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Aug 30, 2013 04:29 AM

Trishna, Marylebone London

I had wanted to try Trishna for a while with its focus on south west Indian food. It's a difficult restaurant to review as it just seems to lack something. Harters touches on this sometimes in his reviews and Nick Lander has written a whole book about the Art of the Restaurateur. Essentially nothing about the decor, service or anything else in Trishna makes you comfortable, or provides the best environment for you to enjoy your meal. Tables are too small with plates sometimes ending up on the floor because there is nowhere to put them. A table of 4 was brought 3 poppadoms. A handful of other small service errors that made the evening staccatoed. If you're going to practise topping up then you have to get it right, few things more annoying (in a first world restaurant problems way) than having an empty wine glass and staring at your half full wine bottle on the other side of the room.

Then the food arrives and it is incredible. Fish Tikka with raita and Scallops with puffed rice starters were flawlessly cooked and perfectly spiced with the black pepper coming through particularly strongly in the former with tumeric as well. Other starters such as Keralan Fish Fry went down well (although I didn't try).

For mains the guinea fowl tikka with star anise comes on a bed of masoor lentils and was incredibly tender and really well spiced with some fennel as well. The lentils were quite bland, intentionally I imagine as they contrasted very nicely. Seasonal Tandoori Grouse came as a leg, kebab and samosa and the gameyness competed with the fairly subtle spicing but the overall result was superb.

So a difficult restaurant to quantify, probably the best and most elegant Indian food I've eaten in London and easy to recommend to hardcore hounds but certainly not the best restaurant experience and so it really depends on your priorities in a meal.

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  1. I totally agree with your review, I have eaten here over 5 times and keep coming back for the food. All of the seafood dishes here are super and the meat is good as well.

    However, you are right about the place, I find it better to go in a larger group (6 and above) that way you end up on a long table with more 'personal' space. I also have noticed quite a few small service mishaps (including the "please can we have some of our wine" thing) along the way but they have never been bad enough to really impact on the enjoyment of the food.


    1. Seeing as you mention my reviews, MiT......

      .......Mrs & I are usually going out to eat not just to stop being hungry but for a pleasant evening in each others company. We will happily swap some of the food quality stuff for environmental stuff - comfortable seating, decent sized tables, knowledgable non-intrusive service, etc. And, yes, it royally pisses off when the wine and water are taken away and left on a table halfway across the room - get bigger tables and leave the feckers on it.

      That said, I think I'd put up with a fair bit of shite environment for tandoori grouse.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Competely agree, right down to the Tandoori Grouse - sometimes, every so often it's worth putting up with poor or rushed service (Tayyabs springs to mind) but more often than not you need that framework to really enjoy the food. This is a decent article from Marina this week about service trouble, I agree with most of them

        I am off to the Waterside Inn next week, as it's one of the few top UK places I've never visited and having read your very positive review am looking forward to it.

        1. re: ManInTransit

          I do so hope you like the Waterside. It was one of those places that just "get it right". Personal opinion, of course.

          I shall now commit heresy and say we've gone off Tayyabs. Wouldnt go out of my way to eat there again on a future visit to to the capital. It's good but not really any better than a number of places around Manchester.

          1. re: Harters

            We will have the same dilemma as you I think but I was edging towards ALC with Fois Gras/Chicken then the Duck for two then the Raspberry Souffle.

            Of course menu planning goes out of the window once you get there but it's fun to pretend you can decide in advance.

            1. re: ManInTransit

              My wife isnt a great fan of duck and certainly not as rare as its bound to be in a French restaurant so that made the choice of lamb for us.

            2. re: Harters

              I went to the Waterside last week also for the first time, just pulling together a review.

              I agree the whole experience just felt right.

        2. So, they've got a great chef but a lousy front-of-the-house manager.

          Would really like to try Trishna on my next visit to London, though.

          4 Replies
          1. re: klyeoh

            I've not been to Quilon but I'd say it was a significant step up from Moti Mahal and a huge step up from Benares and the Cinnamon Club in quality and imagination.

            1. re: klyeoh

              My husband and I were going to try Trishna about a month ago, but I can't remember what stopped us. It could have been the prices because I don't think it was the menu. Maybe if there are enough of us, as suggested, it would be a good place to try for some of us on your next visit.

              I revisited the webpage. The prices aren't that high. :-)

              1. re: zuriga1

                I should have mentioned that actually June - the food is significantly under-priced for the quality of the cooking I think. You would eat more expensively in an average gastropub.

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  I'm wracking my brain to try and remember why we chose some other place to eat other than Trishna. It's been on my list for a long time. We'll get there. I might even try a lunch one day as one of my doctors is very close by.

            2. Oh dear.

              Trishna specializes in Mangalorean cuisine - Mangalore being the principal coastal city of Karnataka.

              Anything tandoori/tikka hails from at least a thousand miles or so north .. The equivalent of ordering risotto in Marrakesh.

              Just so you know.

              37 Replies
              1. re: howler

                I hear they make a darn good risotto in Marrakesh. They hired a chef from the arborio-growing region of Italy. :-)

                1. re: howler

                  I find a useful rule of thumb in restaurants to order what you want to eat, not what you feel you should eat. I'm sure Karam Sethi would agree.

                  1. re: ManInTransit

                    The drive from Mangalore to London is 6,781 miles. Maybe he stopped in Mumbai for a bite on the way?

                    1. re: brokentelephone

                      Heh. There's an (older) sister restaurant in Mumbai isn't there?

                      Mind you I remember reading an interview with Karam Sethi in which he talked about growing up with different types of Indian cooking and the influence of the tandoor on his food.

                      I've seen threads on the New York board saying "this is my itinerary tell me what to order" which I find very strange. Order what you want not what people tell you.

                      I've eaten pumpkin over lamb at tayyabs and fish over steak at Hawksmoor because that's what I wanted to eat at the time.

                      1. re: ManInTransit

                        I also find the "tell me what to order" posts, wherever they're posted, to be most odd. If I was going to a restaurant which had, perhaps, an iconic dish then I think Google would have already found it for me. Not that I would necessarily be ordering it, just because it was iconic.

                        1. re: Harters

                          It isn't that strange.

                          Yes a good restaurant should serve only dishes of a certain standard, but some places excel at like 5 out of a possible 15 dishes they serve.

                          I guess more common at Chinese/Asian places than European though?

                          1. re: brokentelephone

                            It can vary even in Chinese places -- restaurants with vast menus (and multiple chefs that specialise in different menu sections) or stalls serving one dish/item.

                            Problem for restaurants outside of the native region is that they often serve "local" dishes to satisfy local demand, even though they're not good at it. Most obvious examples are British or American Chinese dishes in the respective countries, but you'll also see that in Singapore where, for example Sichuan restaurants may have Cantonese dishes. Thus important to sort out what dishes are on the menu because it's the kitchen's native cuisine, and what stuff is there just to pander to customers that might want the familiar.

                            1. re: limster

                              Golden Day in Chinatown is a prime example, as is Local Friends in Golders Green. Their respective Hunanese menus are great, but the Cantonese food is middling.

                              My Korean friends in Vancouver would always go to a particular place for Galbitang, another for kimchee jigae, etc., etc., and completely shun other dishes.

                          2. re: Harters

                            I'd like to chime in and say that certainly in Italy, guidance about regional specialities is much appreciated, and also guidance about why a restaurant is being recommended (certainly in New York).

                            For Italy, a great deal of the knowledge and skill in preparing a dish comes from generations of creating that dish, and a lot of the knowledge is almost impossible to codify in recipes. It really makes a difference that children grow up around cooking (often in family restaurants), and by the time they reach adulthood, if they become professional cooks, they cook by feel, by smell, by eye and according to that day's ingredients they have chosen. Regional specialities are often an arcane knowledge, as is how to handle the regional ingredients day to day, season to season. (This year's tomatoes in Italy are better for some purposes than others because of the delayed and foreshortened summer).

                            Also, a great many people coming to Italy looking for restaurant advice have very little knowledge of Italian food beyond the famous dishes. There are at least half a dozen marvelous pasta dishes in Bologna that most people would not recognize on the menu and would be hesitant to order, yet they can be more delightful and seasonally appropriate than the famed Bolognese pasta dish with meat sauce or lasagne. It is really worth telling people that if they are in a particular restaurant, don't pass up the chance to order passatelli in brodo.

                            In New York City in particular, restaurants in every price category get "hot" or become institutions because of certain over'the'top dishes and taste sensations. It is really annoying to see regular posters on the Manhattan forum offering up lists where certain restaurants repeatedly turn up as highly recommended only to find out later that the SOLE reason the place is being repetitiously recommended to visitors is ONE item on the menu. Generally in America, people who consider themselves "foodies" are people who chase taste sensation and "the best" version of one item. They are less interested in "dining" or eating well.

                            1. re: barberinibee

                              I agree with that last comment. Definitely more interested in that one bite than the entire experience, at least from a 'foodie' standpoint. It's kind of retarded, actually.

                              Lets say I don't feel like xiao long bao when we hit up that new Shanghainese place?

                              1. re: brokentelephone

                                It really makes it hard when you are visitor to America to parse the restaurant recommendations, even when you know what the trendy dish is everybody is raving about. I don't mind going to a place with great food that is very downscale in decor or informal in service -- this is very common in Italy -- but some of the most frequently recommended places in New York (and elsewhere in the US) can be unbelievably hideous when it comes to ambience (screaming drunks, incompetent waitstaff, tables you need a crowbar to sit down at) and also the food can be just a ridiculous parade of clashing flavor-bombs that supposedly evoke "WOW!" at first bite but leave you with indigestion all night. After recent visits to New York, I've come to think of "foodie" as something akin to "truthie". It really doesn't have much to do with appreciating what food is.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  I lived near NYC for most of my adult life, and I usually found that the best restaurants were ones that had been around for a long time. They had kept up good standards and never disappointed. I don't get back too often these days, but I try to stay away from 'trendy.' Perhaps there are just too many wealthy folks in NYC and they are happy to drop a fortune on very bad food, sometimes just to be 'seen.'

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    Good point, zuriga - about places being around for a while. Trendy can be fun. But consistency over the years is better.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      I love restaurants that hang around over the years, but in the recent re-development of NYC, the economics have simply not favored that, and it has spawned a different kind of food culture. It has been extremely difficult for even excellent restaurants to hold onto their real estate in Manhattan and still keep their meals affordable. Sometimes it is the wealthiest people who keep a relatively staid place like Le Bernardin afloat. The young strivers are chasing "best this minute."

                                      Also, the general trend in America toward celebrity, novelty, fashion makes it harder for not only restauranteurs but just about everybody running a small business not to invest in "innovations", supposedly to keep themselves "relevant" and keep pulling customers.

                                      Attitudes in the UK about tradition, continuity and history imparting value just don't get a lot of traction in the US. Plus, making NYC desirable after years of decay involved making it more Vegas-like and theme park like, with more short attention span novelties, more like TV. There might rise up a counter-culture when it comes to food, but so far that hasn't happened. In the meantime, traditional restaurants go out of business and celebrity chefs stay relevant and create buzz by constantly opening new restaurants or hopping around or offering a new "curated dessert program" every other week.

                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                        I agree with what you say regarding the UK to a certain extent but I think the dining in London has become very concept driven and in a lot of ways is aping NY. Yes we have Rules and the like but a lot of new openings seem to have the need to have a value being on trend and having a concept rather than providing good food, service and ambience.
                                        Opening statement for the prosecution is this line from a new opening in Mayfair, Rock Lobster-"East End punk lobster bar meets West End Polynesian Paradise". I only hope this is tongue in cheek but somehow I doubt it.

                                        1. re: Paprikaboy

                                          (Commenting on this sub-thread in general, rather than a specific reply to Paprikaboy.)

                                          We should keep in mind that all this stuff about being "trendy" and "concept-driven" applies to a very small fraction of places. In cities with several thousand restaurants, having tens or hundreds of such places does not really change the range of places available by much. As a rough estimate - Trip Advisor seems to list ~12,000 restaurants in London. 100 places is less than 1%. The media is quick to proclaim a trend when something involves several restaurants. But it's worth remembering that 99.9% of restaurants aren't involved.

                                          These places tend to be the ones that are covered by the mass media (newspapers, blogs etc.) because they are active in public relations. There are plenty of places that don't put out press releases, tweet about their concepts or get cozy with food websites, but one wouldn't find out about them without exploring on one's own (in the real world, not on google). The portrayal of what is happening in food is skewed, and the so-called trends represented in the media are not as significant as it is made out to be if one considers the big picture.

                                          1. re: limster

                                            Re what's in, popular etc., I think you make a good point about the role of media and public relation firms. And why do so many chefs have their own TV programme or appear on many others? The restaurant business is not about food or its worthiness at times. It's often the old p.r. game at work. Do chefs get paid at all for recipes they contribute to magazines like Delicious or Olive? I really don't know.

                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                              I wouldn't fault chefs for trying to promote their business, even if I prefer them to spend time cooking my food. But it means that we have to think and eat critically as consumers. If we only follow what's in the newspapers or guidebooks or from celebrity chefs on TV, we're missing out on a huge amount of stuff. The "dark matter" of restaurants, so to speak.

                                              1. re: limster

                                                I guess we have to fact the fact that running a restaurant is a major business that involves PR, marketing and appearances on TV. It seems as if many of the chefs now spend more time on TV than they do in their kitchens, especially the ones that keep expanding and adding new locations to their list of businesses. I just read that Angela Harnett is opening one or two new ones fairly soon.

                                                Some people have the opportunity to eat out a lot and try all sorts of places in London. I think the majority of eaters have not the money, lifestyle or opportunity do do that, so they have to depend on something for guidance!

                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                  While it may appear daunting, those factors aren't as limiting as they seem. And even when working within one's constraints, there are always opportunities to eat critically.

                                                  Money - JFores in his student days is a great counterargument to that. Delicious food isn't always expensive.

                                                  Lifestyle - just build it into one's lifestyle. If one cooks a lot, sample a range of ingredients and recipes. If one eats out, then try a different place each time and compare. Take a slightly different route to work each day and stop by along the way for a different muffin etc. etc.

                                                  Opportunity - we all have roughly 3 opportunities a day - breakfast, lunch and dinner. e.g. Each time I have to shop for a breakfast cereal, I try a different one to see which one I like more. It doesn't have to involve extra effort to explore.

                                                  Lots of people fret about wasting a meal. The truth is, on a long term basis, I would have wasted lots more time, money and meals if I only stuck with what I read in guidebooks and the general media. Worse, I would have missed out on lots of stuff that is even better.

                                                  This site was built not for people to proclaim from on high in one direction, but trade tips in both directions. It's to make collaboration more efficient. Which would in turn make many of those constraints less limiting.

                                                  1. re: limster

                                                    Well said you erudite eater. :-) It's certainly true that expensive does not at all have to equate with £££.

                                                    My mother always made fun of me for always trying new products and foods. She came from a different world, which politely, I'll just call mundane. When it comes to food, one really does have to be a bit daring and take chances.

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      "This site was built not for people to proclaim from on high in one direction, but trade tips in both directions. It's to make collaboration more efficient. Which would in turn make many of those constraints less limiting."

                                                      Well put.

                                                        1. re: ManInTransit

                                                          the limster is indeed very quotable. in addition to your choice, i really thaink that

                                                          'Thus important to sort out what dishes are on the menu because it's the kitchen's native cuisine, and what stuff is there just to pander to customers that might want the familiar'

                                                          is very well said.

                                                2. re: limster


                                                  The oddest thing to me about reading media reviews, guidebooks and blogs that recommend places to eat in London is the huge emphasis on celebrity sightings. I am amazed at how many times an otherwise serious guide to London will say "Hugh Grant (or Keira Knightley, etc) eats here" as the first thing in the review, an imprimatur. One really doesn't encounter that so much in other cities. It would actually be bad form if a review in a NYC newspaper tattled on who the other diners were. In the gossip column, fine, but not in the restaurant review section unless the restaurant is ostentatiously courting a profile as a celebrity spot.

                                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                                    I know exactly what you mean by the 'sightings.' I often saw celebs in NYC places and it would never, ever be mentioned in restaurant reviews either in newspapers or let's say, NY Magazine. Somehow, New Yorkers know, without reading things, where to see these people if they want to.

                                                    Maybe it has something to do with how many more famous faces appear in Manhattan vs in London. It's all in the population numbers.

                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                      In the UK, I've wondered if celebrity focus and imprimatur is a substitute for bygone days of royal imprimatur.

                                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                                        It certainly seemed to work that way in the U.S., especially after the JFK era. For me, it's gotten way past the age of reason, not helped at all by the arrival of stupid, reality, TV programmes. In the area where I lived in my old life, many celebs have opened restaurants. People flock to them hoping to get a glance of a movie star. Fat chance.

                                                        I reread your Trishna review and will get there one day but am rather glad we've booked Cafe Spice Namaste for tomorrow. They're featuring grouse this month - must be the 'in' thing.

                                                        1. re: zuriga1

                                                          Look forward to your review of Cafe Spice Namaste, zuriga1 :-)

                                                          I just tried the Singapore branch of Bangladesh's famous Fakruddin biryani restaurant yesterday. It *is* different dining out in Singapore compared to London. For example, I paid S$6 or £3 for my mutton biryani meal:

                                                          1. re: klyeoh

                                                            I'll do my best, Peter. I'm not a wordsmith like some others here. I'm glad for you that prices in Singapore are a lot less than here. Almost anywhere is cheaper than here. :-) It gives you more to spend when you visit us!

                                                3. re: Paprikaboy

                                                  Paprikaboy, I agree with you in many ways. I briefly lived in London, before the Finance boom, and it is really startling the way London changed with regard to food, which is evident even in just occasional visits. A lot of the changes are wildly for the better, others have reflected some of the worst ideas of globalized culture everywhere.

                                                4. re: barberinibee

                                                  Idealising the UK a bit here and way off the mark about New York. Celebrity chefs account for a miniscule % of restaurants, and tons of young chefs have opened incredible places in Manhattan, and Brooklyn (esp).

                                                  How we discuss food online is very different to how to enjoy it in real life.

                                                  1. re: brokentelephone


                                                    Doesn't bother me if we totally disagree, but do understand that much of what I wrote here was in the context of what values are brought to bear in Chowhound discussions of NYC alone. Even when chefs are not TV celebrities in NYC, they are discussed as if knowing their names and how they "curate" were important. Also, the fact that young chefs opening new restaurants in Brooklyn gets valued over places of long-standing in Manhattan that consistently deliver optimal dining, where owners and managers have a role equal to that of chefs -- all that reflects a shift in food culture of NYC driven by media and hype that wasn't always the case in the town of my birth.

                                                    I no longer live in NYC, but if it is true that the people most frequently using Chowhound to discuss food online are actually enjoying food quite differently in real life, then I wish they would quit denying so vociferously every time that is raised on the Chowhound Manhattan board. The forums for Italy and Paris, which I follow fairly regularly, have their problems, but they don't have that one.

                                        2. re: barberinibee

                                          very well put.

                                          i've seen questions on this board on the order of "my choice of indian is between trishna (mangalorean), quilon (keralan) or moti mahal (punjabi/moghlai). which do you recommend?"

                                          its like asking "my choice of european is between locanda locatelli, le gavroche and pizarro. which do you recommend?"

                                          and then there are the reports, for example, from those who visit tayyabs and order only the vegetarian dishes. remarkable.

                                      2. re: ManInTransit

                                        Yeah I have also been to the original one in Mumbai a couple of times as well.

                                        Some items on the menu are the same/ similar although there is different stuff available at each. For example I think the Mumbai one actually also does a few Chinese fusion things.

                                    2. re: ManInTransit

                                      sounds a lot like "order any wine with whatever food, its what you like"

                                      very wise i'm sure.

                                      1. re: howler

                                        Absolutely, I enjoy wine matching as an activity in itself but letting oneself be constrained by it is extremely tedious and it's actually a bar to discovering new and interesting matches.

                                  2. Very good lunch at Trishna, with none of the service issues mentioned above. Our outstanding dish was potato chat, with great contrasts of texture and flavour: well worth ordering.