Chakra Restaurant (Indian) – Kensington, LondonHALAL STATUS Fully Halal food menu • Alcohol served
Having recently been refurbished by owner and restaurateur Arjun Varma, the place has an outdoor dining area complete with winter heaters for 24 diners.
The term ‘Charkra’ represents the various focal points on the subtle body that are used in a variety of ancient meditation practices from India.
As such, the Chakra symbol serves as a stylish decorative touch across the restaurant including a large, ornate design located on the ceiling indoors, as well as a couple of colourful wall paintings that feature alongside what appear to be jewellery from the time of the Raj.
The restaurant’s white and turquoise colour scheme and low-hanging globe shades all combine to create an intimate setting for a further 20.
In addition, not only does Chakra offer a 30-cover private dining room in the basement, complete with its own mini bar, but has also managed to retain an original breadmaking oven from the Victorian era.
With head chef, Gulrez Iqbal, who originally hails from India’s Lucknow, at the helm, we can confirm that all meat is supplied by Tariq Halal.
We always look forward to a lassi hoping, at the very least, that it’ll have those basic elements covered: rich, luscious and cold, while being strong in its yoghurty consistency.
Both the Masala and Mango versions flattered to deceive. For while they were both nice and thick, they were presented luke cold, with the former strongly flavoured with chaat masala, and the latter barely delivering on the mango.
Hence, although the Fresh Lime Soda Nimbu Paani was, therefore, our choice of beverage, it split the crowd in that one Lion considered it “fairly insipid”, while another found it “very refreshing”, and “sharp and tangy” enough to hit the back of the throat.
But for £6 a pop, we were left underwhelmed by both the size and execution of these drinks.
TO START WITH
The mint was mild with a touch of heat, the cucumber yoghurt satisfyingly salty, and the chutni fierce.
As for the Truffle Kulcha, then, sadly, the truffle was barely discernible, and the texture non-crispy.
The smoothness of the avocado filling in this paani puri was novel and worked really well against the crunchy puffed pastry balls.
And though we enjoyed the way in which its sweetness countered the masala in the shots of water, we felt the latter definitely lacked that oomph.
This Samundari Khazana though was, hands down, the star of the starters, with an assortment of perfectly cooked seafood elements that comprised Atlantic sea scallops, squid and fresh water prawns.
Its secret? The spices used as a rub for each element elevated this entire plate to something far more intriguing than it would have otherwise been.
The chilli-sweet passionfruit chutney was wonderful, and worked well against the beautifully soft, salty squid, and masala-fied prawns, and the lightly marinated and delicately charred scallops
Sublime and RECOMMENDED all the way!
Another innovative dish that held our attention right down to the last few bits and pieces.
This Murgh Moong Katchumber had most of the textures accounted for, and flavours that oscillated in between the spicy and the sharp courtesy of the small cubes of chicken, moong daal, chickpeas, herbs, and a lightly tangy-sweet mango swirl.
FROM THE TANDOOR - CLAY OVEN
It was all about the quality and cooking of these absolutely tender and succulent pieces of tandoor-cooked Mirchi Murgh Tikka pieces.
Gently marinated with that gorgeous hint of smokiness, this was a generous dish with the spices finely judged.
What made these kebabs was, indeed, the “aromatic garam masala”, which was strong, with solid heat offset by the clever crunch of the coriander seeds therein.
The kebab itself was perfectly tandoored, with a touch of smokiness to it, and soft to the bite. Absolute triumph, and as one Lion put it, “Simply the best seekh this year!”
A pousson done right is a thing of beauty. This was almost there.
While a touch dry, this little bird, delicately marinated as it was, retained enough softness, coupled with some good charring, to make this a pleasant enough eat, but without being anything spectacular.
A monk fish done right is a thing of beauty. This was a thing of beauty!
Given the freshness and quality of the product, it was expertly judged in terms of the cooking, with a tender give to it, and just a hint of marination. Superb!
We’re still trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that compels us to give most subcontinental restaurant biryanis, especially the higher end ones, a go, despite experience informing us that these notoriously difficult dishes often flatter to deceive.
This one came with a tiny bowl of salty cucumber raita, which just wasn’t enough, since it turned out to be the catalyst that ultimately lifted this otherwise fragrant and lightly spiced biryani, with a touch of heat and relatively tender pieces of lamb, from something decent to something good enough to prompt one Lion towards recommending said biryani.
The Lamb Rogan Josh is Chakra’s signature dish, and one that succeeded in delivering a creamy, slightly tangy-cum-gently spiced curry sauce, with soft and tender pieces of lamb, and which went perfectly with the pilau rice below.
This was one of the best Jalandhar Chicken dishes we’ve had! And while this was slightly sweeter than most, it was this crucial detail, expertly balanced by the spices therein, that made it such an enjoyable eat.
The curry was rich, smooth and creamy, and the chicken wonderfully cooked. RECOMMENDED ALL THE WAY!
That assam tea certainly came through well, marrying so well with the channa masala, which lingers pleasantly on the palate.
There’s plenty of sauce; the composition of the Chakra Channa finely balanced; a really good one.
Of the two non-veggies though, perhaps this Baingan Ka Bharta pipped it for us, but only just.
What we enjoyed about this dainty bowl of smooth-textured aubergine curry was not just the slight textural contrast of the diced onions therein, but also the gradual build up of heat which might, for some at least, prompt you to reach for the water glass.
It might be an idea to request the aforementioned raita to help temper said spiciness.
Nothing wrong with this generous bowl of Pilau Rice.
Fragrant, unbroken, long grain, aromatic rice, with a touch of a bite to ’em.
Four slices of crispy naan with only a hint of the garlic coming through.
Well risen and crispy pieces of quartered plain naan. Can’t go wrong with these.
This has to be up there with one of the best Rasmalais we’ve ever had!
What made Charka’s stand out from the countless many we’ve collectively tried over the decades is two crucial factors:
- Texture of the ball.
- Balance of the milky infusion.
With a spongy softness that neither erred towards the gelatinous nor towards the crumbly, and with the perfect level of porousness, the former was utterly gorgeous, and positively saturated in a masterfully made sweet milk flavoured by a touch of rose water.
This Mango Kulfi though was adjudged to be on the other side of the spectrum.
Essentially a kulfi pop ice cream-on-a-stick, which was drizzled in a mango sauce and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Ergo, weakest dish of the review!
Although the presentation was much to be desired, it certainly tasted better.
A warm, chocolatey cake, which was a tad on the dry side and bordered more on the flaky and crumbly than the soft and fudgey. With a dollop of red current, masala jam, and a rather extraneous and icy ice cream, this didn’t impress.
With the desserts turning out to be a hit and miss affair, this “karak”, or strongly brewed, cardamom-infused Masala tea, with the strong sweetness of the boiled condensed milk adding to the richness, really hit the spot satisfyingly.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
Having said that though, while there were one or two dishes which we believe will probably be in the running for our end of year awards, the beverages simply didn't do justice to the place.
What really impressed us though in general were the tandoor dishes, so be sure to give these a go.
And stay tuned with us regarding news of a new Chakra restaurant opening in Kingston very soon.
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