425 Upper Richmond Road West, London, SW14 7PJ, United Kingdom

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Kaalika (“flower bud”) is a family-owned restaurant in East Sheen that opened in July 2023. Its head chef is Pratap Chauhan, originally from Mumbai. He started his culinary career there but moved to Dubai in the early 1990s to become a private chef. He did this for eighteen years before moving to the UK in 2013, working at restaurants including Jamavar. The restaurant serves Indo-Chinese food, a style of cooking that originated in Calcutta, where Chinese labourers had migrated seeking work. This generally blends Chinese dishes with Indian spices. The menu at Kaalika is mostly quite familiar with dishes like butter chicken, dal Bhukara and rogan josh, but there are some more exotic dishes like beetroot tikki and “chicken changezi”. The food here feels as if the two cuisines are adjacent on the menu rather than being blended together.

We drank Kingfisher beer (there was also Cobra) but there was a short wine list too with three sparkling offerings, five whites, two rose and five reds, though no dessert wines; no vintages were noted. Prices started at £21.95 and the labels on offer included Malborough Honu Sauvignon Blanc at £26.95 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Rioja Crianza Vina Pomal at £30.95 compared to its retail price of £16, and Moet et Chandon Brut NV at £60.95 for a bottle that will set you back £48 in a shop. A 330ml bottle of Kingfisher was £4.49 compared to a shop price of around £1.79, and a sweet lassi was nicely balanced, though well it might be at £6.95 for a drink consisting of yoghurt, water and sugar. 

Popadoms were fried rather than grilled, served with some fairly basic chutneys. We began with sev pooris, crisp little shells stuffed with spiced potatoes, yoghurt and chutneys. The pooris were light and delicate and the spicing was spot on, with a touch of sweetness and enough bite from the chutneys to balance this. Often this dish can be too sweet or too bland, this was just right.  This was a really well-judged dish (15/20). 

Samosa chaat had a pair of samosas served with mint chutney, date chutney, tamarind chutney, curried chickpeas, sweet yoghurt, sev and pomegranate seeds. The samosa was quite well made, the tamarind chutney bringing sweetness, the chickpeas being tender and the pomegranate seeds lending some freshness to the dish (13/20). Tandoori lamb chops came with a side salad of spiced shredded radish and beetroot. The lamb chops had an excellent spicy marinade, and would have been even better if they had been cooked a little less (14/20).

Tandoori prawns were large and carefully cooked in the tandoor, taking on a hint of smokiness from the charcoal (14/20). Methi murgh had a pleasing sauce with plenty of fenugreek flavour, the chicken itself cooked well enough though I wonder how this would have tasted with a very high-quality chicken (14/20). Dhal makhani was made in the style of Bukhara restaurant, and had that richness with a  touch of smokiness that the good versions of this dish possess (14/20). Bhindi dopiaza managed to have bhindi that was not soggy, no small achievement (13/20). Palak paneer had good cottage cheese and plenty of spinach flavour (14/20). Pilau rice was fine, and the naan bread was quite light in texture (13/20).

We tried a pair of kulfis for dessert, one of pistachio and the other of almond. These were made from scratch by one of the family, who had worked as a pastry chef for Tamarind kitchen. These kulfis were good rather than remarkable, but perfectly enjoyable in terms of texture and flavour (13/20). 

Service was friendly, and the bill came to £54 per person. This ended up with a lot of food, so you could easily eat for less, perhaps £45 each with drinks. The food at Kaalika was genuinely good, far better than you would have any right to expect in a neighbourhood restaurant. If you are in the area then give it a try.

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