Atul Kochhar’s Mathura (Indian) – Westminster, London
THIS PLACE HAS NOW PERMANENTLY CLOSEDHALAL STATUS Halal food menu (exc. game meat; prepped & cooked separately) • Alcohol served
After seeing for ourselves the scale and grandeur of double Michelin Chef Atul Kochhar’s ambitious new restaurant, Mathura, we finally understood why it’s taken as long as it has to come to fruition.
Located in the old Grade-II listed Westminster Fire Station on Greycoat Place, this huge 120-cover venue is a memorable one, with a good portion of the original features therein being incorporated into the current design.
From the brass fire pole located in the main dining hall, to the iconic heritage-listed tiles from when the station was built in 1906, this venue also boasts four distinct dining rooms.
As such, not only is it extremely varied, but as with all Atul Kochhar establishments, there’s also plenty of Halal options, which are prepped and cooked separately from the non-Halal game so as to avoid any cross-contamination.
While there is a large alcohol bar immediately confronting you upon entry, the place itself is so huge that there’s plenty of seating available elsewhere, such as the dining area in the basement called The Chef’s Table.
Having visited Atul’s third London restaurant Masalchi last month, which we rated 4.5/5 (the same as his fine dining place, Kanishka, in Mayfair back in 2019), it’s safe to say that we were looking forward to reviewing the latest project of a talented chef who’s left the controversy he courted before the pandemic well and truly behind him.
This particular dining space situated downstairs is elegantly decorated, with a turquoise colour scheme, period-style ceiling fans, and cosy compartmentalised seating areas that includes a raised platform towards the back.
With views to an open kitchen, the Chef’s table is a large, one piece wooden item, which can comfortably accommodate upto eight guests, and comes complete with a formal tasting menu.
In addition to this and the main dining room on the ground floor, Mathura comprises two other rooms with plenty of history to them: The Watch Room, and The Kushan Dynasty Room.
This is the only standing watch room left in the world. With a fireplace that seats eight comfortably, this unique private room is also the place where Winston Churchill famously told the Fire Station leader to save Westminster Abbey during a WW2 bombing raid “whatever the cost”!
The ‘Afghanistan’ was, as one Lion put it, a “brilliant example of mocktail execution”. Here we had a sparkling, sweet and sour concoction, that concluded with a sharp, zingy kick.
As for its neighbour, ‘Pakistan’, then not only was this a tantilisingly zesty affair, but the use of Seedlip assured that final bitter edge with every given sip.
Whilst the piquancy of the yoghurt gently underscored the smooth and creamy ‘Iran’ lassi, the honey therein came through teasingly, with the saffron being indiscernible.
You might recall that Atul’s award-winning Chicken Tikka Pie served us in Kanishka was so good that it was voted runner-up for our FtLion Awards ‘Best Starter’ in 2019. Fast forward to Mathura, and we get to try his variantly spelled Murgh Tikka Pie.
This golden, saucer-shaped thing of beauty boasted the crumbliest, flakiest pastry casing you could ever hope for, with the fragrant fennel seeds decorating the outside adding to what was a mesmerically spiced chicken mince filling, which we couldn’t get enough of.
And though it did come with a cranberry ketchup, which offered that sour touch, the aromatic interior was so good that we enjoyed it for what it was – a thing of beauty.
Although a medley of flavours and textures were accounted for in the Mathura ki Chaat, what ultimately defined this version, other than the expected refinement of a fine dining establishment, was the latter.
As such, while we all thoroughly enjoyed the textural interplay – ranging from the delicately spiced, round biscuits, to the small and saturated dumpling balls, which went so well with the peculiar white, bao bun-shaped, sugar dough – the tastes and flavours were all conventionally predictable.
Despite one Lion adjudging the steamed halibut to be underseasoned, the other two disagreed, considering the addition of the mustard sauce and the lightly pickled chicory more than sufficient in delivering an aromatic Bengali Bhapa Maccher Paturi.
There was no disputing the faultless execution of the translucent fish, however, which came away in tender chunks at the merest touch.RECOMMENDED
The Awadhi Gucchi was arguably the surprise package when it came to the savoury part of the à la carte menu. This attractive looking dish took us on an undulating ride across the umami landscape.
While the morels stuffed with paneer cream worked in tandem with both the dark and creamy-smooth puree, as well as what appeared to be pickled enoki mushrooms, to deliver the earthy with the nutty and mellow sweet, a positively saturated, soft and tender portobello mushroom helped cut through the richness. Stunning!
A tour de force is how we would describe Mathura’s tandoor-grilled Persian Kebabs, with enough elements to carry diners on a journey of exploration across a large platter ensuring exciting taste sensations, spices, flavours, textures, and more.
With the quality of the meat doing most of the talking, the gorgeously charred and incredibly tender lamb chops (chopan) was the highlight here, with its sexy pink interior having one Lion declaring it to be “the best I’ve had”.
Flavour-wise, while the koobideh kebab was spiced to a tee, with just that perfect smoky edge, it was a touch on the dry side. And though the spices of the remaining two kebabs, both the torsh and the jujeh, were again expertly judged, on this occasion, they could have done with being more broiled so as to properly impart that distinct smokiness.
There was then the ying to the yang, with the aromatic dolma – lightly pungent grapevine leaves stuffed with fragrant rice – leading the way.
But it was the assortment of the pickled vegetables scattered about the place which made this far more memorable than it might otherwise have been. While the crunchiness brought the textural contrast, the acidity helped cut through all that meaty richness while helping to cleanse the palate. We also thoroughly enjoyed the addition of the cucumber-based yoghurt raita with the chewy goji berries therein providing that touch of sweetness.
It won’t be the touch of glitter that’ll live long in the memory as much as the sheer quality of the tender-fatty lamb shank in this Nalli Kosha.
And though we initially thought the small pitcher full of a silky smooth and warmly spiced curry sauce could have had more of a punch to it, its mellowness worked well against the delicately spiced batter of the addictively crispy okra fries, as well as the sweet potato wedge it was paired with.
Here again, the craftsmanship of this Macher Jhol was on point, with the firmer textured turbot (in comparison to the halibot) marrying beautifully with the mustard-infused curry sauce, before being elevated to the next level by the lightly tangy kick of the pickle gooseberry achar.
Although this plate didn’t quite reflect what the menu promised, there was no denying the excellence of both the utterly succulent “corn-fed poussin” and its rich, thick and velvety smooth, tomato based curry sauce.
With such exquisite charring on the outside, the spicy and the smoky jointly came together to help drive this dish most of the way.
And yet, we couldn’t help but wonder how much better this Murgh Musallam would have been had it been paired with the intended braised plum tomatoes, which we suspect would have helped cut through that spiciness, rather than the pointless trio of hard boiled quail eggs.
This lentil dish was the only one named after the restaurant and designated as a signature. But quite to our surprise, the Mathura Signature Dal Bukhara was the most confusing of all the items had.
For one, whilst its consistency was faultless, displaying all the features of a slow cooked lentil, in terms of flavour, it was surprisingly underwhelming, with barely any heat or spice to speak of. To describe this in short would be to call it simply an earthy flavoured affair. Like we said, confusing.RECOMMENDED
This full-flavoured bowl of Kashmiri dum-cooked potatoes, on the other hand, was the complete opposite, with its piquant tomato-based curry offering sufficient heat to make this Dum Olav one of the surprise packages of this entire review.
Not quite in the same league as the standard set by Hankies way back in 2018. This Rumali Roti didn’t quite achieve the enjoyable chewiness.
With pomegrantes and goji berries thrown in, this was decent steamed rice.
This herbaceous Salaateh Afghani was perfectly good.
However, these naans weren’t as fluffy and crispy as we’d have liked.
DESSERTS & TEA
First up, the pastry chef behind the desserts at Mathura is actually the same chef behind the sweet treats at fine dining establishment, Kanishka, in Mayfair: Joe Anthony Fernandes.RECOMMENDED
This unique take on the traditional Rajasthani dessert known as Ghewar was quite something.
What was even better was the way in which the smooth scoop of pistachio ice cream, encircled by relatively firmer globules of lime flavoured curd, combined with this plate’s essential element – a delicate and uber crunchy disc of lightly sweetened batter.RECOMMENDED
A pair of perfectly executed cannoli sugar cones, filled with dark chocolate and delivering on the light aftertaste of orange, were carefully perched atop a thick disc of set ganache that was beautifully smooth and luxurious.
And while a rocher of ice cream on a soil bed accounted for more chocolate elements, including a tall shard with gold leaf for a flag, there was also thimble shaped baked cream, as well as some pistachio soil to boot.RECOMMENDED
At the heart of this superbly constructed Coconut was two challenging elements, which, we quickly discovered, required plenty of the delicious coconut ice cream to fully appreciate.
The first was a relatively dry coconut bar, which turned out firmer than we’d have preferred, along with a white, oblong shaped sponge cake which, according to the menu at least, was presumably flavoured by lemon grass.
In any case, there were other bits and pieces that made up the exploratory nature of this dessert, including concentrated cubes of pineapple gel and dried pineapple crisps, as well as intensely flavoured droplets of lime and strawberry scattered about. Finally, a sugary piece of white candy called batasha completed this plate.
Despite the obvious effort, the signature Mathura Mithai, which was an attempt at a clever interpretation of classic Indian desserts, simply failed to live up to the high standard set by its European counterparts.
While this was again a medley of odds and ends, it didn’t quite cohere as a single dish to elicit the excitement of the Coconut.
Hence, the thick, dense, orange tubular pieces of jalebi, though sticky enough, just didn’t have the freshness one would desire.
As for the cream coloured Sarpuria buttons, then these had a barfi-like texture, with a mildly sweet flavour that was pleasant enough.
The peculiarly textured Mawa Potol, which is a famous sweet in Kolkata, was a first for all three of us. The green casing on the outside was gelatinous in nature, with a gentle citrusy flavour akin to apple. It was filled with a type of textured halwa that contrasted nicely. Overall, it was interesting without being anything memorable.
And finally, once we were done with the enjoyable shards of Til Chikki, which is sesame seeds combined into a chewy bar using jaggery, we weren’t going to be leaving until we’d had a soothingly good Masala Chai, which in this case was full of the good stuff.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
As you can imagine, we were expecting big things from a restaurant as magnificent as Mathura; and we weren't left disappointed. As per usual, some of the dishes we had the pleasure of trying at The Chef's Table didn't just have Atul's mastery of spices indelibly stamped all over them, but will live long in the memory. It probably also goes without saying that some may again be shortlisted for this year's #FtLionAwards taking place throughout all of next month.
It should also be noted that the restaurant does charge a 12.5% service charge.
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