One of the most exciting things about supper clubs is not knowing what to expect and being prepared to be surprised. It’s even better if it surpasses expectations. With Chef Niku’s Yaatra – an Indian supper club – it was a bit of both.
The menu at Chef Niku’s Indian supper club was kept secret until the very last minute. All we knew was it was an Indian-inspired menu and the chef was from India.
We were back in London Cooking Project again for this one. Regular readers might recall I was there back in June attending Makan Malaysia, another thrilling supper club! It was nice to see the space albeit in a different layout and decor to reflect the theme of an Indian supper club.
We were greeted by our effervescent hostess April who showed us to our seats. Whilst some of us perused the menu and others started chatting with fellow guests, we were swiftly offered some canapés by the lovely Kat – Dahi Wada Chaat | Fried puffed lentil balls, with black chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney, chilli chutney, yoghurt, sev and pomegranate.
The term canapé was perhaps a misnomer here as the portions were absolutely huge. Most of us thought this was the starter! In terms of taste, the lentil balls were delicious, spongy in texture, similar to a savoury dumpling. The yoghurt had a nice sourness to it, which went well with the vibrant pomegranate seeds adding colour and texture. It was not too spicy and a wonderful way to start the supper club.
The supper club was themed Yaatra, which means journey in Hindi. As you may have guessed by now, it was an exploration of various regions of India through the four lavish courses set out in front of us. The idea was to create the experience of dining in an Indian home, eating like a family.
The food menu also came paired with its own bespoke cocktails conjured up by mixologist Derrick Hillman, who is a long term collaborator with the chef.
After a quick introduction to the team, the supper club was indeed off to a flamboyant start with the arrival of the starter: Hyderabadi Special Pathar ka Gosht | Tender lamb escalopes marinated in yoghurt with crispy onion and black spices, kachumber, coriander chutney. The lamb had been thinly sliced, marinated in yoghurt, fried onions and herby spices to create a natural smoky feel without using a barbecue.
It was definitely full-flavoured, tender and cut easily under the knife. The salad was no ordinary side salad and some serious thought had gone into it. The combination of hazelnuts, apricots, rocket and aubergines worked brilliantly as a supporting role to the lamb! It was definitely both Kris’s and my favourite course.
We were surprisingly full already at this stage so April’s suggestion to take a break and get involved in some games before the mains arrived was gratefully received. Kris was slightly worried as he thought everyone would be asked to get up and do a Bollywood dance. Thankfully, whilst Bollywood was the underlying theme, it was a quiz which was enough to spark my competitive spirit.
In between courses, we also had some live tabla and music by an Indo-Columbian collaborative band.
The main was a resplendent Indian thali. I had the Non Veg Thali | Butter Chicken, Saag Aloo, Dal Tadka, Chapatis and Cumin Rice. But this was no ordinary meat and two veg. Every dish was beautifully cooked by the Chef and tasted of homespun goodness.
The butter chicken had a lovely creaminess to it, coming from the use of cashew cream. As a former Delhite, I would say the butter chicken (a Delhi staple) came very close to how it’s done back home.
Kris had the vegetarian version, where his chicken dish was swapped with Paneer Makhani. The saag aloo had a zing to it. But the biggest winner on the plate was the daal: homely, smoky, tempered with fragrant spices and simply marvellous.
A quick note about the cocktails. All of them were based on classics but were given an Indian twist without losing the essence. At £6, they were probably the most affordable and delicious cocktails I have had in London so far.
The pudding of Malpua with Phirni and Parsi Sev | Deep fried cardamom pancakes, ground rice and milk pudding topped with dry vermicelli with rose, nutmeg and cardamom provided a fitting finish to what was a spectacular meal. Malpua is not something you see sold in sweet shops that often, even in India, so it was amazing to see this served here. It was something my grandmother made batches of at home, and we would eat them hot as soon as they arrived. Needless to say, this course definitely conjured up some sweet nostalgic memories of my own.
The pancake itself was not too deeply fried and provide a nice textural contrast to the creamy and smooth white rice pudding base. It had been infused with black cardamom and cinnamon and dipped in jaggery syrup and one could taste all those flavours subtly without them overpowering the dish. The rice pudding was studded with green cardamom, pistachios, almonds and rose, finished with gold leaf on top. The whole dessert, although indulgent, was very balanced well in terms of sweetness, which bodes well with me as I don’t like too much sweet.
One can tell that Chef Niku cooks from his heart and pours his passion and soul into the food. He put his own personal touches inspired from his mother and grandmother but also kept it globally relevant and universally appealing.
It was one of those supper clubs that indeed surpassed my expectations in every possible way, not just with the food but with the added extra flourishes of interactive games and musical entertainment. Full marks to the chef and his team for organising such a wonderful supper club.
We were so pleased to have experienced this Indian supper club and can’t wait to see what other exciting stuff comes from this young and upcoming culinary talent.
N.B. I was reviewing the supper club on behalf of UK Supper Clubs and our food was complimentary. whilst we paid for our drinks. All photos and opinions are mine.