A journey down the King’s Road can mean many things to many people. You might be rewarded with memories of the swinging sixties if indeed you remember being there, maybe Punk or New Romanticism were eras closer to your youth. Whatever your history with this part of the world it’s worth travelling the full length of the King’s Road until you get pretty much to the end and you’ll find Chutney Mary – an establishment that is in a different league to most Indian Restaurants. The visit I made recently found a thriving restaurant that has been open for over 20 years serving Chelsea and its plethora of interesting characters with a courtesy often lacking in such an up-market part of London.
As you pass the through the fancy old Gentlemen’s Club of a door you are greeted and have a chance to lodge your coat and peruse the menu. It has the way of a very swanky hotel – you can feel the buzz. Then descend down a grand staircase that feels like a liner, into the restaurant, which is large but with many little corners and screens making it very private. They have a short cocktail list, which allowed me to try a variation on a classic – a Ginger Mojito. Very good and less sweet than the usual version, probably the kafir lime leaf that did it, in fact it was very grown up. Which is how this place runs itself. Children and families are more than welcome at lunchtime but in the evening hours it’s grown up time. So, where to begin with this gastronomic journey, to say that the food is wonderful is only half the story. It is wonderful, but the service and attention to detail from all concerned is a pleasure to behold.
We looked at the menu and started to work out what we thought we would enjoy. Then we started to talk to Anindya who was looking after us, he gently moved us away from what we thought we wanted. An experience I’m not used to at all. His charm and gentle nature got the better of us and very quickly we were totally in his hands. I looked around and thought we might be getting special treatment, but no, everywhere I looked the same was happening with other helpful members of staff guiding the diners through their journey. You might think at this point that they were just ‘selling’ the expensive dishes, well no they weren’t. There was so much pride in the way Anindya talked of the food and how fresh and only cooked to order it was that we had to believe him. So we started with Lamb Chops with fresh coriander and chilli, which were pink inside and almost crunchy outside with just a little kick. Safed Murg Tikka was a collection of kebabs infused with coriander shoots, dried fenugreek leaves and cardamom, perfectly cooked melt-in-the-mouth chicken with a sort of butter note that lasted until I had some Crab Cakes with ginger, lime, green chilli and tomato chutney. These were fresh and exhilarating with the lime really dominant. Tokri Chaat was a real talking point – it looked too good to eat, a collection of vegetarian street food in a straw potato basket served with yoghurt and chutneys at £8.75 it was a reasonably priced piece of art.
With the industrious staff busy all around the chef popped over to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. Now in my business this can sometimes be a bit of a problem as they inevitably ask ‘do you like the food I’ve just cooked for you?’ or words to that effect. Well Ajay wanted to know if he could do anything else for us. He knew the food was good, not in an arrogant way, but because he could see empty plates and two people with broad grins on their faces.
The next leg of the journey was to be just as rewarding. Slow Cooked (I did ask – 2 hour marinating and 4-5 hours in a low oven) Salt Marsh Shoulder of Lamb which was in the Rajesthani style smoked with cloves and served with White Pumpkin and Green Beans felt like a classic British roast with a rich gravy, the texture of the meat was divine but it had all the flavour complexities of a well crafted Indian classic. At £20 this was well worth it. The Crispy Jersey Royals tossed in spices made a natural fiery side, brilliant. Some Baby Squid chilli black pepper and fresh herbs had heat and was sweet at the same time. And there was another visual stunner in the form of Macchi Baked Sea bass roasted with almonds and other delights including three types of chilli. A good sized fillet, with a strong crispy topping and beautifully succulent flesh under, an accomplished dish from a talented kitchen.
We had some sweet things as well. Which included Elderflower Jelly, which had fresh summer berries, it had a subtle, almost calming effect, there was superb Chocolate Fondant with a shot of Orange Blossom Lassi on the side – this did not last long. Also of note, a fresh Ginger and Black Pepper Ice Cream, which had just the right amount of pepper to take that sometimes over powering ginger taste into the ice cream parlour. These started at £7 and were of a very high standard.
So our journey came to an end. It seemed as if our tongues had travelled the across the subcontinent over the last few hours and it was time to go through customs and on home. The busy bustle of the King’s Road awaited and as we drove away I began to think of Chutney Mary as a kind of new Rock ‘n’ Roll but of course it isn’t – it’s been here for years.
535 New Kings Road
London SW10 0SZ
Tel: 020 7351 3113