Fancy a little trip to India? Find yourself instantly transported via Tamarind Kitchen, a restaurant come portal to India: go from bustling Soho London street to a calming and exotic Indian oasis just by walking through Tamarind Kitchen’s door.
When I heard that world-famous Tamarind restaurant was launching a new dining concept in Soho, I had to experience it for myself. Sure enough, on entering the brand new restaurant it was like stepping out in India on the other side. A fog of musky incense fills your nostrils whilst Indian instrumental background music fills the air, and you’re greeted by eager-to-please staff who immediately guide you into the already-popular restaurant. It’s only been open for a matter of weeks and already every seat was taken. Which is unsurprising really, seeing how the original Tamarind was the world’s first Michelin-starred Indian restaurant.
Set in the middle of Soho, Tamarind Kitchen is like the less-formal and more affordable little sister of their Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant. They’ve thrown off the starched tablecloths in favour for more rustic marble tables and have swapped stiff fine-dining for relaxed, convivial dining with Indian sharing plates. Not that you’ll want to do any sharing.
The interiors (designed by Russell Sage Studios) create a rather sexy atmosphere, with flattering lighting and low-lit corners, whilst intricately carved dark wood panelling help create an almost den-like atmosphere.
We nestled in to one of the elevated booths at the rear, and ordered a couple of mango cocktails – highly addictive, they disappeared down our throats like fresh mango smoothies.
Deciding on the food was near impossible – everything sounded so delicious and exotic, we wanted to try it all. The menu featured an array of fish, meat, game and vegetarian dishes — many of which are fresh from the kitchen’s authentic Tandoor oven. In the end I was swayed by the soft-shell crab; something I’ve always wanted to try. We also ordered a few sharing plates, and some poppadoms with a trio of dipping sauces to come whilst we wait.
We lapped up the trio of spicy sauces with the crispy poppadoms, and no sooner had we reached the last poppadom when the soft-shell crab arrived.
The crab was relatively spicy, and with a padron pepper garnish, but the spices didn’t drown the subtle crab flavours.
It was gone in a flash and only fuelled my appetite for our main of curry sauces, rice, yoghurt raita and naan. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs, as our table was taken over by pots, pans and bowls.
The curry was fairly mild, but the raita was still very welcome for soothing tingling mouths, and the doughy naan was a magnet to the sauce. Somehow we managed to finish every last morsel, wiping our plates clean with the last scraps of naan.
Having already unbuttoned my jeans, I refused the dessert menu but I was persuaded by the waitress to at least give it a glance. We ordered a mango crème brûlée and pistachio ice cream.
The brûlée was crisp and caremlised on top, revealing a creamy mango mousse underneath, and the pistacchio ice cream was a perfectly light and refreshing way to end the meal.
With a central location, buzzing atmosphere, irresistible food, sultry interiors and very flattering light, it’s the perfect date-night restaurant, and a great spot for indulging with friends.