Tamarind Of Mayfair: Revamped But Still Bringing The Old-School Glamour
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In the early naughts this was the first London Indian restaurant to get a Michelin star. And in late 2018 it swished elegantly back onto the high-end scene, after a lengthy closure and refurb.
The staff are elegant and sleek, as are the diners. So's the restaurant, for that matter. White tablecloths and gilding have been swapped out for cleaner lines and a lot of muted pinks and neutral tones in the downstairs dining room.
Revamp or no revamp, there's still a lot of old-school glamour floating around Tamarind, plenty of napkin-flourishing ceremony to the service. And Tamarind remains a pedigreed affair: the new executive head chefs (with Peter Joseph having moved on to open Kahani) Karunesh Khanna and Manav Tuli are ex-Amaya and ex-Chutney Mary, respectively.
And the food — still as 'endlessly decadent, intricate and elegant' as ex-Londonist Ben O'Norum rhapsodised about Tamarind's first iteration? More or less, yes. It's mostly splendid, often with a surprising punch of flavour, given the menu's focus on the sigree grill (star turn of the downstairs dining space and its open kitchen) and the lighter, fresher style of cooking it allows.
That doesn't sound like an approach that's going to turn out dishes with the mad, brilliant intensity of our venison kakori kebab, with a rich, raisiny undertone of sweetness. Or the unexpected, mop-every-last-smear-up splendour of the spinach side dish, creamy and faintly bitter at the same time. And their take on chicken tikka's a golden spice-crusted thing, tender and piquant — and enough to make us stop thinking of it as the Indian restaurant order for people who scare easy.
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Not everything blows us away — some dishes (like the grilled paneer) wear their lighter-eating credentials a bit more obviously, tentatively spiced and missing the smack of soul-brightening exuberance you get from the best Indian food. And the modernity of the decor and menu isn't quite enough to stop some old-school trad of the less-welcome sort slipping through. Being advised, unasked-for, that 'ladies will like this cocktail, because it's sweet', is one of our least favourite things to be told about alcohol (right up there with 'we've run out').
Minor glitches aside, the Tamarind revamp makes it perilously easy to want to spend an awful lot of your time and paypacket here. Curryhouse prices these aren't, but for anybody looking for a glossy, special occasion spot and a modern take on Indian classics, Tamarind's new lease of life is excellent news.
Tamarind, 20 Queen Street, W1J 5PR.
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Last Updated 14 March 2019