Kanishka is a new restaurant by celebrity chef Atul Kochhar that opened in Mayfair about seven weeks ago. The menu focuses on the less familiar (in London) cuisine of North East India.
In terms of interiors, it is a tale of two floors. Designed by Fabled Studio, the basement is a calming oasis of pastel pink and green, capped by a green foliage ceiling. Upstairs, the palette is more muted blues and greys with mirrored walls, monochrome floors and comfy banquettes. The mirrored walls make the space look bigger than it is. As you enter, you are first met with a view of the striking bar. Hovering and framing it from above is a caged shelf holding some of their most impressive selection of booze; they have a formidable collection of the good stuff indeed. There are also little thoughtful touches, like under-the-table bag hooks and mini desk lamps, which clearly demonstrate an attention to detail. Overall, the space has quite a Mayfair luxe feel.
In terms of food, the menu is split into the Tasting Menu, an À la carte and a Set Menu. For the purpose of this review, we opted for the Set Menu.
Classic Samosa Chaat | Sweet Yoghurt | Mint Chutney
North Eastern Crispy Seafood | Raw Tamarind Ketchup
The Samosa starter had a myriad of nostalgic flavours going on, with the pomegranate seeds adding crunch and color. There was a textural element and heat that lingered in the mouth long after you had finished eating. Served warm, this was a decent version of the classic chaat without trying to over-refine or pander to the western palate.
The crispy seafood starter came with three kinds of ingredients – tilapia fish, cooked oysters and squid. Each element had a lovely coating which wasn’t too fried or oily. The batter was gently spiced and the soury smack from the tamarind dip uplifted the whole experience.
Venison Keema Ghotala | Maska Pao
Old Delhi Butter Chicken Khichdi | Poppadoms
Kris ordered the venison which was rich and meaty, topped with that unctuous cured yolk. It tasted phenomenally good with the consistency and spicing coming through perfectly. The only niggle was the size of the dish and we would have preferred a slightly larger portion for a main.
Compared to Kris’s main, my rice dish was generously portioned. This dish was like a merger of two of my favourite things – Delhi Butter Chicken and rice. The rice itself was quite soothing, infused with those classic butter chicken flavours. The three pieces of chicken were succulent but hadn’t fully absorbed the flavours which was a shame. The poppadoms added crunch and the little pink pickled onions a bit of sharpness to the whole composition.
Having been impressed with first two courses, we decided to go the whole hog and order the desserts.
Rice Kheer with Pineapple Gola
The Mango Kulfi was light and refreshing, predominantly creamy in texture but topped with nuts to add some bite.
I was actually expecting the kheer to be served warm, but it was also a cold dessert. On a bed of creamy, milky rice were layers of crushed pineapple and candied fruit. It was quite light and a good summer pud.
The service was polite and attentive, particularly from the manager who looked after us as if we were the only guests in the room (and we weren’t). The service from the rest of the staff was on the slow side. Prices from the main menu are steep but understandable for the postcode.
I must be honest; I went in with low expectations as I had heard quite a few mixed reviews. But our lunch turned out to be a quite the pleasurable affair if not mind blowing. Whilst the set menu is not wholly representational of the North East cuisine that Kanishka specialises in, it does offer a wallet-friendly way of sampling some of the food coming out of their kitchens.
Location : 17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair, London W1S 2QH
Nearest Underground Station : Oxford Circus
The Set Menu is priced at £24 for two courses; £29 for three.