Following the success of Kutir in Chelsea, Manthan is a brand new restaurant from chef Rohit Ghai and business partner Abhishake Sangwan. Having previously worked in kitchens such as Gymkhana and Jamavar, Rohit Ghai’s return to Mayfair focuses on contemporary Indian sharing plates. Meaning ‘to churn and reflect’, Manthan has particular emphasis on the food of Madyha Pradesh, where the chef grew up, though the menu encompasses a wide range of dishes from across India.
On the opening of Manthan, chef patron Rohit Ghai said: “I’ve never cooked this way before in London – dishes that truly speak to my past, as well as my present. Manthan is a culmination of many years of work and I hope speaks to Londoners as being representative of the comfort food I love from home as well as the food I have made my name cooking here.”
Taking over the former Lucknow 49 site, the new restaurant space has been redesigned with dark wood interiors, marble finishes and seats arranged around a central statement bar. During a recent lunch visit, the atmosphere was relaxed and although the restaurant’s front-of-house was clearly short staffed, thanks to a staff shortage that’s currently devastating the hospitality industry, everything ran smoothly, with polished yet warm, friendly service.
As for the food, the menu represents Rohit Ghai’s appreciation of both home-style cooking and expert techniques, continuing to serve the refined food his restaurants have become so renowned for. It’s also worth noting that around half of the dishes served at Manthan are vegetarian. Meanwhile, chicken, lamb and guinea fowl dishes can all be made Halal.
One such vegetarian dish, pyaaz kachori was a gracious, prettily presented take on a classic snack food, comprising a fried pastry dumpling of sorts whose delicately spiced filling centred around Roscoff onion, complete with sweet tamarind sauce, mint, pomegranate seeds and sprouts, all bringing some freshness to the fried dish. Similarly, dahi ke kebabs at Manthan were greaseless and remarkably flavoursome with their fillings of hung curd, yoghurt and Kashmiri chilli, accompanied by a gorgeous wild berry sauce.
In regards to meat dishes, chicken buttermilk was heavily recommended, with moreish bites of fried chicken finished with just a touch of makhani (butter chicken sauce) and fried curry leaves. Shami kebab, on the other hand, was a soft ball of rich goat meat in a pool of outrageously decadent bone marrow sauce with profound depth of flavour, demanding to be mopped up with the convoying roti.
That same sauce was recommended to accompany the soya chops. An unusual combination, yet the bone marrow sauce’s richness worked alongside the smokiness of the chops to make the soya taste especially meaty: proof that meat substitutes needn’t be solely reserved for vegetarians.
Another meat-free highlight from the Manthan menu, Anda curry harboured two hard-boiled Burford Brown eggs in a sauce rampant with fenugreek leaves and a remarkable balance of spiciness, saltiness and decadence to complement the eggs.
The simply titled ‘osso bucco’ also had a remarkably opulent sauce. Named after the classic Italian dish, the version at Manthan used a similar cut of meat, but favoured lamb instead of traditional veal. Heady with Jaffna spices, the dish was enriched even further by the lamb’s fattiness and bone marrow which steeped into the sauce on being slow-cooked. A side order of bread is an absolute essential for all of the sauces.
To finish, the classical trio featured a hybrid concoction of traditional Indian sweets, including laddoo, srikhand and gulab jamun, again showcasing exceptional balance: sweet but not overbearingly so, championing expert techniques. Garlic kheer, on the other hand, had a base of sweet rabri made with jaggery and condensed milk, embellished with just a whisper of garlic which worked unexpectedly well with the dish, served in a brandy snap basket with a sprinkling of crushed pistachio. Like everything else served at Manthan, it’s a true celebration of elegant, often outstanding contemporary cooking. Proof that Indian cuisine is easily amongst the world’s most sophisticated and refined.
Manthan can be found at 49 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PQ.