12 Ash Avenue, London, SE17 1GQ, United Kingdom

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Kachori opened in June 2023 in a smart new development in Elephant and Castle. Open all day, Kachori focuses on the cooking of northern India, specifically the regions of Rajasthan Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. The large ground floor dining room seats over 90 people at one time, and more than 30 more can be accommodate outside in good weather. The décor was smart and seats were fairly well spaced. The executive chef is Brinder Narula, who was head chef at Gymkhana in 2013 and executive chef at Benares from 2015 to 2019. Kachori’s head chef is Manpreet Singh Ahuja, who worked for several years with Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namaste. The quite lengthy menu mixes familiar north Indian dishes with more exotic fare such as a goat curry, and there is even a section of Indian style burgers.

The wine list failed to list any vintages and also contained typos like “GEWURTERMIENER” (quite a long way off Gewurztraminer) and wildly ambiguous labels like “CHIANTI SUPERIORE” – so which producer would that be then, given that there are over five thousand in that region? The wine list had 29 labels and ranged in price from £25 to £130, with a median price of £42 and an average markup to retail price of 3.7 times, which would be high even in Mayfair. Sample references were Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon by Robert Mondavi at £30 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £6, J. Moreau et Fils Petit Chablis at £52 compared to its retail price of £19, and Chapoutier Gigondas at £75 for a wine that will set you back £29 in the high street. It is the kind of list written by someone who does not actually drink wine. 

Poppadoms were crisp and came with a trio of interesting accompaniments: blueberry chutney, carrot pickle and marrow chutney. The latter was pleasingly spicy and my favourite, but all were good, and it was interesting to see some unusual choices rather than almost ubiquitous mango chutney and lime pickle that most Indian restaurants in London serve.

A pair of tandoori lamb chops used Welsh best end of lamb and were large and cooked pink. They had excellent flavour and had nicely absorbed their spicy marinade, which included royal cumin. The chops came with a salad of pickled red onion and mooli and some yoghurt. These were top class tandoori lamb chops, some of the best I have eaten in London (15/20).

Tarkari (which just means “vegetable”) and onion bhajia came with mint and coriander chutney and date and tamarind sauce. Some onion bhajais can be overly greasy but this went the other way, and was very dry indeed. Better dry than greasy for sure, but the bhajias definitely needed their accompanying sauce and chutney (13/20).

Chicken biryani came sealed with a casing of puff pastry, nicely sealing in the aromas. The rice was good, the grains quite distinct, and the chicken thigh meat avoided dryness (14/20). Less successful was lashuni jheenga, a trio of large prawns cooked in their shell with garlic and stone flower, a kind of lichen with a vaguely cinnamon taste. These came with avocado raita, which was fine. Unfortunately, the prawns were overcooked, not to the point of mushiness but definitely well beyond where they should be. One was actually better than the other two, which was all the more puzzling (11/20). Ghee roast goat varuval was a dry dish with bhuna goat meat cooked with cloves, cumin, pickled ginger, turmeric, crisp curry leaves and turmeric. The meat was tender and flavourful, nicely absorbing the spices it was cooked with (14/20).

Marwai gobi had cauliflower florets cooked with onions, tomatoes, crushed mung beans and cumin (13/20). Dal makhani was cooked overnight, the spiced black urad lentils tender but still having a touch of texture. This was a top-notch dal, rich and dark and complex with a hint of smokiness (15/20). Bhindi is often a slimy mess in Indian restaurants, but here there was no danger of that as it was fried dry with green mango powder, gram floor and turmeric. Certainly, the dreaded greasiness was avoided, but this was very dry indeed, and could have done with some chutney (13/20). Naan was very good, while a laccha paratha was also fine, successfully walking the tightrope between greasiness and dryness that all good parathas must navigate  (14/20). 

Desserts were made in house. Kulfi was made with alphonso mango (presumably frozen given the time of year) and cardamon, and for me didn’t really need the falooda and chia seeds (13/20). My dining companion enjoyed her dessert of salted caramel with jaggery and peanut parfait and glazed banana. Coffee was Musetti, though Drury coffee was also available on request. The bill came to £58 per person with beer to drink. Service was friendly, though getting additional beers seemed to be a curiously long process.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Kachori, with its interesting menu and smart décor. The best dishes such as the lamb chops and the dhal were very good indeed, but there was quite some variation in standard between the dishes. Perhaps this variability will settle down over time. Even with this caveat, there is little doubt that this is already the best Indian restaurant in the area.

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