Michelin-starred and South Indian
If the dubiously awarded Michelin star system is anything to go by, then it is clear that Indian cuisine seems to lag behind all others. In London at least, there are only a handful of Indian restaurants graced with this distinction. One of them includes Quilon, which has retained its single star since 2008 under the direction of head chef Sriram Aylur.
Quilon creates a taste of Southern Indian cuisine, picking up traditional dishes from along the Keralan coast. The most familiar of these will possibly be the masala dosa, the Quilon variety served as a sweet miniature version with a moist potato masala.
Being that this is coastal cuisine, fish and molluscs are well represented here. Grilled scallops are textbook – charred ends provide a thin crunch under which lies the delicate internal mass. This classic is sunned up to exude Eastern heat with dollops of mango and chili relish – and all the better for it.
From the mains, lobster is especially striking and worth the £36 price tag. The de-shelled flesh is covered in a sizzling and creamy sauce, delicately seasoned to accent the quality of the fish. It is cooked to a buttery consistency and melts unwittingly when eaten. Savour every velvety mouthful; this is a dish prone to be shared whether it was ordered that way or not.
A hulking bone of slow cooked lamb shank is bathed in a glistening sauce. Here is where the depth is; cumin and coriander, chili and pepper, tomato and fragrant garlic. The ingredients stirred with heat until they lose themselves in a single fluid phase; the fully reduced curry spun into a rich masala and married to the tender lamb.
The cocktails at Quilon are fanciful creations of the newly opened Q bar, the favourite’s being a beachy Saketine (sake, lychee, vodka and grenadine) and the Hibiscane (hibiscus, rose, champagne).
Spiced masala chai, heavy with the festive aroma of ground cardamom and redolent of the East, will festoon the move into dessert. The most traditional of the sweets is the Bibinca and Dodhol – a jaggery based creation with the texture closest to saturated pancake (although much better than the weak comparison allows) sliced and spread with chocolate.
Quilon offers a different kind of Indian cuisine; one that is wrought with surprises and conjured with a deft hand. The prices here can be steep (upwards of £55 per person), as is the expectation of a hotel restaurant located in the St James area, and the portion sizes are haphazard. Whilst mains of lamb shank and lobster are generously sized, the stuffed quails legs are two petit pieces with smears of masala – so tread carefully when ordering.
If you have the means to enjoy the offerings at Quilon, then I can only recommend that you do.
I was invited to review Quilon
Tube: St James Park