Masala Grill: Rooted To The Spot
In the immortal words of J.R.R Tolkien, deep roots are not reached by the frost, and the site of Chelsea’s very first Indian restaurant may well reap the benefits of its age-old heritage.
Where Chutney Mary once stood, down the gilded stairway, through the richly encrusted décor with the signature central tree remaining sprawls Masala Grill. This is the latest neighbourhood Indian restaurant from the MW Eat Group.
The vegan teetotal guest I picked as my companion for the evening proved a willing accomplice as we navigated the menu putting the manager through his paces on the dietary restrictions. With a cocktail list including chilli spiked Mirchi Martini, and fresh lemon Nimbu Pani Martini, there was plenty to keep those drinking in their spirits.
The very first place to start, shuruwat as we say in Hindi, was with bar snacks. The crispy fried squid, delivered on the lightweight crunch it is beloved for. Starters followed featuring a selection of street food favourites and Mughlai kebabs. Here the yoghurt and chutney coated crispy savoury puris and samosas delivered the prerequisite kick. It was the perfect melange of the tart, chilli and hint of sweetness – the very things that make Indian street food so irresistible.
The main menu is a blend of classic North Indian Frontier food, like Butter Chicken and Saag Gosht, with something a little different thrown in for good measure. The delicately spiced salmon steak coated in honey, dill, mustard oil and chilli provided my guest some welcome respite from the robust street food.
I, meanwhile, maintained my palate with Tandoori oven favourites: succulent Chicken Malai Tikka and the Mixed Grill. To not order the black dal, would have been indecorous. If there is one good measure of an Indian restaurant it is its Dal Makhani. Masala Grill has a Punjabi Black Dal in its midst, a less buttery but just as comforting bowl of lentils for dunking their layered Laccha Paratha. And I would insist you order it.
It was dependable fare, the sort you can count on after a long day’s hard work but with the fanfare and prices of fine dining. The food was served with a smile and the manager full of the warmth you would expect from the manager of your local neighbourhood Indian.
With Vama gone from the Kings Road, something tells me Masala Grill is going to branch into the new hotspot for Chelsea types and the perfect conclusion to a long shopping trip down the Kings Road. That’s if you don’t book its gilded private room for a party first.
Dinner for two, with two cocktails, at £50 per head. Address: 535 King’s Rd, London SW10 0SZ. www.masalagrill.co.