Quilon, St James’s

I had no idea what to expect from a Michelin-starred Indian eatery… from my experience this cuisine does not lend itself to fiddly small portions and pretty presentation.

I had spent a long Tuesday traipsing round in London, and a final stop visiting the eccentric Damien Hirst death and decay inspired exhibition did anything but conjure up an appetite!

Located in the smart St James area, I invited my favourite grandfather to help me analyse the Michelin menu at Quilon. On entering I was immediately struck by the sensory experience, activating my tastebuds and tempting me to sample whatever they had in store. A warm comfortable interior, with gentle soundtrack and attentive staff dressed in attractive cream and yellow outfits (similar in fact to a recent Whistles silk shirt I bought). Rarely opting for the Taster Menu, I was spurred on by my guest’s enthusiasm for this unique five course selection and the waiter too seemed to think it was a good option.

The staff were kind and discreet, giving us attention when needed but not smothering us with schmoozing charm. After clinking our delicious  glasses of chilled champagne, tasty miniature crispy poppadums were delivered with various sweet, salty, spicy, creamy and herby sauces and dips.

Noticing my aversion to seafood, the waiter ensured my fishy dishes were substituted with equally delectable meat based recipes. Our starters had two components:

– Drumstick and lentil galette with spiced coriander chutney: tasted like a very delicious and moreish chickpea patty.
– Herb crusted tilapia/ chicken: very fresh and wonderfully marinated fish and meat, though perhaps slightly too much for a pre-starter course.

The next course came promptly, a second assortment of savoury starters:

– Grilled tiger prawn with red onion and mango relish – a whooping great prawn served with a simple but effective sauce, I was offered an absolutely exquisite alternative, a stuffed quail leg with quail mince, chilli, ginger, brown onion and spices, roasted and served with mustard sauce. This was certainly my highlight of the meal – a lovely textured sort of meatball seasoned to perfection.
– Curry leaf coriander chicken marinated with spices and cooked over a skillet was a little uninteresting – placed in chunks on the plate, it neither looked nor tasted exceptional.
– Malabar paratha is a light Indian wheat layered bread homemade at Quilon – it arrived warm and was flaky, soft and tasty.

To cleanse the palate: a warm spiced tomato juice… moreish and soothing this shot glass felt almost medicinal.

Then our main course:

– Malabar lamb biryani – a delicious lightly spiced and warm flavour but the lamb was a little chewy, which was a shame as the dish would have excelled otherwise.
– Fresh flat and broad bean with split peas tossed in spiced tomato onion masala: this was an unusual but yummy vegetable accompaniment, just when I thought Indian food was all meat, fish and spices… it was a thankful side for the biryani which was a little on the dry side.

Before dessert, the tiniest bowls arrived with mouthful sized scoops of homemade ice-cream – I was too distracted by how cute my yellow bowl and pink strawberry ice cream boule was to remember the taste, but it was a lovely detail.

What is an Indian dessert? We soon found out when strange jellified slices arrived at our table. This Bibinca cake was served with impressive vanilla bean ice-cream. The flavour was delicious, all caramelised and sweet however I must admit the texture did distract me slightly, layers of odd slimy stuff. We drank tea and coffee with little Quilon chocolates before jumping in a taxi home.

Quilon offers contemporary and authentic food in a friendly, welcoming setting. The five course Taster menu felt healthy and well balanced with high quality ingredients and vibrant seasoning. To complete your trip the staff here do everything to ensure your Indian night is as special as possible.

The taster menu is priced at £43 per person plus 12.5 % service.

Visit the Quilon website here to book.

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