I first set my eyes on Chakra whilst having a drink at the pub opposite (The Elephant and Castle). From outside, Chakra looked like a modern, intimate Indian restaurant. The all-white, unadorned interior scheme represented a classy simplicity rather than the vibrant colours one generally associates with Indian restaurants. It also had a neat sheltered space at the front with heaters and blankets for alfresco dining.
In terms of making a first impression, it had clearly piqued my interest. I immediately started following Chakra on social media to get to know a little bit more about their food and making a mental note to visit sometime.
Cut to the present; an invite from the Chakra team to attend a special one-off tasting evening was the perfect opportunity to sample their food.
To give you a bit of background, Chakra has been operating since 2011 and is based in Kensington. The business also offers event planning, catering services, masterclasses and private dining hire.
An intrepid bunch of food bloggers gathered together on a cold September evening, united by our love for Indian food and warmed up inside Chakra’s cosy interiors.
After the initial introduction and pleasantries, we huddled in small groups getting to know each other. Besides me were fellow food bloggers londonfoodfatty, kellyprincewright, snapshot_london_uk, tasteorwaste, topeatslondon and hungrydudette.
On that evening, the restaurant was fully closed for our private event. Our gracious hosts had rearranged the tables so that they were conducive for group conversations and arranged a number of staff on hand to look after us. Throughout the evening, there was free flowing wine and bubbles and our glasses were regularly topped up. To me, this was a perfect example of the exemplary service, warm hospitality and attention to detail offered by the Chakra brand.
Nick, the communications manager for Chakra, welcomed us with a quick introduction. Pretty soon, the servers started bringing in sharing platters to kick off the evening.
First up: a vegetarian selection of Sweet Potato and Mint Tikki and Mini Vegetable Samosas. The samosas were pretty delectable; wafer-thin, crispy pastry outside and a light, moist potato and pea filling inside. I love sweet potatoes in all versions – mash, fries, wedges! Chakra’s Tikki (mini patties) version was equally tasty: mildly spiced without being overpowering.
Next to arrive was the Grilled Platter which included an assortment of Tandoori Prawns, Seekh Kebab and Chicken, Thyme & Garlic Malai Kebab. The charcoal-scarred chicken had absorbed all the spices, making it quite succulent and flavoursome. Seekh Kebab is my most favourite Indian dish and Chakra’s version did not disappoint. The tender meat had all the enticing aromas I associate with the Seekh Kebab; humming with spice and a hint of gentle heat. The Tandoori prawns also had a touch of smoke and were delicious little morsels of joy and inhaled in seconds. Looking back on this evening, this was my favourite dish from the whole selection.
From the selection of mains, we were first offered grilled Tandoori Lamb Chops. The smoky flavours were all there, but I felt the fired meat was slightly overdone and may have been left out a bit longer as it wasn’t very warm when it arrived.
Homely vegetarian mains included a warmly-spiced Aloo Gobhi and a soulful Tadka Daal with deep, comforting flavours. However, the Vegetable Biryani was passable.
The Coconut Prawn Curry featured some beautiful regional flavours and was generally preferred over the Butter Chicken. Both dishes, however, were a bit gravy-soaked and I would have liked a less liquid version. Thankfully, we were served lots of piping hot rotis and naans to mop up all that sauce!
Pudding was a luscious, syrupy trio of Gulab Jamun, Kulfi and Jalebi. I am a big fan of all three and individually, Chakra’s desserts were superb. But serving it all together on one plate made it hard to separate each dessert from one another. Whilst the presentation may be due to the one-off event, perhaps a ‘less-is-more’ approach would have worked better for this course.
Based on the evening’s service, the staff were generally convivial, friendly and attentive.
In summary, the food at Chakra is upscale but at times presents itself as a more conventional offering. Some of the dishes are triumphs whilst some slightly subdued. I feel Chakra needs to be a bit more ambitious, adventurous and innovative with its ingredients. The spice level is generally moderate, which works perfectly for me personally as I don’t like too much heat in my food. However, some customers may prefer more fiery versions of the dishes.
Chakra has tremendous potential but it has to push the boat out a bit more if it were to compete with the wave of Indian and pan-Indian restaurants mushrooming in London.
More information can be found here.
N.B. I was invited to review.