What I’m about to tell you, I tell you with the idea that you’ll forgive me for my sins shortly after reading it in print. Twenty-seven years, to the day, after I was born, I dined in an Indian restaurant for the first time. Shocking, I know. I’m not proud of this fact. Actually, I’m saddened by the idea that I lived nearly three decades without this incredible cuisine in my life. You see, I grew up in a town where BBQ and fried local foods were the name of the game. Indian was exotic, if not generally unheard of. If we were trying something new, it usually involved an original dish at the Great Wall of China. That’s as far fetched as our culinary imaginations went in town. It wasn’t until I moved to London, in my twenties, that I heard the term “takeaway curry” for the first time in my life. People around me seemed to crave this the same way we used to crave a Pizza Hut pizza. No one here was “hitting the hut,” but rather indulging in amazingly hot and taste bud tantalising dishes from their local Indian restaurant. So, celebrating my 27th birthday with my first official curry in London was a milestone and certainly made it one to remember for the foreseeable future. Little did I know that this would lead to an almost obsessive search for some of the best Indian cuisine in London. I’ve said yes to every opportunity to dine with friends in their local favourites, I’ve tried countless takeaways, as they’ve opened around London town, and I’ve made it my mission to explore as much as I can about this cuisine, in a city that cherishes it almost as if it were its own invention. All this being said, there is nothing that could have prepared me for my first meal at Tamarind Mayfair last week. I should have known it would be spectacular, as it was the first Indian Restaurant to be awarded a Michelin Star in 2001. But, I went in with no expectations, just the idea that I would be exploring a newly reopened restaurant with fresh eyes and eager taste buds.
Tamarind Mayfair closed its doors last year for eight months to undergo a major renovation that would see a doubling in covers, a reinvention of the menu and a complete rework of the interiors. The end result is a simple, sophisticated space that is welcoming to those looking for unpretentious culinary excellence. My goal for this meal was simple, I wanted to try the best of what they had on offer. I should have known I was in trouble when the waiter suggested over half the menu, finding it difficult himself to narrow down the offering for a table of two. It’s obvious that the bigger the party at Tamarind Mayfair the better, as you really can order and try everything. We definitely went big, thinking we could tackle a lot more than we actually managed to. But, for as long as I live, I will never forget my first forkful of the Rajasthani Churi Chaat. If, at the end of my life, I’m asked for a top ten list of most memorable bites, this would easily be in the top five. That was to be only the beginning of a meal that is deserving of every accolade that can be thrown upon it. See a full list of our order below, with pictures to follow further down, for more tips on what to order.
While the food is remarkable at Tamarind Mayfair, its the staff that truly complete the experience. The sommelier was successful in serving up perfect pairings for every course, with a surprising selection of wines from around the globe. Our servers were excellent in both recommending our dishes and getting them to the table in perfect running order with our hunger levels. The food arrives as it’s ready. So, there’s no real comprehension of what will come next. But, there is a perfect spacing of dishes to allow your stomach to settle in and ready itself for the next delivery. And with each and every dish packing a powerful punch in the taste department, you’ll be grateful for a little break in the action here and there. Honestly, if I could, I would relive each and every mouthful on a weekly basis. From the milk fed lamb wrapped in pastry to the crispy lobster in red chilli sauce, this was deadly decadence that you simply can’t let go of. Tamarind Mayfair will get under your skin. It will set a new level of excellence when it comes to Indian cuisine, that may just ruin your relationship with your local. You’ve been warned.
What we ordered:
Papaya, Mango and Cucumber Salad
Rajasthani Churi Chaat
Trio of Samosas
Crusted Milk Fed Lamb Leg
Chicken Tikka Hasnu
Crispy Lobster Tossed in Spicy Red Chilli Jam
Caramelised Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts
Golden Chicken Curry with Saffron and Nuts
Chettinad Chicken Biryani
Think we ordered enough? I assure you there were only two of us and this order wasn’t even scratching the surface. The menu is extensive and daring to be explored over multiple visits. We were planning our return before we even left the restaurant. For those of you living in or visiting London, make this a special night on your calendar. I assure you it’s worth every penny you are going to spend on this meal.
Disclosure: FFG was invited to dine, with a guest, on a complimentary basis at Tamarind Mayfair.