There are only six Michelin Star Indian restaurants in London right now - a number which i expected to be a lot larger. I guess the main reason for there not being so many is because both service, and decor are sometimes not at the forefront of an Indian restaurants mind. Some however, like Quilon know that Indian food deserves this kind of environment and attention to detail. I’d been meaning to try it for some while so we decided to go along one saturday and try out their incredibly good value for money set lunch deal. A piggy bank savings worth of £24 will get you three courses, poppadoms and chutneys, amuse bouche, petit fours and a coffee of your choice. I don't even know how they manage to make any money - by the time we'd left i felt feeling though i had robbed them.
Head chef Sriram Aylur grew up on the south-west coastal area of India, a mecca for fragrant seafood dishes. Watching his father cooking in the family restaurant as a young boy made Sriram fall in love with food which eventually left him travelling across the globe cooking in some of the most prestigious restaurants, palaces and private events. It wasn't until 1999 when Siram opened Quilon and in 2008 gaining its first Michelin Star - which it has kept hold of ever since.
Walking in to Quilon was like walking into an oasis, neutral warm colours, no lingering heavy smell of spices but instead a fresh zestiness in the air and not to mention the incredibly friendly staff. We took our seat, ordered our wine and were handed some tiny poppadoms (just the right size to put in your mouth all at once) and an array of chutney, yogurt sauces and chili oil sauce dips - they were the best accompaniments i've had in an Indian restaurant to date.
For a set lunch menu there was a huge choice to pick from. First was the pepper shrimps, battered and fried then cooked in what the menu said was a fiery masala. Luckily everything here is cooked to a medium spice so not to blow your face off, if you'd like it hotter then just ask. The prawns were large, succulent, covered in a lovely crunchy batter. The light covering of masala sauce was the real winner with a lovely deep flavour and strong chilli flavour - but without the intense heat.
Cauliflower chilli fry was again battered and fried with spices, and tossed with yoghurt, green chilli and curry leaves. It was full of flavour, crunchy and juicy at the same time and the level of spice was just perfect - cauliflower chilli fry and good rom-com on the sofa could definitely keep me happy.
First of the main dishes out was the Quilon fish curry. Succulent cubes of halibut simmered in a elegant and smooth coconut, chilli and mango sauce. I talked recently about a similar dish i had at Dockmaster's House and how refined the sauce was - Quillon take it to another level - every mouthful had me licking the back of my fork clean. Again the spice level was perfect and so was the combination of flavours. The Malabar paratha for lapping up the sauce was just as good, smothered in ghee and a sin for eating.
I never used to order much biryani in the past, mainly because it's never done well. Here the Malabar lamb biryani is cooked in a sealed pot with a traditional Malabar spice blend and basmati rice. The moment this dish arrived on the table you could immediately smell its potent aroma. Separated grains of white fluffy rice, almost bordering a description of being ‘juicy’ a word i never thought i'd describe rice. The lamb was full flavoured and tender (though there wasn't much of it) and everything i could smell came through strongly on the palate. The spiced yoghurt for pouring over was very, very addictive. Best biryani to date? Without a doubt - though i want more meat next time.
The staff kindly give us a small portion (which turned out to be huge) of fried okra which was fried and tossed with onions, tomato, roasted spices and crushed cashew nuts which really made this dish. Those roasted spice gave it a lovely intense and fragrant burnt oiliness. The okra were extremely crunchy and great for mixing in with some of that spiced yoghurt and coconut curry that came with the fish.
As i said earlier, the meal was amazing value for money so with all this food we wondered how we could possibly squeeze in dessert at this point. Once they brought us over the sweet menu are fullness suddenly disappeared and appetite swiftly came back. The caramelised banana pudding was like delving into a little puddle of heaven and the soft caramelised pieces of banana on top were a delight. The parfait was just pure indulgence and we were both fighting over it.
Bibinca for dessert was a new experience for me. It's reminiscent to a pancake, but a lot thicker and slightly stodgy. The bibinca is made up of around seven layers, each one cooked individually and then assembled together with layers of chocolate in between. A side of well made vanilla ice cream had a gorgeous texture to it, a nice chewiness.
Sipping on some thick, spiced chai masala tea to finish i quickly realised this is one of the best Indian dining experiences i've had in a while. Trishna for me still comes in slightly above, but Quillon is different and its food unique food so they're hard to compare in that aspect. Quillon’s managed to keep its Michelin star for nearly six years now and i'm not surprised, the food is delicious.