Manish Mehrotra opened Indian Accent in 2009, and has taken a firmly modern take on Indian cooking, incorporating unusual ingredients and flavour combinations - blue cheese naan is certainly not a dish that appears too often on Indian restaurant menus. The restaurant is located in an area of Delhi called Friends Colony, a very upmarket residential suburb. The dining room seats up to 44, plus a few more outside when the weather permits. The main room has a quite cosy feel, rather like being in someone's living room, but tables are well spaced, and the room smartly decorated. The chef had worked for four years in London, but at a bar rather than a restaurant, though he said that his time in the UK had given him a lot of ideas from his dishes, fusing Indian cuisine with some western techniques and ingredients. There were two tasting menus (both vegetarian and carnivorous) at the modest price of INR 2,275 (£22) and INR 2,695 (£26) respectively, and a wide-ranging a la carte menu as well.
The wine list is unusually well put together for an Indian restaurant, though mark-ups were quite steep. Erath 2008 Pinot Gris was INR 4,400 for a wine that you can find in a UK shop for INR 1,231, Marchesi Barbaresco 2008 was INR 7,500 for a wine that retails at INR 2,955, and Chateau Palmer Alter Ego 2007 was a hefty INR 32,000 for a wine that will set you back the equivalent of INR 5,172 in a UK shop.
As we looked at the menu some miniature blue cheese naan breads arrived. This sounds a very weird idea indeed, yet it actually worked, and the bread itself had lovely texture (15/20). Pumpkin and coconut shorba (soup) was even better, velvety and with deep flavour; if you were served this at a Michelin starred French restaurant you would be very happy (16/20). It was accompanied by a small piece of garlic bread, which was too hard and I didn't think added anything.
Potato sphere chaat was a take on the Indian street food favourite. The potato here was crispy and delicate, with mint chutney, tamarind and sweet yoghurt, a garnish of watermelon and a sauce made with white peas and onion. This really did elevate the humble chaat to a higher level, the balance of the flavours lovely (16/20).
Seared prawn with bitter gourd was garnished with a quinoa puff and served in an unusual ring shaped serving plate. The prawn was very tender and had good sweetness, the flavour of the bitter gourd carefully controlled so that it provided balance to the prawn without overpowering it; this was very finely judged (16/20).
Amritsar fish was a variety of Mekong catfish cooked in butter, and was another simple but very precisely cooked dish, the fish having good flavour and the butter being in just the right proportion (16/20). Duck cornetto with foie gras was a play on a homely Indian chicken kurchan ("scrapings") dish, but here using the more luxurious combination of duck and its liver. The cornetto was very delicate, the flavour of the minced duck superb, the foie gras adding a nice extra element; the seasoning was spot on too (17/20).
Soft shell crab with roast coconut came with tomato pickle chutney and had a strong chilli kick. This was another impressive dish, avoiding the greasiness that soft shell crab can easily have; here the flavours were clean and vibrant (16/20). Morel madsakam had Kashmiri morels cooked in their own juices, with roast walnuts and a Parmesan crisp. These morels had excellent flavour, and the walnuts and the delicate Parmesan tuile were a good pairing (16/20).
Goat kebab came with raw papaya, foie gras and a strawberry and green chilli chutney. The kebab was soft in texture, the meat having good flavour and the chutney providing much needed balance to its richness (15/20). There was now a palate cleanser in the form of a pomegranate and churan (a spice mix including cumin, black pepper, pomegranate and tamarind) kulfi lolly. This was flavoured nicely with its blend of spices and was an unusual but refreshing dish (15/20).
For the final savoury course four different of small kulcha breads appeared: roast pumpkin and cheddar, mushroom with truffle oil, apple wood smoked bacon and chill roasted hoisin duck, which was the best of the lot. Again, this was an unusual and enjoyable take on the humble kulcha, the bread itself very carefully made (15/20, more for the hoisin duck kulcha). Chicken tikka meatball came with pomegranate and avocado yoghurt and, on the side, a superb black dhal. The chicken had lovely flavour and subtle spicing (15/20) but for me the dhal was the star: it had wonderful texture and beautifully judged flavour (16/20), even better than the version at Bukhara the night before. My wife had John Dory coated with crisp and delicate rice, with fish roe and a curry leaf as a garnish, spinach as a base and a coconut sauce with pine nuts. The fish was precisely cooked, the crust remarkably delicate, the coconut sauce lovely, bringing a freshness to the dish (16/20).
We had a plate of assorted desserts. Treacle tart was made with doda (milk and dried fruits), essentially a caramelised treacle tart with good texture (15/20). "Misti" cannolis were a little doughy (14/20). Sweet barfi (made with cheese cake tart with caramelised milk was a little too sweet to my taste (1320). Daulat chaat (a famous Delhi street food winter dish) made with milk, nuts and saffron was very light and pleasant (14/20). The desserts were not quite in the same league as the savoury dishes though they were certainly very nice.
Service from our waitress (who had studied in Coventry) was superb; she was enthusiastic and knew the dishes inside out. The bill came to INR 16,885 for two (£83 a head) but this was with quite a lot of wine. The food element of the bill was less than half of this, even with tax and service. If you had the tasting menu and a modest bottle of wine between two then your bill would come to around £50 a head all in even with the tasting menu, less if you ordered a la carte with beer or soft drinks. This is a bargain for food of this quality, and despite its slightly out of the way location the restaurant was packed out on this weekday evening, with tables being turned all around us. Indian Accent is an exciting restaurant, taking familiar Indian dishes and elevating them to a higher level, the unusual ingredient combinations working harmoniously rather than being there to shock or show off culinary trickery. This is some of the very finest Indian food that I have ever eaten. All I have to do now is persuade the chef to open a branch in London.
Further reviews: 25th Nov 2017