Within a mile radius of Mayfair, eight Michelin-starred Indian restaurants compete for your custom. It’s a peculiar quirk of London’s dining scene, but when it comes to high-end South Asian cuisine where curried dishes are elevated to unimaginable levels, you’re spoilt for choice in this part of town: from the British Raj-inspired Gymkhana, to the sexed-up street-food dishes at Jamavar, to the Indo-British fusion at Benares, the list goes on.
It’s with no small irony, then, that I direct you instead to Indian Accent on Albemarle Street. Opened in December 2017, it’s the newest and most exciting of the lot.
Indian Accent comes off the back of two wildly popular sister restaurants of the same name in New Delhi (opened in 2009 and consistently voted the best restaurant in India) and New York (2016).
Chef-owner Manish Mehrotra is a visionary when it comes to creating dishes that speak profoundly of their origins while also subverting expectations of how Indian food should be eaten. His cuisine has been described as modern by some, and as a fusion with the culinary traditions of the West by others, but neither of these feels quite right. Ask the passionate waiting staff their opinion and they’ll speak warmly of food that invokes childhood memories (bowls of keema and milky desserts like makhan malai are household staples, here reimagined), whereas here I see Mehrotra in conversation with Indian cuisine in a completely different way to his peers.
It all starts with a blue cheese-stuffed naan and a small vial of spiced coconut sipping sauce. It’s the perfect teaser – a heady introduction of pillowy-soft bread, the funk of cheese and a luscious sauce.
Among the wit and ingenuity, it’s easy to miss that just 20% of the menu is comprised of meat dishes, but they’re a worthy addition
The merely excellent is followed by the spectacular: subtly spiced Kashmiri morels (dehydrated during the season in India and brought back to their plump peak during service) are stuffed with more morels, before joining walnut powder and a crispy parmesan papad. Next is a tiny taco-esque phulka adorned with pulled jackfruit. It’s meaty like pulled pork and along with the aforementioned keema curry (here replacing the traditional mince with slow-cooked soybeans) starts a recurring trend of vegetable dishes that satiate any carnivorous appetites.
On the drinks front, more care has been given to a cocktail menu groaning with lightly spiced drinks designed to compliment dishes, while the wine list scans less-typical pairings like our choice of a Viña Gravonia 2007 white from Rioja Alta.
Among the wit and ingenuity, it’s easy to miss that just 20% of the menu is comprised of meat dishes, but they’re a worthy addition: ghee-roasted lamb comes with roomali roti in a clever remix of Chinese crispy duck pancakes.
There are other moments of brilliance in the form of stuffed naans filled with the likes of butter chicken, wild mushroom or (dear God…) smoked bacon. But, strangely, the residing memory is not of flavour assault or over-indulgent richness, but lightness, delicate touches and a spring in the step when it’s time to leave.
Indian Accent is a Michelin star waiting to happen, and in an area of London already flooded with culinary celestials, it manages to shine the brightest.
16 Albemarle Street, Mayfair W1S 4HW; 020 7629 9802; indianaccent.com