Photography courtesy of Karam Sethi
To be just 26 years old Karam Sethi, Patron Chef at Trishna, exudes the confidence and cookery know-how of a chef who’s been at the helm of a successful kitchen for decades. Taking on the challenge of opening a London branch of a beloved Mumbai dining institution, Karam wows his Marylebone restaurant’s customers with “spanking fresh Indian coastal food” served with fab wines in a lovely setting. Here’s Karam’s take on what it’s like to be a young business owner and chef.
What’s it like being the owner of the restaurant where you work?
Considering I’m only 26 years old, it’s a great honour to own my own restaurant.
Is Trishna your first entrepreneurial venture?
Prior to this I ran a successful private catering company which I have now merged with Trishna. We have a tie up with the Admirable Crichton here at Trishna when we cater to events. We basically provide all the food for events and the AC handle all the logistics, styling etc. We’ve hosted some spectacular Indian themed parties for the cream of society since our tie up earlier this year.
Can you tell us a brief history of the Trishna restaurant in Mumbai, how you came to be associated with the restaurant and a bit about the decision to open here in London?
Trishna Mumbai opened in 1991 in the Fort district of Mumbai. It is regarded as one of the world’s best seafood restaurants. On a visit to India in 2007 when I was over there looking at a few opportunities to open a restaurant in Delhi I was introduced to the owner of Trishna. He was keen to open a branch in London, and I saw it as a great opportunity to have the association with a restaurant of such stature for my first solo restaurant project. I was exploring the idea of opening an Indian restaurant in London at the time as well, with the focus being on coastal Indian food and seafood with a contemporary twist. The tie up with Trishna was the perfect thing as Trishna London is completely independent to the Mumbai restaurant apart from the two of us sharing recipes and cross marketing each other. Being independent from Mumbai gives me and my team the freedom to put our ideas in place and to give a fresher more dynamic take on the coastal food of India without losing the authenticity of the cuisine.
How is Trishna different from other Indian restaurants in London?
Our focus on using and sourcing the best British produce – fish, shellfish, meat and veg.
Every dish on our menu is our own creation. You find in many upmarket London Indian restaurants that the chef has made a name for himself and his restaurant by taking traditional recipes and making them lighter for the London palate. In my mind, this lacks creativity and I’m amazed how such chefs are given the appraisal they receive for doing this. For instance, one can eat the same food for £15 a head in a high street Indian chain which serves authentic North Indian food and then eat the same food of inferior quality in a Michelin starred restaurant for 5 times the price. It shows there is still a lack of knowledge in the UK about Indian food and we are enjoying the challenge of changing the perception of Indian food in the UK which has not successfully been achieved as yet despite the claims of many Indian chefs.
Every dish on our menu is matched to a wine by the glass.
Our focus on coastal Indian food.
Why should people choose your restaurant over any of the many other Indian and South Asian restaurants in town?
The combination of cool decor, buzzing atmosphere, accessible spanking fresh Indian coastal food, amazing wine and beer lists which champion boutique producers, our philosophy of matching food and wine, our chic Marylebone village location.
What are your most popular dishes? During our visit, We loved the roasted aubergine, the Dorset crab and the bream. Are those regular items on your menu?
Those three dishes have been on the menu since we first opened and are all hits with our regulars (Slumdog stars Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto love the bream) At the moment the seafood biriyani with scallops, tiger prawns, squid and turbot is flying as well as our duck Seekh kebabs which we served with a konkani pineapple chutney.
How important is a good wine list? How closely do you work with your sommelier? Any types on pairing wine with Indian cuisine?
A good wine list is hugely important. We have focused on wine as much as we have done the food since we opened the restaurant. Our list is regarded to be one of the most interesting/witty lists in London and is unique as we don’t follow the norm and stock readily available commercial wines that you find on the wine lists of most upmarket Indian restaurants in London. We carry out weekly food and wine tastings with our sommelier Zsolt Kismodi to ensure the offering is kept fresh for our customers.
Any favourite restaurants in London that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
Colbeh in Paddington for the best Persian food in London. Yauatcha for their dim sum. La Petite Maison for gluttony.
Trishna is located at 15-17 Blandford Street (W1U 3DG). Visit the restaurant online at www.trishnalondon.com.