By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Situated towards the less exciting end of the King’s Road, Masala Grill first opened in May, taking over the spot of the now relocated Chutney Mary (now in St. James). Set up by the MW Eat Group, which also works with Michelin-starred Amaya, Veeraswamy, Masala Zone, and the aforementioned Chutney Mary, Masala Grill bridges the gap between the group’s formal and casual outposts. And although the restaurant’s name does sound reminiscent of a local Takeaway (which isn’t helped by the vividly illuminated sign that greets you from about ten doors along the street) the inside is stunning. Upon entry we’re whisked downstairs and seated within the “Conservatory”, a glass-roofed room that’s filled with greenery (including a 35 year old Ficus tree) and low ambient lighting that adds a touch of romance to the atmosphere. Aside from some undesirable clientele that share the space, vociferously discussing extreme wealth, Penthouse problems, and Syrian Refugees, the ambience is very favourable. It’s both casual and understatedly sophisticated, which is accentuated by the warm and hospitable service to accompany.
To start, there’s a focus on Cocktails; a Mango and Passion fruit Mojito and Classic Pimms each provide a refreshing introduction, before our starters arrive. The Veg Samosa Chaat (£6.50) is fine and surprisingly un-greasy, while the Dahi Puri (hollow Biscuits filled with Chickpeas, Mashed Potato, Yoghurt and Chutney) is some of the best that my devout Pakistani friend has ever tasted: high praise, indeed.
The Okra may have been our waiter’s favourite dish, but it certainly isn’t mine. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the taste, or the cooking; but although managing to avoid the sliminess that often surrounds the vegetable, the unpleasant furry texture does cast a shade upon the side. The Duck Breast main (£19.50) is an interesting one, unexpectedly arriving at the table still a little pink, perched upon a bed of Spinach and fried Garlic and coated in a pleasing blend of Mango, Ginger and Red Chilli. A blend of flavours that compliment each other, but seem a little peculiar in this instance. The result, however, is still not unpleasant. Elsewhere, my companion’s Paneer Makhanwalla (£12) features spongy Cheese that acts as a sponge for the Tomato sauce that would benefit from a lot more spice, the Butter Naan (£3) is good, although the Peshwari (£4) both thick and cakey, is the jewel in the crown at Masala Grill.
To finish, a simple Sundae dish filled with fresh Strawberries and topped with Shrikhad (a deliciously thick Indian Yoghurt that boasts tastes of Cardamon, Mango and Lychee) works as a magnificent palate cleanser. A few small quibbles aside, the overall experience at Masala Grill is rather enjoyable; further proof that one should never judge a book by its cover.
Masala Grill can be found at 535 King’s Rd, London, SW10 0SZ.