Jamavar is the London outpost of the Leela group, who run a string of luxury hotels in India. Jamavar is their flagship restaurant brand, and I have eaten meals at Jamavar restaurants in Goa, Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. The London branch is unique in being a stand-alone restaurant rather than it being part of a hotel. It won a Michelin star within a year of opening in late 2016, and has retained it ever since. Since 2018 the kitchen has been in the capable hands of Mr Surender Mohan, who was formerly corporate chef of the Leela Group, after having opened the very first Jamavar in Bangalore back in 2001. However this is not a case of a senior chef in a distant country phoning it in – he has moved to London and is very much hands on here. There was a tasting menu at £80 and a full vegetarian alternative at £75, as well as an “early bird special” three-course menu at £35; also available at lunch. Dishes here are from across India but the cooking is quite traditional, the emphasis being on flavour rather than flashy presentation or gimmicks. The kitchen uses higher quality ingredients than is normal for Indian restaurants in the capital.
Wines included labels such as Cannonburg Chenin Blanc 2017 at £36 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Lethbridge Dr Nadeson Riesling 2016 at £69 compared to its retail price of £23, and Bodega Norton Finca Perdriel Selection 2010 at £108 for a wine that will set you back £36 in the shops. Those wishing to splurge could indulge in jean-Marc Pillot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015 at £365 compared to its shop price of £203, or Ridge Monte Bello 2010 at £450 for a bottle whose current market value is £185.
Stone bass tikka has long been a signature dish here, and the version today was refined to a superb level. The fish was marinated with spices including green cardamom and mace and served simply with an avocado and mint chutney. The stone bass had lovely texture and has enough inherent flavour to stand up to the spices of the marinade, the texture absolutely spot on (17/20). Soft shell crab is not an easy dish to do well, many versions I have tried elsewhere ending up rather greasy. Here there were no such issues, the crab flavoured with garlic and Tellicherry black pepper from Malabar, the batter being light and crisp. The crab came with plum chutney and a terrific garlic pickle along with garlic chips (15/20).
Adraki lamb chops used Hampshire lamb and were flavoured with ginger, cumin and fennel, served with a simple carrot salad. The meat was extremely tender, carefully cooked and its natural flavour was nicely lifted by the subtle use of spices. This was a gorgeous dish (17/20). Butter chicken has been refined since I last tried it here, the sauce now beautifully rich and flavoured with tomato and fenugreek. The corn-fed Suffolk chicken meat was charcoal-grilled and then pulled, the strips of chicken being very tender (15/20). Lamb biryani came, as it should in my view, encased in pastry that is slit open at the table. This releases the aromas of the biryani to the diner and makes for a little tableside theatre to boot. The rice was delicate and fragrant, the meat tender, flavoured with a little mint (15/20).
Gobi mutter featured cauliflower that kept its texture really well, cooked with green peas and flavoured with spices including with tomato and green chilli, along with little shreds of ginger (easily 15/20). A particularly impressive dish was lobster nerulli with southern-spiced coconut milk and pearl onions. The sauce was absolutely superb, the spices beautifully balanced (16/20). A basket of breads was also impressive, the texture of the bread soft and supple, the garlic naan packing plenty of garlic flavour (15/20). Black dhal, a benchmark dish for many Indian kitchens, was terrific. It was a dark, brooding concoction had been cooked overnight and possessed a slightly smoky flavour, the lentils still retaining some texture and the spicing really well judged (16/20).
Service was very slick. This was a birthday celebration and I didn't see a bill, but if you ordered a la carte then a typical cost per person might come to around £80. On this Tuesday night in August the dining room, both upstairs and downstairs, was not only full but tables were being turned, and I witnessed people being tuned away at the door who had arrived without a reservation. This is a testament to just how well Jamavar has established itself, at a time when there are plenty of empty tables at smart restaurants in Mayfair. The kitchen here has developed since it opened and under the new kitchen regime the food has become even more refined. This is one of the very best Indian meals that I have eaten in London, and indeed anywhere.