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Apr 17, 2013 04:24 PM

London - Keralan fine-dining at Quilon

Dinner at the swish Keralan fine dining spot, Quilon, this evening. Service was smooth, efficient and very friendly.

My meal consisted of:

- Quilon fish curry (cubes of halibut simmered in coconut, chilli, and raw mango sauce): the fish was fresh, the sauce was cooked correctly but the turmeric had an overly bitter metallic taste, and the coconut milk was not as sweet and rich as those one gets in Kerala, India, or anywhere in Southeast Asia, for that matter.

- Stuffed quail legs (with quail mince, chilli, ginger, brown onion and spices, roasted and served with mustard sauce): very tasty, carefully prepared dish. Very refined, but lacked the assertive Indian spice accent I was looking for. This one seemed toned down to suit Londoners' taste - lesser cardamom, cumin, coriander.

- Crispy okra (thinly sliced okra, batter fried, tossed in onion, tomato and crushed pepper): I'm not sure why my waitress highly recommended this - maybe their (mainly) British clientele liked battered, deep-fried morsels of food - in this case, okra. But I wasn't too keen on it at all. But I'm guessing a lot of people liked it - I did see quite a few tables ordering this particular dish.

- Malabar paratha and Lemon rice (basmati rice tossed in lime juice, curry leaves, split bengal gram and pure ghee): I liked the paratha, despite it costing 10 times the price of a typical prata in Singapore - which tasted 100% like this one anyway.

Dessert: Dodhol and Bibinca - both pretty okay, though I'd have preferred my bibinca sans the chocolate sauce between the layers.

Overall, good meal - just not sure about its Michelin rating, that's all.

Address details
41 Buckingham Gate
London SW1E 6AF
Tel: +44 20 7821 1899

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. More pics: the paratha, lemon rice, and dessert items.

    P.S. - Tried the mango lassi and berry lassi, but both needed more improvement.

    1. go veg klyeoh! i should have told you - veg thali is the way to go here.

      1 Reply
      1. re: howler

        You should have told me, howler! Anyway, I'd always automatically associated Keralan cuisine with seafood and fish, bathed in deliciously-flavoured, coconut creme-enriched sauces. I think the type of fresh turmeric (at its level, I'm assuming Quilon *only* uses fresh ingredients - turmeric, coconut milk, etc., instead of powdered or canned versions) available in the UK is not as "sweet" and gentle as the ones in India. The coconut milk also seemed less "rich" or flavoursome here.

        I think Quilon is run by the Taj Group, right? Its serving of papads and chutneys (see pic above) at the start mirrored those I'd had at their Taj-run restaurants in India, for e.g. Southern Spice at Taj Coromandel Chennai:

        There's the "Taj touch" to it.

        But if I'm to use Karavalli in Bangalore as a yardstick, then I'd rate Quilon at 5/10 to Karavalli's perfect 10.

        I'm thinking - if the Michelin folks *can* award 1-Michelin-star to Quilon, then India's plethora of excellent eateries would be garnering 3-Michelin-stars if ever was a Michelin Guide to India: e.g. Karavalli Bangalore, Southern Spice Chennai, Dum Pukht in Mumbai and Delhi, Dakshin in Bangalore and Chennai, etc., etc. The level of cooking and quality of ingredients used in India are a class above those we get here in London.

        Service-wise, I think Quilon's was top-notch and flawless. But, again, the stellar service which I'd experienced in India's top restaurants are at another level altogether.

      2. veggies are the glories of indian cuisine! thats the only way to tell how good a cook from india is, really.

        think about it - meat in india is usually of an inferior quality, so you have to fuss around it with a lot. thats easy to do. but veggies - that requires real skill. they have to be made just right, and usually, they are well respected - think of how deftly spiced and perfectly cooked most veggies in an indian cuisine are.

        that for example is why i cant rave about the tayyabs of this world - they bludgeon veggies to death.

        1 Reply
        1. re: howler

          It's true - that's why I preferred Indian vegetarian over any other styles of vegetarian cooking - and definitely *not* Chinese vegetarian, where a cook's skill is on how well he makes imitation pork, imitation chicken, etc.

          Now you're making me want to return to Quilon for a vegetarian meal. I'm back in London middle of next month - maybe we can organize a vegetarian Chowmeet there.

        2. Hello Klyeoh,

          Good report and great pics !


          13 Replies
          1. re: domenexx

            Thanks, domenexx. I'd *not* recommend this spot though - best explore other options. I intend to do other Michelin-starred Indian spots in London within the next few weeks and compare.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Have you tried Benares? I'm not certain it abides by any regional style like Quilon, but I've always found the food to be top notch.

              I went to Trishna not long ago (which I see have a michelin star now), and had a game tasting menu which was deeeelicious!

              1. re: brokentelephone

                Benares was one of the restaurants I tried to book *at the last minute* when I was in London the last time. Needless to say, it was an exercise in futility, and the restaurant, not surprisingly, was fully-booked by the time I called on a Fri afternoon to try and get a dinner reservation for that same day.

                Benares' Atul Kochhar was in Singapore 4 years back for the annual World Gourmet Summit and was hosted by Rang Mahal, one of Singapore's top Indian restaurants,

                I think Atul's cuisine is a mish-mash of various Indian styles - looking at his current on-line menu, it's largely North Indian, but also runs the gamut from colonial-British "Mutton Mulligatawny Soup" to Keralan-inspired "Meen Alleppey", and Bengali-influenced "Samundri Khazana Do Pyaaza".

                Another spot I tried to book that same day without success was Tamarind - the first Indian restaurant to gain a Michelin-star back in 2001 when it was helmed by Atul Kochhar then.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  My daughter-in-law always goes to Amaya when she's in London. I don't think she's ever tried anywhere else, and I've never been there or to Benares. I do like the looks of Kochar's food when I see it on TV. It seems to me that he cooks Indian-style but for maybe with a 'Western' twist.

                  I also want to try Trishna one day... always sounds appealing.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    My family used to go to Amaya all the time. There have a few standout dishes, but overall the menu is slightly disappointing, the curries being especially forgettable.

                    I do love their grilled eggplant and lamb shanks.

                    Trishna is really very good -- probably my favorite in the Michelin-starred Indian contingent.

                    1. re: brokentelephone

                      I'd only been to the original Trishna in Mumbai - to me, it's one of Mumbai's Holy Trinity of great Maharashtrian independent eateries, together with Mahesh Lunch Home and Gajalee. But its London sister-restaurant certainly looked more posh from the pics.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        small correction - trishna is mangalorean, not maharashtrian.

                      2. re: brokentelephone

                        Good to get your opinion brokentelephone. I hope she won't find me rude, but I'm going to tell my son's wife to branch out a bit and try a new place on her next visit. :-) As a former traveler to London, I can understand why anything here would be better than what's over 'there.' That said, we often go to Shamiana near Seattle, and their food is very, very good.

                        1. re: zuriga1

                          Seattle has great food. I've always loved this place called Cafe Campagna near Pike Market.

                          1. re: brokentelephone

                            I know the name but don't know if I've ever eaten there. My son's been living outside Seattle for over 20 years, so you can imagine how many trips I've made to the area. I'm thinking Seattle/Vancouver for later in the year.

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Please do let me know if you're going to Vancouver! I'll sort you out restaurant wise.

                              1. re: brokentelephone

                                Send me your email address so we can converse. Mine is in the profile. I have a distant cousin who lives in Vancouver - between the two of you, I'll be in good shape!