Leela is a luxury hotel chain in India, with Jamavar restaurants in a few of their properties, including in Bangalore, Goa, Delhi and Mumbai. Jamavar London is the only restaurant of the Leela group that is not in a hotel. Chef Surender Mohan joined the hotel group as a sous chef in Bangalore and worked his way up to executive chef of the entire Leela Group before moving to London to oversee the kitchen here. The décor of the dining room is smart, suiting its Mayfair location, and there are plenty of well-trained staff to look after the guests.
“Chicken 65” consisted of pieces of fried chicken cooked with curd rice, crisp curry leaves and appalam (a relative of the poppadom from Tamil Nadu) curls. The name comes from the number of spices that are used to flavour the dish. This had plenty of savoury flavour, the appalam adding a nice contrasting texture (14/20). “Bhatti Ka” octopus was visually striking and was served with corn salad and peanut chutney. The meat of the octopus was tender and entirely avoided the dreaded rubbery texture that often afflicts this creature in kitchens less skilled than this. It had been marinated in black pepper, coriander seeds and Kashmiri red chilli spices and had a genuine spicy chilli kick (15/20).
Hyderabadi beef haleem was tender and delicate, presumably made with beef shank, with gentle spicing. This came with a genuinely top-notch onion seed and beef naan (15/20). Spinach and rice dumplings rested on mustard yoghurt along with pine nuts, feta cheese and raisins. The spinach flavour came through well, and the rolled popadoms on top of the dumplings added a useful texture contrast (14/20). Garlic soft shell crab was flavoured with Tellicherry pepper and served with plum chutney, garlic chips and garlic pickle. Soft shell crab is a tricky dish to do well, but this version worked very well indeed. The outside of the crab was crisp and avoided greasiness, and the pungent flavour of the garlic was sufficiently well controlled that it did not overwhelm the crab (15/20).
A trio of adraki lamb chops were flavoured with cumin and fennel, marinated before being cooked in the tandoor. The lamb was cooked to order (medium to medium rare in this case) and had superb flavour, the meat tender and its flavour nicely heightened by the spices. Ginger and carrot salad was a good accompaniment to the richness of the meat. This was a glorious dish, with remarkable depth of flavour (17/20). Scallop moile used hand-dived scallops resting in a coconut sauce with ginger relish and topped with plantain chips. The scallops had good natural sweetness and were lightly cooked, the coconut sauce subtle enough to not overwhelm the delicate flavour of the shellfish (15/20).
Dakshini jhenga comprised a quarter of large prawns marinated with southern Indian spices and cooked in the tandoor, served with peanut and curry leaf chutney. So often the prawns used in Indian restaurants in London are poor quality, but these were plump, naturally sweet and having beautifully absorbed the flavours of the spice marinade, the shellfish being cooked superbly. These are some of the best tandoori prawns I have eaten anywhere, including in India (17/20). Gobi mattur had really excellent texture, the cauliflower and green peas lightly flavoured with tomato and green chilli (15/20).
Butter chicken is a classic dish, and here had tender meat suffused with a rich sauce, with just enough spicy bite from green chillies to cut through the richness of the sauce (16/20). Jamavar dhal is the classic black dhal, cooked overnight and having lovely, deep smoky flavour, as dark and brooding as a matinee idol from Hollywood’s golden era. This was a superb rendition of this classic dish (17/20). A selection of breads was genuinely good, with assorted naans, rotis, etc all freshly made and having lovely texture (16/20).
Service was attentive and very professional. This was a birthday celebration and I did not see a bill, but a typical cost per head here might be around £80. This was a top-class meal, with the lamb chops and the tandoori prawns in particular being deeply impressive, as good as you could really hope to encounter. Jamavar is without a doubt one of the very best Indian restaurants in London.