Indian restaurants with a Michelin star are rare in the UK. The last one I tried was called Rasoi in Chelsea and that was not good. Not good at all. It made me question whether Indian cuisine and Michelin are even a good fit.
The best Indian meals I eat are those my mother cooks. Growing up in a humble area of Salem in South India she developed a penchant for recipes that have passed down the generations from mother to daughter. There’s typically a big bowl of masala and fresh dosa mix hitting the pan, one after another, or something along those lines with a batch of idlis. It’s gloriously good peasant food, presented accordingly. And that’s the way I like it.
I grew up in West Yorkshire where there are Indian restaurants that top anything I’ve tried in London – down to the particularly strong Asian communities in Bradford for example. There are no attempts to sculpt and conform to any perceived criteria and none of them have a star.
Chargrilled wild tiger prawn
In London, there is a newly starred Indian restaurant by the name Trishna. It’s next door to the excellent Roganic in Marylebone. The original is in Mumbai and is considered by some to be amongst the best seafood restaurants on the planet. A strong act to follow but this London outpost doesn’t seem to be concerning itself with that. The menu is too varied to be classed as a seafood specialist. The theme here is the coastal cuisine of South-West India.
At lunch there are good value lunch bites options ranging from two courses at £15.50 to five courses at £24.50. There’s an a la carte and the option of a five or seven course tasting menu at £38.50 and £47.50 respectively.
Duck seekh kebab
The food had its moments: Kicking things off was a moreish bowl of squid with a coating that was light, crispy and conferred a good level of heat. A colossal chargrilled wild tiger prawn was cooked very well and coated in a delicious marinade of mustard oil, wholegrain mustard, green chilli and garlic. That was as good as things got.
On the flip-side the flavour and spicing of a duck seekh kebab was so vapid; so mind-numbingly shallow, it could have been a contestant on the ITV gameshow Take Me out. The same was true of a lamb chop seasoned with Kashmiri chilli, ginger and mustard mooli. It’s all a little bit safe, as if pandering to the Western audience. Bad idea. Fish tikka was wild sea bass marinated in turmeric, black pepper and lemon juice served with a dill raita. The fish was a little overcooked and the flavours a little flat. For some reason this is where I expected them to shine, so that was a shame.
South Indian Coast lamb curry
One thing I’ll say is they are generous. When the starters were over with, there then came a main course of South Indian Coast lamb curry. By itself this would have been enough. There was the lamb curry flavoured with curry leaf, coastal spices and coconut. Rice. A bowl of spiced baby potatoes. Another bowl of spinach corn. And if that wasn’t enough, a fenugreek roti and sesame seed naan. Needless to say, there were left-overs.
To end was a dessert of spiced chocolate mousse cake with a cashew-pista chikki crumb which wasn’t too bad at all and about as un-Indian as it got – if you overlook the woefully underspiced dishes from earlier.
Spiced chocolate mousse cake
For all the posturing of fragrant cooking and tradition, there was no real ignition of the senses. No real sense of India in the cooking, but rather a sense of pandering to the West. So what’s the point? Little details also got in the way: my table mat being dirty to the point that I had to go and wash my hands on account of it before my meal started didn’t exactly scream ‘ceremonious’.
The food at Trishna is enjoyable on some level, but to award it a Michelin star only serves to further cheapen the already spiralling significance of them. This is a decent restaurant, not an elite restaurant – which is what I thought a star was supposed to represent. The injustice is that Trishna’s next door neighbour, Roganic was literally side-stepped by Michelin despite its impeccable service and exquisite cooking. Go figure.
foods : 6.5/10
service : 7.5/10
ambience : 5/10
value : 7/10
15 -17 Blandford Street, Marylebone Village, London W1U 3DG
0207 935 5624