The blurb

Kutir is the latest player to the table in the growing trend of “posh” Indian eateries and is headed up by ex-Gymkhana and Jamavar chef Rohit Ghai, with Abhishake Sangwan at the front-of-house helm. The pair previously worked together at Jamavar where Ghai became the first Indian chef to achieve a Michelin star in just 10 months.

The restaurant is located, perhaps ironically given that Kutir means ‘hut’ in Sanskrit, in a beautiful back-street Chelsea townhouse spanning three floors and valued at almost £4m. According to Ghai and Sangwan, the name Kutir is in fact inspired by the luxurious Indian wildlife lodges that both have spent time feasting and making merry in and that inspire their food and their decor.

There’s a regularly changing seasonal menu and a number of exhilarating sounding “Expedition” tasting menus on offer as well as a comprehensive wine list.

The style

You might not find Kutir unless you’re looking for it; there are no big showy windows providing a vista into inviting, convivial scenes to herald its presence. Instead, my google maps take me up a flight of stairs to what appears to be a front door to a normal house, complete with a brass doorknocker in the shape of an elephant’s head. Upon knocking, my companion and I are welcomed into a narrow hallway cloaked in exquisite Cole and Son wallpaper depicting jungle scenes: a baby monkey clings to its mother, an elephant is just visible in amongst the rich greenery, and I have the distinct feeling that I am stepping into some sort of adult fairy tale.

We proceed through to the dining area, passing underneath an eccentric tree hung with designer shoes, the product of an ongoing collaboration between Kutir and luxury shoe designer Lucy Choi. We are seated in the front of the restaurant, nestled into a corner at a veneered marble table. There are four other tables in our room with a clear open flow to the bar in the middle, and views through to the conservatory at the back of the room which is decked out with booth style seating and more tables.

Brass shell-shaped poppadom and chutney receptacles and botanical wallpaper give a firm nod to the mid-century modern trend with a twist of jungle-book magic. There is a  truly international leather-bound wine list with something for most budgets and tastes including a selection of Indian wines. I’m particularly taken by the beautiful pencil sketches of wandering elephants and fetching landscapes peppered throughout the pages.

The lighting is warm and low, and there is an intimate, enticing feel to the place.

The crowd

We visit on a Wednesday night, and the restaurant is quietly busy with the happy murmurs of families (the grown-up variety) celebrating birthdays, old friends catching up over cocktails, and third or fourth dates who are comfortable enough in each other’s company by now to relax into the intimate, special, Kutir vibe that might be too much pressure for a first meet.

The food

The menu at Kutir centres heavily around meat and game, which is highly accoladed elsewhere, but on this cold January night, my companion and I were test-driving the vegetarian offerings.

We kicked things off with perfectly crisp poppadoms served three ways with a trio of chutneys that provided the perfect salty, tangy appetiser that any Indian meal, posh or not, wouldn’t feel complete without.

I chose the Aloo Tikki as a starter: a fine dining interpretation of the classic Indian street food snack of the same name.  It arrived in a delicate tower that was quickly demolished as my companion for the evening and I got stuck straight in. Crispy, melt in the mouth outer layers of gave way to the comforting warmth and texture of perfectly done potato and the spiced chickpeas that form the base of the dish packed an impressive chilli kick; spice lovers will delight.

For our mains, we chose to share the ‘Paneer-Pomegranate’ and the ‘Truffle-Goji Berries Rice’ with a side of ‘Kutir Kaali Dal’. Pillow-soft paneer arrived in a generously saucy korma style gravy and jewels of pomegranate added delightful fresh and crunchy bursts to the soupy texture of the rest of the dish. The Kaali Dal was warm, incredibly rich and perfect spooned over the truffle and goji berry-infused rice dish that we had ordered (somewhat resembling a biryani). The moreish tang of the truffles complemented the spices in the paneer dish with surprising ease and each mouthful was a complex but grounded expedition of flavour.

Although potions at Kutir are generous and we were pretty full after our mains, we went against our better judgement and surrendered to the dessert menu. I opted for the exquisite Bappa Doi – a scoop of steamed yoghurt served with something raspberry-ish that was satisfyingly smooth and light and sweet. My companion bravely ordered the Falooda which was an overwhelming mixture of textures and flavours that did, in fact, defeat her in its complexity. We’re still not entirely sure what was in it, as the menu gives very little away and it was hard to catch the lengthy explanation kindly offered by our waiter, but we heard someone on the next table enjoying it immensely so don’t be put off; at the very least you’ll get an opportunity to taste a very unusual dessert.

The drink

Cocktails at Kutir are either gin-based or signature creations and they all sound delicious. My Sariska (Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Sweet Basil, Lavender Syrup & Bitter, Ginger, Activated Charcoal) is the perfect blend of sharp and sweet flavours and tastes reassuringly alcoholic, a fact I square with myself (it’s a Wednesday after all) by pointing out to my friend that it contains activated charcoal which cures hangovers. With our food, we opt for glasses of the Dindori Reserve which is an Indian wine, slightly on the sweet side for my usually dry preference, but completely perfect paired with the complex spice combinations in our food.

In a nutshell

Kutir is a sound choice to visit on a chilly midwinter evening. Evocative decor and warming, clever, satisfying food is served with genuinely friendly but non-intrusive service and makes this more than just a meal out: Eating at Kutir feels like a visit to the entrancing, aromatic atmosphere of India itself.

The details

Kutir, 10 Lincoln St, Chelsea, London SW3 2TS

Tel: 020 7581 1144


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