…and hungry, here’s a hot tip for a restaurant pick. The finest meal I had, among a bunch of good ones on a recent trip to the UK, was at a new underground restaurant called Kahani.
On Wilbraham Place in Chelsea, Kahani is chef Peter Joseph’s first solo project. My visit was early in its third week of life.
I had met chef Joseph in Ottawa last spring. He had popped into Coconut Lagoon to cook up a multi-course south Indian feast with chef Joe Thottungal. Both men hail from southern India: Peter Joseph from Tamil Nadu, and Joe Thottungal from the neighbouring state of Kerala, and their collaborative dinner featured the vibrant flavours of their homes, applied to local product.
Until very recently, Peter Joseph was head chef of Tamarind in Mayfair, one of the first Indian restaurants in the world to win a Michelin star. His food at Kahani offers tapas-style dining — small, elegant servings of dishes that were heavily flavoured and yet remarkably lightweight. Escorted with the best basmati rice I’ve ever had in my life. No evidence of spices lurking in their fluffy super-long grains, but incredibly perfumed nonetheless.
Highlights included a whole, deep fried soft-shell crab dusted with warm, gentle spices from Mangalore and escorted with a vibrant tomato chutney that cut through the richness without restraining the flavours of the crab; char-grilled Scottish scallops, dredged with ground star anise and served with a spicy raw mango relish; savoury donuts of fermented rice and legumes, drenched in a lightly sweet yogurt dressing, streaked with bright squiggles of mint and tamarind chutneys, and dotted with juicy pops of pomegranate seed; a delectably moist guinea fowl, tandoor-roasted, napped with a smoked tomato sauce that scratched every itch and served with carom seed studded roti and a side of tandoori broccoli, sweet and smokey and perfumed with nigella seeds.
And then dessert. Never my favourite part of an Indian meal, but here… not to be missed. Cheesecake, of a sort. Called ‘melt in the middle’ and not lying, flavoured with raspberry and mint.
The Kahani team, including sommelier and general manager Shofi Islam, took beautiful care. And delivered crisp lagers and wines that allowed both the food and the beverages to be heard and loved.
Chef Peter Joseph and GM Sophi Islam at Kahani, October 2018