Masalchi by Atul Kochhar (Indian) – Wembley Park, LondonHALAL STATUS Fully Halal food menu • Alcohol served
If there’s a restaurateur in London who’s absolutely flying this year, it has to be double Michelin chef Atul Kochhar.
Having finally opened the old grade II listed Westminster Fire Station as Mathura last week, he’s only this week launched the equally big Masalchi in Wembley Park.
In addition to the imminent publication of yet another recipe book, not only is he opening Halal-friendly Riwaz in Buckinghamshire’s market town of Beaconsfield in November, but already has another site secured in The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, for opening in early 2022.
As for Masalchi, then besides the obvious footfall assured by the entertainment park’s hustle and bustle, this smart, 120-cover venue combines plenty of open light with a gold, silver and bronze colour scheme to deliver a relaxed atmosphere.
The cuisine is unlike any that Atul has presented before, with a pan-Indian menu featuring “dishes discovered by Kochhar at provincial markets during his back-street travels and street food experiences”.
Despite having gone through so much turmoil, both personal and professional, following his regretful mistake before the pandemic, a contrite Atul has since let his food do the talking.
The last time we visited his restaurant was back in 2019, where the spice master’s Kanishka in Mayfair wasn’t just rated 4.5/5, but his Naga Scallops went on to win the #FtLionAwards Best Seafood dish of the year.
Of the trio of mocktails available, both the Berry Delight and the Chilli Mango Virgin Mojito were more of a standard variety.
And while the chilli barely registered in the latter, it was certainly there in the intriguing Kaala Khatta which, given its thicker consistency, appeared to be Masalchi’s take on a bloody mary.
This certainly was a Punjabi Samosa alright, with that quintessential light and crumbly pastry encasing stuffed with a herbaceous potato-based filling.
What separates Atul’s version though is that mastery of spices, where the chickpea masala curry allows for the heat to linger pleasantly on the palate.RECOMMENDED
Boasting a delicately crispy exterior, it was the combination of the mint chutney along with the spicious and relatively firm interior of the thick patty that made this such a delicious eat.
Despite the rustic nature of the bun, which appeared to represent the street food quality of the sandwich, we’re actually going so far as to recommend this.RECOMMENDED
Our pick of the small plates though has to be this extraordinarily tasty Chukunder Chaap, whose meaty-textured croquette, while delivering on the earthy-sweetness of the beetroot, was elevated by the rich sweetness of the vibrant, burgundy-coloured sauce.
Another Indian street food staple is the Chicken 65, which in this case came as small nuggets of spicy goodness, with a crispy-cum-crunchy batter. Plenty addictive this one!
They may have been small in stature, but these Ambasari Jhinga packed a punch when it came to flavour, with a lightly tangy and spicy profile enhanced by the mint chutney.
We won’t be forgetting the deep smoky aroma that defined this Miyaji Sheekhwale. In addition to being expertly spiced, these kebabs boasted that perfect balance between tender softness and chewy goodness. Masterfully done.
Such exquisitely executed portions of chicken are hard to come by when eating out. Kudos again to the one manning the tandoor, for this deftly-spiced Masalchi Teekha was served uber moist on the inside, with enough charring to ensure that the concomitant coriander dip played its contrastive part.
An intriguing dish this Phalwala Paneer Tikka, which, in the end, turned out to be the most challenging of the evening.
Despite the paneer being enveloped in a masala coating, it required both the light tartness of the glazed apple, and the sour tinge of the firmer-textured starfruit, to bring some meaning to this otherwise subtly-flavoured plate.
HANDI MASALA KALIA
There’s half a dozen choices in this section of the menu with each one as mouthwatering as the next.
In this case, we started with the classic, tomato-based Chicken Makhan Palak, with all the familiar traits that characterise a well made butter chicken being accounted for here.
Lots of cream and butter, as well as enough heat, made this a satisfyingly good dish to order.
Of course, be sure to order a portion of either Plain or Pilau Rice, or some Tandoori Roti to really tuck into this luxurious curry.RECOMMENDED
This mellow spiced Machhi Masala was the best of the curries though. What made it stand out from the crowd was the light piquancy of the beautifully textured sauce, which allowed for the delicate flakes of fish to be thoroughly enjoyed.
There was something both homely and somewhat refined about this Mutton Keema Aloo. While again exemplifying Atul’s ability at balancing out those spices, this seemingly simple, yet comforting, dish allowed for the quality of the mince to do the talking.Advertisement Advertisement
We’ve had a lot of biryanis in our time; and while there have been some outstanding lamb versions enjoyed, its chicken counterpart has, more often than not, always paled in significance.
Not in the case of Atul’s Chicken Hyderabadi Biriyani though, which was ultimately driven by some uniquely aromatic and herbaceous flavours.
Being superbly moist, with the poultry as tender as you’d want, this is currently the forerunner when it comes to biryanis reviewed this year.
Although this Gosht Aur Kathal Biriyani would have been the star of the show on any other occasion, this time round, however, and despite a valiant attempt, this gorgeous bowl of spicious rice and lamb topped with fried onions was simply outclassed by the above.
In spite of the attempt at making available a veggie-based option, this Kathal Makhana Biriyani didn’t quite do it for us.
While the biryani itself was perfectly acceptable in terms of spice, the jackfruit didn’t really bring much to the party. Worse still, the lotus seeds themselves were so chewy as to be virtually inedible.
Thanks to a strong tempering process, which assured a strong foundation and sufficient heat, this Pili Daal punched way above its humble stature. Honestly; this was one of the best daals had in a long time!
If you enjoy mangoes, then the Aam ki Kulfi should be your dessert of choice. The addition of freshly diced mango in a sweet mango coulis equated to an effective palate-cleanser following a spice-laden meal.RECOMMENDED
There’s gulab jamuns and then there’s Masalchi’s Gulab Jamun. This delicately tender ball of saturated goodness was served warm, and was infused in a soothing orange and rose syrup concoction, which we couldn’t get enough of. One of the best!
Evidently out of the chiller, this Chocolate Mousse was, thus, presented a touch on the firmer side. Nevertheless, there was no denying its dark chocolatey decadence, whose accompanying slices of strawberry helped cut through all that yummy richness.
With the flavour of carrot meandering through lightly, this reasonably good Gajar ka Halwa was moist and flaky in texture and presented warm.
Bringing the candy-like grilled pineapple together with the contrasting flavours of the blackberry and strawberry segments, as well as the mellow taste of the coconut sorbet, made for delicious mouthfuls.
In the end, there was nothing better than ordering a pot of masala chai to wash down those spices while reflecting over another Atul Kochhar-inspired menu.
- YES/ NO
- DISABLED FACILITIES
- CHILD SEATING
Fast forward to 2021 and a very different hospitality scene, and Masalchi appears to be Atul's adaptation to the changing clime. This isn't so much fancy Michelin food as it is refined comfort street food.
Without being punchy and racy, or timid and shy, the dishes here are so well balanced that not only do they further underscore Atul's mastery of Indian spices, but they'll likely succeed in appealing to broader palate too. Therein lies the secret behind the 4.5/5 rating of this impressive new establishment.
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