A new 'Indian' restaurant comes to Charlotte Street with plenty of pizazz and a deft hand in the kitchen
33 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR www.1947london.com
Underground restaurants tend to worry me. I don’t mean underground in the achingly trendy, unpublicised, run by outlaw chefs, kind of way, but restaurants literally underground.
It’s the fact that you don’t know what you’re getting into until you walk in and by then, if you’re typically British, it’s too embarrassing to walk out again. You’re trapped.
1947 London is underground, under ROKA in fact, or very nearly, and it’s not actually in Charlotte Street. Luckily it has flaming torches outside, so it does stand out at night if you keep your eyes peeled.
After the reception desk upstairs comes a staircase of a kind familiar to anyone that’s ever been to Hakkasan or the old Tamarind Mayfair.
You have to watch your step a bit as you take in the giant-sized hand-crafted roses, and the descent seems endless, but suddenly you’re in the room.
And it’s pretty swish, luxurious even, with circular tables, curved booths and banquettes, lots of purple and gold colours and the kitchen available to view at the far end where Chef Krishna Negi, protégé of Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, does his stuff
1947 London is in fact a brand new North Indian restaurant from the operators of the award winning Chai Thali group. The menu references recipes that evolved out of the movement of peoples and cultures during the Partition of 1947.
Which is as good a backstory as any I suppose?
You’ve heard of small plates? Well 1947 London does Nano Plates which if I were being pedantic would literally be invisible to the human eye. I’d expect some Shoreditch restaurant to try that on any day now.
I look at the nano choices and they sound intriguing, but go straight to Small Plates. Which actually aren’t that small and so are good for sharing.
Wild mushroom tikki and chickpea masala is unusual, a crispy wild mushroom tikki served with spicy chickpea masala, sweetened yogurt and tamarind chutney.
It has all kinds of flavours going on and I’m always a sucker for tamarind’s sour kick any day of the week.
That bosky mushroom base holds everything together and this is certainly a vegetarian must-have, although I assume the yoghurt rules out vegans.
Two of the highlighted dishes, Maharaja Prawns and Home Smoked Tandoori Salmon deserved to be singled out.
I smoke a bit of salmon at home myself, so I know what I am looking for; a gentle waft of smokey flavour which this had, as well as the very similar aromas from cloves and cardamom. A mustard and honey chutney did a good job of extra flavour
I find the bigger prawns get, the woollier and more indistinct the flavour. The best ‘prawns’ are the tiny brown shrimp but they’re a massive faff to peel.
A crackling of fire announced the arrival of the Maharajah Prawns, literally flaming hot and a nice bit of theatre. These lads were perfect, flavour of their own, nicely lightly spiced and they’d been introduced to the tandoor for just a moment or two to cook and add colour.
From these we went to sharing ‘bowls’, earthenware pots which made a pleasant change from the standard silver dishes, although not quite so easy to get into.
On the plus side, they kept the food hot.Butter chicken is always a winner, nothing to dislike about a dish so mild and creamy. Some places overdo the butter part, leaving you a bit queasy afterwards, but here it was restrained.
I suppose you could say that this dish, Murgh Makhani, is the acceptable face of Chicken Tikka Masala.
This cried for bread to mop it up, which it had, and the breads also came in handy for DaalL Makhani. One of my favourite dals, this one always fills me up too fast so I took it easy.
Black lentils soaked then slowly cooked and finished with butter and cream is like a big hug when scooped up with good, non-greasy, breads
To combat some of that richness, we had asparagus and sugar snaps with fresh coconut and mustard seeds. An unusual thing to find in most ‘Indians’, it’s sweet, crisp freshness really helped cleanse the palate.
We managed to also put away a good amount of lamb masala before throwing in the napkin. I often find lamb in curries to be a bit scraggy, chewy and fatty, chef hoping the spices will hide the poor quality.
Not here though, large pieces of quality lamb in a mild but effective sauce. A fairly standard dish otherwise.
I like a priapic kulfi myself, just for old time’s sake, but here it came sliced - one of rose and one of mango. A very restrained and colourful end to what had become quite a blow-out.
1947 London might be a bit hard to find but don’t let the staircase put you off.
Down there is an engine room at full steam turning out well above average food in a very swish setting.