Executive chef and co-owner Chef Krishnapal Negi originally trained in the Oberoi hotel group in India, in Mumbai amongst others. He moved to the UK as head chef of Yatra, a rather unusual Indian night club and restaurant that I used to frequent (for the excellent food rather than because of any great love of bhangra music). He moved to become head chef of Tangawizi and I lost touch with where he had moved to after that. It seems that he opened Swagat in Richmond, and in December 2011 then opened Atithi in Twickenham. He performs an overseeing role at these two kitchens rather than being hands-on at the stoves full time at either one of them (editor's note - from 2016 there is no association between this restaurant and Swagat).
Atithi means “guest” and certainly we were made welcome by the staff on this quiet Sunday evening. The high street premises are quite smartly decorated, the menu a mix of north Indian staple dishes and a few more adventurous options. There was a short wine list with no vintages displayed, starting at £13.95, with wines such as Tooma River Chardonnay at £17.95 for a wine that retails at about £7.
Aloo tikki chat was prettily presented, the central spiced potato cake on a bed of tender chickpeas with tamarind chutney, sweet yoghurt decorated with sev. The texture was fine and the chickpeas tender but for me the tamarind chutney needed to be a lot more prevalent, the overall effect a little more bland than ideal. Still, this was a very pleasant dish (13/20). Amritsar fish was less attractively laid out, looking a little like an Indian version of fish fingers when displayed. This comprised strips of tilapia that had been dipped in gram flour, ginger and carom seeds before being fried. The fish was cooked properly and the ginger flavour came through well (13/20).
Murgh malai tikka was good, perhaps just a fraction drier than ideal, but the marinade having nicely tenderised the meat (13/20). Prawn naryali had large prawns that had been marinated with coconut and spices before being cooked in the oven. These were cooked through well and had good flavour (13/20). Aloo gobi worked well, the potato and cauliflower having retained their texture rather than being soggy, as so often happens with this dish (13/20). Dhal makhani was particularly good, the texture in no way watery and having an enjoyable smokiness (14/20). Naan bread was pleasant (13/20) but I particularly enjoyed kulcha, which had a pleasing chilli kick from its stuffing (14/20).
Gulab jaman was made from scratch and was enjoyable rich, not too sickly sweet (13/20). Kulfi was bought in from Royal, a well-known caterer, and as ever in such circumstances was decent but did not compare well to a high quality kulfi that is made from scratch. The bill came to £40 a head including drinks (beer and mineral water). Service was attentive and efficient. Overall, although I slightly prefer its older sister Swagat, Atithi is nonetheless a very good Indian restaurant, vastly better than the high street norm.