We lunch with old friends every few months, aiming for a restaurant that’s either a treat or a bit quirky. I’ve followed the Michelin Star chef, Atul Kochhar from when I visited his Indian restaurant, Benares, as part of a prize-winning tour of Mayfair eateries with Fay Maschler, then food critic of the London Evening Standard. I then cooked for Atul on a TV cookery programme called ‘Yes Chef’ when unfortunately I was eliminated in the first round as my Thai curry wasn’t hot enough for him.
Although he’s recently opened a couple of new restaurants, Hot Dinners were offering 50% off the a la carte menu at Kanishka, just off Regent Street and our table was booked.
As with offers of this sort, the sting in the tail is usually the price of the wine and so we sensibly decided to meet beforehand for an aperitif in a nearby Slug and Lettuce.
Having requested a table in a quiet area, we were seated in one of the window tables next to the wall, which made it easy to hear each other, as there was a significant amount of catching up to be done.
The seven starters ranged from £16 to £24. I fancied the sound of Atul’s chicken tikka pie, and on chatting to the waiter about whether it would be too much, he helpfully suggested it was big enough for two to share. It was absolutely delicious with light puff pastry and a spicy berry compote drizzled around the edge. Other dishes chosen were soft shell crab and scallops.
Main courses were in what I would normally consider the astronomical price range, with most between £30 and £40. We each chose a different dish; butter chicken, lamb biriyani, and two dishes simply called goat and lamb, and dipped into each of them. In addition, we opted for a black daal and a bread basket. The flavours were superb and the portion sizes so substantial, that puddings were not even thought about.
And now to the wine. A bottle of Spanish Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc, sold in Waitrose for £7.50 was marked up to £31, but as our wine in the Slug was £26, it didn’t seem outrageously priced.
The service from two chaps in rather ill-fitting suits, was professional and unobtrusive and it was good to see that when the day of reckoning came, the 12.5% service charge had been applied to the discounted price. As a result, the bill came to £47.50 each which we felt was good value bearing in mind the location, cache of the chef and quality of the food. However, without the discount, I may have thought differently.