel, but quiet and soothing, making for a very "Zen" setting indeed.
Puree of coconut-coriander and a tomato-onion sauce arrived with small mini-papadams as well as bowls of lemon pickles (these had a fab spice mix making them irresistible) , garlic & peppers pickles, and something else also were spread in front of me. When I go to Indian restaurants, I am always in a quandary as to how to use these excellent condiments, but I mixed them around and made the best of it, as the food here is SouthWestern Indian and already loaded with sublime spices.
Wine is also a big problem when spice is involved, but the manager suggested an English Bacchus grape from FLINT HILL, Chapel Down in Kent that had a floral nose, citrus, but was very dry with a white pepper aftertaste mixed with green apple. It was perfect with the first dish, a seafood plate with SCALLOP in MANGO CHILI and a CRABCAKE with Mustard Sauce. Micro greens in a slightly spicy vinaigrette sat between the two. I immediately asked where the local crab came from and was told they only use Scottish or Devon crab; whichever it was very flavorful, moist and meaty.
The second course arrived and was a delightful mix of seas and land. BLACK COD was gazed and mildly spiced to allow the excellent fleshy fish to shine. Greens again appeared separating the cod from a shredded LAMB in tomato sauce and spices on a banana leaf. The lamb was quite spicy but this dish was accompanied by a plate with Malabar Paratha, a na'an like bread but here made from refined butter and flour from South India that is thinner than na'an and much crispier. It was the perfect mix with bits of the bread to calm the lamb. Fred Loimer GRUNER VELTLINER 2012 "Lois" had a bit of a fizz and was a nice foil, but worked best with he cod and not was well with the lamb.
A "palate cleanser" of Warm Spicy LENTIL SOUP appeared in a glass and I promptly deemed it "Indian chicken soup." This is what I want the next time I have the flu. It was thinner than a tomato soup, or lentil soup, but rich with spices and flavors with a little sediment of lentil as the bottom as well.
MANGALOREAN CHICKEN CURRY was rich as could be and the large cast pot that arrived was way to big for one person. Crispy OKRA was sliced long and deep fried in rice flour and tumeric making it the best okra I can ever recall. This needs to replace the ominipresent french fry! LEMON RICE is also flavored with tumeric, lentil peas and mustard seed making it ever so exciting. I finally discovered that the small leaves as garnish were curry leaves, although in their fresh form they have a very unexciting flavor. 2010 La Reserve GROVER Cabernet/Shiraz is from Bangalore in India and was my first Indian wine ever; it was and excellent pairing.
The restaurant was quiet, but I was quite shocked to see a Japanese family arrive all in shorts and t-shirts (at a fine dining Michelin establishment).
Next came a true palate cleanser of creamy GINGER SORBET and then I chose the BIBINCA & DODHOL with Vanilla Ice Cream which is a traditional Goan dessert that I found fascinating. One is a thick coconut pancake with layers of melted chocolate sauce and the other  a dark "chocolate" looking wedge made from palm jaggery (molasses) with condensed sugar giving it taste of a divine honey cake yet soft and moist, not dry like we so often get at our Jewish holidays. The vanillaice cream was infused with rose petals.
White cardamom chocolate and Rose milk chocolate wafers arrived and I took a small ite of each, but they were quite sweet, so I proceeded back to my hotel after a truly fab experience.