I have definitely had to grow a bit to appreciate Indian cuisine . As a child I couldn’t handle heat at all, despite my father trying to feed me jerk pork and hot sauce from a young age. My palate has gradually grown to love hot and spiced food, so much so that I have inadvertently eaten Indian food for 3 days straight.
On Tuesday I experimented to great effect with a coconut based fish curry – I will perfect and post the recipe at a later date. On Wednesday evening I went to an Indian cookery class at the Angela Malik Cookery School where I learnt how to balance the five taste sensations, sweet, hot, sour, salt and umami. We then cooked a Punjabi massala base from scratch and used it to make a chicken curry and a tarka dahl.
Then yesterday I had one of the best meals I have ever eaten at the Michelin starred coastal South Indian restaurant Quilon, for my dad’s birthday. It was a wonderful meal, so wonderful that it put my parents back in a good mood after I had arrived an hour late to meet them at the Tate that morning. We opted for the extremely reasonable set lunch menu, £24 for 3 courses with tea or coffee. There is also an al a carte menu as well as an 8 course tasting menu with matching beers, which my dad was very excited about. The lunch menu however, was more than ample with at least 6 options to chose from for each course.
We began the meal with a round of drinks and complimentary mini poppadoms accompanied by exquisite coconut and tomato chutneys. There is an extensive world beer list, which kept the boyfriend and dad happy; mum went for prosecco and I indulged in a deiciously refreshing ginger and passionfruit cachacca cocktail – the perfect accompaniment for the moreishly spiced food.
My starter was mixed seafood with a coriander broth; a fragrant bowl of spiced goodness with perfectly tender scallop, prawns, mussels and squid. Dad went for some fiery spiced king prawns which were apparently very good and mum and the boyfriend had probably the world’s tenderest chicken fillets smothered in a spicy creamed coconut concoction.
In between courses we were given a typical South Indian palate cleanser called a rasam – a warm aromatic broth which awakened the senses. For the main course we were all asked to choose a side dish to accompany it. This meant we had a table full of beautiful dishes that we could share out and mmm over. I went for spiced squid with tempered prawns and fried okra- a perfectly balanced dish, both in flavour and texture. Mum had the halibut curry, huge chucks of moist, firm fish in a ridiculously good coconut based sauce with lemon rice. The boyfriend had some sumptuous slow cooked lamb with buttery soft parathas. And my dad had the sampler plate which included, for a £2.75 supplement, some chicken curry, spiced fried tilapia, okra, a bean curry, lemon rice and paratha- all of which were faultless.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, or that we could get any fuller, we had dessert. I chose mango sorbet as I was so stuffed, still it was amazingly smooth and flavourful. The boyfriend had a Goan pancake layered with chocolate and ice cream called ‘Bibinca and Dodhol’ and the birthday boy settled on a banana pudding with banana parfait- I don’t even really need to tell you that they were both excellent. Mum had what she described as ‘the best dessert I have ever eaten’, it was listed simply on the menu as baked yoghurt but arrived as 3 small portions, a mango, orange and lychee, each with an intense fruity flavour and differing texture. She enjoyed it so much that she joked to the waiter about wanting the recipe. Our ever obliging host took down my email address and promised to send the recipe, which he did not 30 minutes later.
Perfect mango sorbet
‘Bibinca and Dodhol’
To top it all off we had tea and coffee and homemade chocolates chosen from another extensive list and the lovely staff brought out a chocolate and cardamom cheesecake spiked with popping candy as a birthday treat for dad. It really was one of those perfect meals that don’t seem to occur very often – everyone enjoyed everything, the service was attentive but not overbearing and we didn’t feel ripped off. A 3 course meal for 4 with drinks, tea and coffee and 12.5% service, came up shy of £150. Well done Quilon.