Ooty (South Indian) – Baker Street, LondonAdvertisement
Vannakam (‘welcome’ in Tamil) to our review of Ooty – a fine dining restaurant on London’s Baker Street, that’s been named after the idyllic resort town of Udhagamandalam in the state of Tamil Nadu, and specialises in serving the unique cuisine of Southern India.
In fact, according to its website: “The menu features delicacies… that have been carefully crafted to retain their authenticity… [and] give you an experience of South Indian cuisine in a way London has never seen before.”
The menu has been created by talented head chef, Manmeet Singh Bali, who trained with the prestigious Taj Group of hotels before moving to the UK and eventually securing the position of head chef at Vineet Bhatia’s Michelin restaurants Rasoi and VBL (Vineet Bhatia London).
Having opened earlier this year in February, Ooty is thus relatively new with enough floor space to have been divided into three main sections:
- An 80-cover main dining room, with a high ceiling that gives a great feeling of space, spaciously set tables, and those increasingly popular Instagram-friendly plant walls.
- A private room called the ‘Ooty Club’, that can accommodate for around 50 downstairs (available for a minimum spend of around £1500, with only canapés served).
- And ‘Ooty Station’ – the establishment’s all-day alcohol bar that’s conveniently located entirely separately from the dining room, with its main entrance accessible from the rear of the building.
It was annoying to add Ooty to that unenviable list of fine dining restaurants whose non-alcoholic beverages fail to live up to the sophistication they evidently betray on paper.
Hence, while the dominant flavour of the smooth Masala Chai Martini was its gentle spices, there wasn’t much else to speak of thereafter.
Despite the bergamot and lemon in the smartly presented Jumbo combining somewhat of a mildly tangy sensation, this simply lacked the strength and layers of flavours we were expecting.
As for the Silver Tip Sling put together by the mixologist, then it turned out to be an insipid affair and quite disappointing.
Chef Bali was keen to showcase a few items from the restaurant’s canapé section; and we’re glad he did too, because all three were unbelievably good.
Canapés are available on request and range from between £3.50 to £4.50 each.
Who needs to worry about the quality of the aforementioned beverages when you can experience the soothing warmth of these Pea Green Cappuccinos?
That initial spicy kick ought to be enough in hooking you in and having you fully focused on the enjoyment of this smooth and creamy soup. You’ll find the heat gradually building with every sip before lingering pleasantly at the back of the palate. We only wish there was more, especially on these cold evenings!
This appears to be Ooty’s take on deep fried battered fish made by Kolis, or fishermen, and found at places in India called Koliwadas.
And these were superb, with soft portions of moist fish encased in delicate parcels of crispy goodness. You could sit there eating a dozen of these light and addictive mouthfuls and ask for a dozen more!
These smartly presented and dainty avocado cream cones were filled with finely diced onions that made up a chutni mixture spiced just enough to offer some subtle heat. Quite unique and delicious.
This Kid Goat Sukka was really enjoyable, with the runny yolk of a perfectly cooked duck egg imparting not just an earthy metallic richness to the ultra-soft chunks of gently spiced meat beneath, but also making each mouthful so much more than what it would have been otherwise.
To make things even more interesting, add a few good spoonfuls of the lentil sambhar to really enjoy the subtle textural contrast of the curry mixture and the lightly crisped vegetable uttappam at the bottom for a truly luxurious plate of food.
What made this such an intriguing and divisive dish is the pairing of scallops with a sweet macaroon.
And though one Lion actually enjoyed what was the peculiar marriage between a trio of dreamily tender scallops drizzled in a warm and spicy tomato sauce, which had nicely soaked into a porous segment of bread underneath, and a chewy crab-filled macaroon tilted upright on a bed of salty-cum-chilli textured jam, the other two Lions found the combo too experimental for their liking.
The good news is that we were presented with two glistening fillets of Yellow Chilli and Mustard Salmon which, we knew even before cutting into, had been judged with absolute precision.
Just have a look at the video above and you’ll see how these came apart at the merest touch to reveal utterly divine pieces of moist, flaky meat.
With a light and smoky curry flavour, we thoroughly enjoyed the zingy notes from the colourful smears and globules across the plate, as well as the smoothly textured rocher of burani yoghurt on the side.
What frustrated us even further, was the way in which the richness of the chestnut and sundried tomato stuffing, which, despite also being quite chalky in texture, had a sour-spicy kick to it that combined so effortlessly with the mild bittersweetness of the tarragon tomato sauce.
Otherwise, the rest of the elements, including the bed of couscous, were done well enough; such a pity about that chicken though.
People who follow us will know that nothing impresses us more, given the difficulty factor in executing these intricate rice dishes, than when Indo-Pak restaurants put out a well executed biryani.
Ooty’s Hyderabadi Dum Gosht Biryani was a tremendous one! Not quite the best we’ve had this year (that distinction belongs to Patri’s Thumka, which won our Best Main of 2019 award), but only because the lamb erred just that slightly on the dry side.
Nonetheless, when it came down to the ebb and flow of the spices and herbs of a classically made one, then there was very little, if anything, to fault here. Layers of mellow spicy paste enveloped soft lamb, and whose gentle heat was tempered by this small pot of thick, rich cucumber yoghurt. As for the mirch salan, then although we found this lightly spiced curry sauce to be somewhat superfluous, it will provide some lubrication if needed.
There’s something exciting about opening up a tiffin box to reveal the goodies therein, isn’t there? This triple-tiered one consisted of a prawn curry, idiyappam, and a green mango kale.
The coconut-based prawn curry was incredible, turning out rich and creamy, with the crustaceans retaining that touch of chewiness in ones cooked spot on. While the fried kale leaves were more a garnish that offered a little textural contrast, we did find that mixing in a touch of the accompanying green mango paste followed by a good squeeze of the lime helped in countering both the sweet spiciness of the curry and giving the entire dish a little kick.
As for the idiyappam, which were mounds of soft, thin rice noodles, then this was certainly something different to the typical pairing of rice.
FROM THE GRIDDLE
“Who has the chance of trying Masala Dosas at a fine dining restaurant?” is the rhetorical question that prompted us to give both their Classic and Eral Poriyal dosas a try.
Glad we did too, because the quality of the pancakes were evidently better than the ones we’ve had at any local joint. Light and delicately crispy, the Classic contained mustard tempered crushed potato, whose mild nature was preferred by the two Lions, whilst the remaining Lion preferred the subtle seafood taste of the stir-fried gunpowder shrimp dosa.
We had no complaints with these simple, yet satisfying dishes. But, at £12 each?! Well, that’s fine dining for you!
This Vegetable Thoran may, at first appearance, come across as something rudimentary; but don’t let appearances deceive you. With the thin strips of coconut, mustard seeds and a sour dressing coming together to coat what was an al dente veggie mixture of baby corn, snow peas and flash fried broccoli – all crunchy and quite addictive – this was an exceptional little side.
The first thing to come through in this creamy and luxurious Tadka Daal was the aromatic taste of the garlic, which then gave way to the slow build up of heat that lingered soothingly in the background.
What more could anyone ask for in any Parotta than the enjoyment of light and crispy, buttery soft layers with each and every bite? These are some of the best we’ve had anywhere!
Can you imagine our excitement on being presented a dessert so precisely set and so visually appealing? Alas, this was more style over substance!
Fortunately, the best part about this plate was the carrot fudge cake, which though crumbly, erred slightly on dry side, with the semi-crispy carrot twiglets, carefully positioned on top and dusted with plenty of icing sugar, only nominally successful in helping to enhance the subtle flavour of the carrot.
As for the cubes of panna cotta, then the taste of carrot therein was barely discernible, with the cashew shards of sugar offering a little nibble and nothing more. The worst part about this plate, however, was the orange swirl, which, given its peculiar rubbery texture, could only have been for aesthetic purposes.
Following the above, we approached this Anjeer Kulfi, in spite of the fancy looking dome this was presented in, with some hesitancy.
Sadly, this was the weakest of three desserts tried, with the small brick of dry and crusty brownie serving as a stick holder more than anything else. As for the trio of desserts perched on top, then while the kulfi ice cream was slightly on the icy side, the lime flavoured macaroon erred on the sugary rather than the soft and chewy, with the jelly square not bringing anything by way of excitement.
There was even three edible imitation stones topped with green leaves included as part of the presentation; but, who on earth was going to sit there sucking on those? Not us!
Easily the best part of our entire dessert experience was the blood orange sorbet quenelle in this Hazelnut Chocolate Ceps, whose fruity-sharp edge helped cut through all that white and milky chocolate courtesy of the mushroom-shaped centrepiece and its soil.
Regarding the tiny white meringue droplets, then again, nothing more than a sugary affair, with some fresh berries added for colour. Average at best, we’d say!
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
- PRIVATE ROOM
A warm and welcoming person, Chef Bali opened our review with a trio of canapés that not only made up for our initial disappointment with the drinks, but reinvigorated us for the next course, which certainly didn't disappoint. And though the mains were, by and large, good, with the biryani really impressing, it was the good-looking desserts that ultimately failed to live up to the high expectations set by what preceded them.
Nevertheless, there was more than enough really well executed plates to warrant a visit to Ooty, especially if you're looking for fine dining food inspired by the flavours of Tamil Nadu.
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