On Wednesday night Alimentum hosted an Indian popup with Cyrus Todiwala OBE, acclaimed chef of Café Spice Namasté.
The evening started with a light summery cocktail using coconut milk, coconut water, rum, gin and bitters and some nibbles from the Alimentum kitchen.
As during the supper clubs, the dining room had been changed into four long communal tables which provided a good opportunity to chat with the other diners. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Cyrus’ wife, Pervin, who shared many an entertaining story about their restaurant and private lives.
Chef Todiwala came out briefly to introduce the dishes we were about to enjoy, promising us it would not necessarily be the Indian food we were used to. On TV, he always seems a little grumpy but he turned out to be really entertaining and it was very obvious that he is very passionate about his food.
Then, the food:
The amuse was a “beetroot Rasum”, a fine, spiced soup with a little kick at the end. Really refreshing while still deep in flavour. A good indication of what was to come.
Then came a baked fillet of haddock on garlic and chilli risotto and a snail mini tartlet. This was an interesting combination, the flaky, perfectly cooked fish with a spiced crust (fragrant but not hot, just a little kick at the end), the soft risotto (more like a rice pudding in texture) and then the more French style snails in garlic. Really enjoyable.
Next up, Maharashtrain style sizzled yoghurt and peanut rice with spiced onion fritters (basically what are called baji in the UK but strictly speaking aren’t, the correct Indian name is different and one I’m not sure how to transliterate). This dish was a wonderful play of various textures from crunchy to soft and back to crunchy again. Again, beautifully spiced but not hot.
Then Tandoori duck sausage (in the front), Denham fallow venison in a trio of anise (the thin slice of meat) and chicken in cream with mace and caradamom. My favourite of these three and if I had to pick one, the favourite item of the meal, was the duck sausage. This was similar in flavour to the duck seekh kebab I had at Trishna but with a more pleasant texture. The venison had good flavour but was a little tough (which might have been due to me being served relatively late, another guest I chatted to later praised its tenderness). The chicken on the other hand was beautifully soft.
The main was curried lamb mince baked with spiced egg, chargrilled celeriac and parsnip puree, seasonal vegetables in coconut. The slab of soft mince was topped with a sort of but not quite omelette-like layer of egg, a combination that worked really well and an idea I want to use in my cooking at some point. The sides were also brilliant, I especially liked the baked quenelles of puree which added a bit of crunch while still being soft inside.
The final was a crème brûlèe flavoured with ginger, cardamom and saffron. Light and a bit runny, nicely flavoured and not too sweet, this was exactly my thing. The chocolate kulfi was also great and a lot less sugary than other kulfis I’ve had.
The flight of wine served with the meal was also excellent and matched the dishes well. My favourite was the Maury Grenat, La Preceptorie, ‘Aurelie’ Languedoc-Rousillon 2010, a strong, dark red, almost like a port.
After this evening, the Spice Cafe is definitely going on my list of restaurants to visit as I want to experience their “endless” tasting menu. They basically will bring you dishes until you beg them to stop which I think is a brilliant concept.