Around this time last year Himself and I enjoyed a fabulous meal at Veeraswamy, one of London's oldest and most highly regarded Indian restaurants. We enjoyed it so much that this year we decided to try its sister restaurant, Chutney Mary. As before we booked online through Top Table and our reservation was confirmed within a few minutes. When we arrived at the restaurant we were pleased to find they had our booking.
Chutney Mary is situated on the Kings Road, not quite in Chelsea but about a five minute walk from the World's End. The nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway on the District line, and the restaurant is a five minute walk away. It's housed in a modern building which isn't very inspiring but once you get inside you are transported to something very special.
One of the things that irritated me a little about Veerswamy was the somewhat excessive number of staff and their slightly intrusive nature which is meant to come across as happy to help and concerned for quality, but is more fawning and obsequious. Our arrival was not as serene as I would have liked it to be in a restaurant of this standing and in this location; there are two swing doors at the entrance but only one could be opened and, with shopping (we had been to Spitalfields that morning and gone a bit crazy), overnight bags and my handbag, it was a bit of an ordeal to get through the narrow door. We were greeted by a charming but slightly aloof young lady who first took our coats and bags and then made me feel rather clumsy and awkward as she took us downstairs and glided around the restaurant in a very statuesque manner, leading us to our table.
We were given a table for two at the edge of the room, where all of the tables are for couples. Larger groups are seated at tables in the centre of the room. We were seated in the section immediately in front of the stairs which was perfectly fine but the nicest section is the one on the centre of the room where there is a glass roof and lots of plants, giving the feeling of a patio in a large colonial house. In the section where we were sitting, and in the unused section (at least while we were there) just below us, there were candles burning each one of tens of antique style glass lamps which gave a really magical look to the room. On the walls behind the lamps were ornate wall hangings made from glittering gold threads which shimmered against the flickering candlelight.
I sat against the wall on a seat that ran the length of the wall, and which was upholstered with what was probably once a swish looking fabric but now looked a little tired, even with the dim lighting. Himself sat opposite me on a comfortable straight backed chair that looked quite Scandinavian and not really in keeping with the vaguely eastern style of the décor in general. The tables were smartly set with crisp white linen cloths and sleek unfussy glassware and cutlery. On each table there was a clear Perspex cube containing a wick that burned in a clear liquid; this looked a bit cheap in close up but looked pretty good when viewed on other tables a distance away.
We were given a food menu and a drinks card. Both were beautifully presented on paper that had a slightly silky feel in your fingers. The drinks menu was just one side of paper and had four sections: wines, cocktails, non-alcoholic long drinks and beers. There were three beers available and Himself chose the Meantime Pale Ale (£5.15) as he had done when we visited Veeraswamy. I decided to push the boat out and ordered a Lychee Martini which at £7.50 was rather pricey but turned out to be worth every penny; I'm not sure whether the cocktail was made with an alcoholic lychee syrup or if it was just lychee juice or syrup but it was beautifully refreshing with a lovely floral bouquet which gave a distinctive flavour but didn't completely overwhelm the crisp botanics of what was obviously a quality gin. It was served in a classic martini glass with just a single mint leaf and looked very elegant. With drinks at hand we sat back to make our choices from the menu.
The menu struck me as being much more limited than the one at Veeraswamy the previous year, at which time I said I'd have happily eaten almost anything listed. The Sunday lunch special consists of three courses for £22 which is tremendous value given that main courses alone start around the £16 mark and go up to as much as £23.00. The dishes were split up into tandoori dishes; meat and poultry; seafood; and vegetarian. I was very tempted to go for one of the vegetarian dishes with the 7 dish vegetarian thali sounding good, but, even more so, the lotus root stuffed with fig. Unfortunately, though, having anut allergy, I am often not able to have the vegetarian mains so I plumped for a Goan green chicken curry, only to be informed it contained nuts! My next choice was nalli gosht, a lamb dishes in which lamb was slow cooked on the bone in a spicy sauce and, happily, this did not contain any nuts. There was only one seafood option - Mangalore prawns - which was described as being a fiery dish and this was further reinforced by the two chillies next to it on the menu and not wanting to be left with something that was too hot to handle, I decided to give it a miss. The only other seafood dish was actually in the tandoori section - a prawn dish which sounded great but incurred a surcharge of £8.00. Himself also chose a lamb dish but his was from the tandoori section - a spicy lamb shank which would be served with a gravy and coriander mash.
A short paragraph at the top of the first page of the menu explained that a 72 year old chef named Luis had recently come out of retirement to work in the restaurant again and that some of the main courses were from the Nostalgia selection - meaning that they were ones first served decades ago when Luis first cooked at Veeraswamy. I wondered whether many diners visiting Veerswamy or Chutney Mary today could recall any of these dishes and soon after some diners were shown to a table near us, one of whom might just fit the bill.
Having ordered, we sat back to enjoy our drinks and await the arrival of our starters; as we did so we couldn't help listening to the conversations between the people at the nearest table. One was an elderly lady who was quite typically Kensington and Chelsea, so well spoken she was almost incomprehensible at times; they were the sort of people who are so posh it makes you wonder how they cope with the rigours of day to day existence.
(Note - toffs pronunciation given here)
"It's absolutely awful for these people living in ground floor flets. They can be expected to be burgled about fifty times a day....." "If there is a fire, we must crorce the lending, open the hetch, climb the ledder, and wait on the roof for goodness knows what, thenk you very match".
Himself had chosen the Atlantic scallop (note singular here) which sat in a light broth. The scallop was cooked to perfection, wonderfully golden on top and bottom, yet lovely and tender inside. The broth was lightly spiced and fragrant, and Himself had no worries about using a spoon to ensure he got it all (in fact, had he been at home he'd have dunked some bread in it!). I had chosen the goose starter which was two small lump patties of finely minced goose meat, cooked in the tandoor (I think) and served with a very small spoonful of blueberry chutney. My starter was served on a long plate and the little shami kebabs sat on a thin strip of bright green banana leaf - the dark meat and the dark purple chutney looked really striking against the green of the leaf. The goose meat was sensational - beautifully tender and exquisitely spiced with cumin seeds being the most obvious flavour. As goose is a dark and quite strong meat I sometimes find that I only want a little so these little kebabs were perfectly sized; the tangy chutney had just the right kick to it and wasn't too vinegary and the fruitiness was a good foil to the rich meat. The only disappointment was that the amount of chutney was miniscule and barely enough for two patties.
"Of course, there was never any problem in our building until some Iranians moved in. Now, one day the lady of the house went out, leaving the chep behind; he couldn't speak a word of English and so when someone reng his bell, he just let them into the building and into their apartment. What happened? He was bopped on the head, eyeballs gouged out, and the thieves made orff with whatever they wanted, thenk you very match...The police came, had to call for the fire brigade becourze the chep was chained to the radiator. Took him to the hospital and porped his eyes beck in. Never been the same since, mind you".
The mains arrived after a break that was just long enough to give us time to get excited about the next course. Mine was served in traditional Indian restaurant style in a small decorative pot, which, according to the menu, it had been cooked in. There were four decent sized pieces of lamb on the bone in this gloriously ochre sauce - I say on the bone with reservation because you had virtually only to look at it and the meat fell away delightfully. The sauce was rich and flavoursome, fairly hot but the real flavour was coming from the use of the spices and other ingredients rather than from chillies. There was a slight underlying sweetness - perhaps tamarind? - but on the whole the flavours were deep and warm. I had ordered a lemon pullao rice to go with it and this was served in a small metal pot which was rather fiddly to empty but looked rather nice anyway. We shared a garlic naan bread which was small and quite flat - as opposed to the mammoth naan breads served up in most curry houses - and a side dish of a white pumpkin raita which was actually rather bland and tasted mostly of natural yoghurt although it did look very pretty, strewn, as it was, with the ruby red jewels that are pomegranate seeds.
Himself managed to tear himself away from his lamb shank long enough to pass me a fork full of the richly aromatic shreds of meat which fell from the bone as easily as the lamb in my dish. It seemed like the lamb shank had been boiled in stocks and spices first and then finished in the tandoor (just a guess though). The meat itself was just moist enough but was like a spicy Sunday roast; the waiter poured a small jug of wonderfully scented gravy over the lamb as it was presented. There was a small portion of fresh coriander mashed potato on the plate with the lamb shank which was a teeny bit watery, in my opinion, though the coriander gave it a bit of life.
"These people...if they do reggae (sic) and they don't hev a Mercedes, then they can't be very good at it" "no, can't be...bleck men's wheels, a Mercedes..."
After a suitable pause we were offered the menu to peruse the desserts. Himself, hardly a pudding lover, made an exception when he saw that there was an Bramley apple and cranberry crumble with sweet chilli custard, and my first choice was refused due to containing nuts, so I chose the dark chocolate fondant with an orange blossom lassi. Mine was served in the centre of an enormous round plate with a teeny handle-less jug (it probably has a culinary name) of the lassi on the side. Was I supposed to sip it or pour it over my dessert? I chose the second option but not until I had cut open the fondant with relish to allow the rich dark chocolatey goo to spill out. It was heavenly! The lassi was less successful and seemed to me to have more of a flavour of mandarin oranges than orange blossom which, in my opinion, should be more perfumed and floral than overtly fruity. I was pleased I had only poured half around the fondant because the consistency was really too thin for a custard substitute and the strong bitter chocolate overpowered it. The rest was much nicer sipped. Himself enjoyed his crumble which contained plenty of both fruit and crunch with the crunch having plenty of cinnamon running through it. The custard was not such a hit and didn't really deliver the promised chilli kick, nor was it quite thick enough for his approval.
"You know, recently I've even seen disabled people in Waitrose. But, you know, they mustn't carry a basket orn their knees in their wheelchairs ... terribly dangerous. What these people must do is find a member of staff, smile very nicely and say 'I'm awfully sorry, please could you help me?' - because, you know, it's how you ask...."
As entertaining as the afternoon was proving, we decided to indulge in a little retail therapy on the King's Road before catching the train north and resolved to stop for coffee elsewhere. I was tempted by the "infusions" though (not tea!), which were poured at table from clear tea pots into large clear cups.
So, in spite of finding that the menu did not offer as much variety as the one at Veeraswamy did previously, we did really enjoy what we had and couldn't fault Chutney Mary in terms of quality and value for money - at least not when choosing the three course Sunday option. The only let down was the toilets which are found at the top of the stairs near the entrance. In the ladies' there were two cubicles, and in one the toilet was blocked with toilet paper and the flush didn't work at all. I though this was a poor showing for a restaurant of this standard.
I'd have awarded five stars on the basis of the food but I'll shave off one star in respect of the toilet issue, the swift removal of my martini and the still slightly overbearing service. I'm tempted to refund that star for the next table entertainment, but I can't guarantee they're there every lunchtime.
We paid £ 72.73 in total including drinks (that includes everything mentioned here) and a 12.5% service charge.
Always on the lookout for somewhere new to eat, my girlfriend and I finally succumbed to the all the ravings by friends and family and visited Chutney Mary's. It wasn't that we didn't want to go, it's just that we wanted to be the ones who discovered it and foolishly that meant that we waited for a long time before going. Now, if you have heard of this Kings Road restaurant you probably know that it's not cheap. I can back that statement up, it really isn't the kind of place you go if you only want to spend £50.00 on a three course meal for two including wine. We booked our table on a Friday night in the off chance that they would have something on the Saturday night, as it happens they did. However, when we arrived at the restaurant it soon became obvious that they had no record of our booking. Was there a scene? Did we cause a fracas? No need, within five minutes the manager was called, a table was found and we were shown to our seats. Chutney Mary is set over two floors of a large building. We didn't get to see the upstairs as it's hidden behind large sliding doors that look like a secret entrance. Downstairs was dim lighting, lots of candles, a large conservatory area and a lower level of tables. The waiter explained the workings of the restaurant to us. They have a number of chefs from different areas of India who each have their own specialities and create dishes using their skills and knowledge of the regions of their country. Oooh, it was all sounding very exciting so far. He told us to sit back and relax, took our orders for aperitifs, and gave us the food and wine menus. Two glasses of Kir Royal were delivered swiftly and discreetly to the table and we were left alone to choose the food and wine. The food menu had so many choices that sounded irresistible. How on earth do you decide what to have when all the food sounds that good? The win
e list was really well laid out with clear explanations and descriptions. It was well selected with lots of choice for differing tastes. My only comment would be that it was quite a highly priced list (that is from memory and I could be wrong, but I think the cheapest bottle was about £15.00-£16.00) Our bottle of Chablis cost £34.00, so the price of your evening would easily be bumped up a price bracket including wine. When it came to ordering we were advised of the special dishes on offer and talked through them. The waiter who served us for the evening was incredibly informed and able to offer advise on both the food and wine. He did admit to having only just done a wine tasting course organised through the restaurant and was still very keen to tell everyone his new found interest. The starters: Crab Cakes on one side, and lobster on the other. Crab Cakes don't sound very exciting maybe, but this one was amazing. White meat stacked high with a thin layer of crisp potato on top, nicely spiced, not mouth-burning. Lobster ? well, maybe a bit indulgent, but when you know you're going to spend a lot of money anyway why the hell not do it in style? A whole lobster tail sectioned and marinated with spices. It was quite hot but such great flavours. The Mains: Lamb Knuckles for the lady, and for sir the Cod. Lamb Knuckles may sound disgusting, but to anyone who's eaten slow-cooked, succulent Lamb Shanks, well this piece of meat has the same juiceness and falling off the bone thing when given the same treatment, a fantastic curry. Cod. How dull is that. Well, let me tell you how dull that was. A thick cod steak coated with a thin spicy layer. When cut into it flaked beautifully and was still succulent, moist and tender. It just dissolved in the mouth. Stunning! This was served up with rice, bread and two portions of side vegetables: potatoes and okra. Desserts: This is my
favourite part of the meal. I usually choose my main courses around what I want for dessert. However, the dessert menu didn't appear until the main course was gone. For her a bowl of three sorbets: Mango, Rose & Lemon. Each of them was distinctive in flavour and yet worked well together as a trio. Beautifully presented. For me, a hot chocolate fondant cake with orange fondant sauce. The cake was beautifully light and the inside gloriously runny and rich. The orange fondant was served in a shot glass on the plate, the idea being that you pour the contents over your cake. Stunningly executed and wonderfully indulgent, all washed down with a glass of dessert wine, Muscat Beaume de Venise at £4.60 a glass. The restaurant has a wonderful atmosphere and the waiting staff are efficient but more importantly, not intrusive. The toilets were spotlessly clean, the staff welcoming and the food absolutely delicious. As for the total cost, well, the bill came in at £155.00. Is that too much to spend on food? Was it worth every penny or just another over-priced London restaurant? Taking in to account the problem with the booking, the speed with which it was sorted, and all of the other information given above, yes, it was definitely value for money. It was a perfect evening, with perfect company and we were spoilt rotten by the top class service and food provided by Chutney Mary's. I would not hesitate in saving up again and going back. Yes it may be out of peoples price range, it may be too expensive to take the family for a night out, but it's well worth saving up and going if you want to treat someone, or yourself, to a fantastic meal. And to be honest, £75.00 per head including a large bottle of water, 2 Kir Royals, 1 Bottle of Chablis and a Dessert Wine, is not that different to many other London and out-of-town restaurants. Infact if you didn?t have champagne, lobster, a dessert wine and went f
or a £20.00 bottle of wine, you could easily get that down to £50.00 per head, if not less. I've spent the same amount of money before on a meal that was terrible. Chutney Mary?s 55 Kings Road Chelsea London 020 7351 3113 or visit their website for more information: www.chutneymary.com Go, eat, drink and be very merry.
A fantastic restaurant in central london which will also do deliveries. The food is very good quality but it is not cheap, some say it's not good value for money, but for a special occasion, birthday, romance... it is great! The atmosphere is also very special and the service very good. I unfortunately won't be going to eat there for a while as last time i was there i was very sick in the ice bucket, so until they forget my face... no go. Hope all of you that go will enjoy your meal, i highly recommend it!