Swiss Cottage’s Indian, India Per Se shows Mark Kebble high class dining when he visits the London restaurant
Some 13 years ago, a good friend of mine, Richard, and yours truly turned our back on clubbing. Sort of. We grew up in a suburban Surrey town and everybody tended to converge on the same club, week after week, before we decided we had had enough of it. What did we do? We headed to the local curry house, which happened to be positioned directly opposite the aforementioned club. Rock and roll.
So when I heard about Swiss Cottage’s original Indian restaurant having a revamp, there was only one person that could join me. Looking through India Per Se’s menu, we quickly realised this wasn’t your standard chicken tikka masala and pilau rice fare – after all, the Executive Chef is Saurav Nath, who has previously spent over four years as Sous Chef at Benares. Here he has created a wonderful range of dishes that showcase the various delicately infused spices of India, and each dish comes with a recommended wine pairing to match the ingredients (although we slightly spoiled that by opting for a beer).
The Panjabi samosa caught my eye to start and it was a wonderful choice. Packed full of mixed vegetables, masala chickpeas, tamarind chutney and mint sauce, it was deceptively spicy, but tempered by the sweet chutney accompaniment. It also looked impressive and wouldn’t look out of place in a fine dining establishment. Richard’s sheek kebab didn’t look quite so appetising, but the tandoori skewered finely minced lamb was a hit, particularly the tantalising hit of ginger.
The mains saw us opt for very different experiences: me sticking to the familiar (the tandoori platter), Richard plumping for murgh Xacuti (so unknown we didn’t even know how to pronounce it). The tandoori extravaganza was superb, with the whole shebang – lamb chop, chicken malai tikka, king prawn and fish tikka – all vying equally for attention. Richard’s dish was chicken breast cooked in a traditional Goan Xacuti sauce. The sauce was coconut-infused, which really added to the fantastic flavour. Both dishes were mopped up with mixed vegetable pulao rice and saag panner (garlic and cumin sautéed spinach puree with cottage cheese).
The food was right from the top drawer, and if you have visited Benares then that will give you a good indication of what to expect. It deserves in a way to be right in the Central London mix, so I was left feeling a little smug that Swiss Cottage was the chosen location. Clubbing is a word that has long been eradicated from our vocabulary, but with places like India Per Se on offer we frankly don’t care.
4-6 Northways Parade, Finchley Road NW3 5EN; 020 7722 0606; indiaperse.com