There are certain parts of London that continue to surprise me. Away from the retail bustle of Kensington High St there is an unexpectedly idiosyncratic posh urban village of smart flats, houses and mews and tucked away amongst the restrained elegance is Chakra, a prizewinning Indian restaurant. Chakra won Best Indian Restaurant of the Year 2014 at the Asian Business Awards, Top 11 Best Indian Restaurants in the UK 2013 – Tatler Restaurant Guide and the Best New Indian Restaurant in London 2012 -at the British Curry Awards, so clearly has some form. The restaurant has a thriving takeaway and outside catering business, a sector in which they are a major player, so I was astonished on arrival at the restaurant to see its scale as Chakra is the epitome of the small local restaurant. The interior is comfortable, smart and intimate and offers a neutral background for the food to shine rather than overwhelming it. The menu has a focus on dishes based on the traditions of the Royal Maharajah Kitchen ‘inspired by traditional recipes from Punjab and the Northwest Frontier.’ I have been invited to review and am fascinated to see if the gentility of the surroundings has crossed over to the food.First up were some crisp mini-Poppadums with the sweet-sour tang of tamarind pickle to get the gastric juices flowing. I drank a mango lassi (£6) which was thick and sweet and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc Pays d’Oc (£5.50) from Domaine Bergon which was grassy with a well-balanced acidity.Crispy avocado spheres came with a micro-curry leaf perched on top and a smear of tamarind chutney (£10.50). The outside had the kind of crunch I associate with Japanese Panko breadcrumbs with the interior being a deliciously mildly spiced and warmed avocado.Grilled chicken breast was surprisingly tender with the spiky heat of yellow chilli being cooled by a mint chutney (£10.95).Black cod was cooked in a clay oven which brought out its natural sweetness with saffron and samphire flavours adding earthiness and salinity (£19.95).Tandoori sea bass (£16.50) had that deep rich tandoori flavour that I crave. The fish had a deliciously charred skin but wasn’t overpowered by the spices.Garlic naan (£2.95) came hot and glistening from the stove and a dish of Basmati rice (£3.95) was beautifully cooked, each grain of the aromatic rice separate from the other. I ate this as a dish in its own right it was so good.Dessert was a trio of Mango kulfi, fresh mango and mango sauce (£5.75) made with top quality Alfonso mangoes which are the sweetest and tastiest.
The menu at Chakra makes innovative use of ingredients and isn’t afraid to venture across food cultures into new territories, with the avocado dish almost seems like the ultimate fusion of Nikkei with Indian. The cooking and spicing has a classical precision without sacrificing flavour. My only caveat would be the lack of vegetables on the menu. With a small terrace it’s perfect for a summer evening’s treat and the soon-to-be-opened basement will be a cosier option in winter. Chakra is well worth a visit if you want to eat refined Indian food in a civilised setting.