This restaurant opened in June 2016 in a quiet street just off the main high street in Putney. Its owner, Rohit Razdhan, is from Kashmir and previously ran a restaurant in Singapore. The décor is reasonably bright and smart, with wooden floor, a mural along one wall and display plates hung on another wall.
The lengthy menu had plenty of familiar Indian dishes but highlighted dishes from Kashmir. Quite what wasabi salmon tikka was doing on the menu is a mystery known only to the chef, and I seriously doubt involved freshly grated wasabi root, which anyhow is hardly an ingredient that Kashmir is noted for. There was a short wine list as well as Kingfisher beer in tap. The wines started at just £16 and included labels such as Peter Lehmann Riesling 2013 at £23 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, DMZ Quintet 2012 at £25 compared to its retail price of £11, and a modestly marked up Dom Perigon at a very fair £150 given that this will set you back about £148 in a shop these days. The wine list here was much better than is typical in Indian restaurants. It had sensible wines to go with spices, such as Gewürztraminer and Riesling, included the vintages and tasting notes with each wine and was modestly marked up.
As you sit down you are brought a tashtri, an iron vessel in which you wash your hands; this certainly makes a change from a hot towel. Popadoms were fine and came with the usual set of pickles: mango, lime, mint etc. Lotus root kebabs with cumin were a trio of fried patties with a couple of smears of chutneys. Lotus root has a vaguely subdued nuttiness, and although in Japan it has a distinctive flavour and is commonly served, here it did not taste of much. The overall effect was a touch dry, and more of the chutneys or some sauce would have improved things (10/20). Aloo tikki chaat comprised the usual shallow-fried spiced potato and lentil patties with yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutneys. Perhaps I am too attuned to the versions in Southall but this tasted a little bland to me. I would have preferred more tamarind sweetness and more spice in general, though it was pleasant enough (11/20).
Rogan josh is certainly a Kashmiri dish but here was offered as chicken as well as the usual lamb. The base sauce is made without onions and tomatoes and includes aniseed, chillies and ginger. Sadly the chicken itself was disappointing, having little flavour and being a touch stringy in places, though the sauce was decent if again rather mild (11/20). Dum aloo had whole potatoes fried and simmered in red curry. Sadly the curry sauce was troublingly oily, and the sauce again lacked much in the way of distinct spices (10/20).
Palak paneer was better, the spinach flavour coming through well enough and with a touch of shredded ginger livening up the dish (12/20). The star dish of the meal was romali roti, the thinnest of Indian breads that rarely makes an appearance on London menus since it requires a bulky steel hemisphere and a certain amount of skill in tossing the bread up in the air before being briefly folded and cooked on the hot steel. The version here was genuinely good, light and delicate without the papery texture quality that sometimes can occur with this bread. It was as if the bread had been teleported in from a different kitchen (14/20). Kashmiri pulao used basmati rice cooked with almonds, cashews, saffron, peas and cottage cheese and was pleasantly light and fluffy (12/20).
For dessert, pistachio kulfi was a touch watery and had limited pistachio flavour (11/20) while carrot halwa was topped with dried fruits and lacked the bright flavours of a top-notch halwa (11/20). The desserts were apparently made in the kitchen, which is admirable, but they were just not very exciting.
Service was friendly and efficient; indeed replacement beers arrived with remarkable alacrity, something of which I heartily approve. The bill came to £38 a head with beer to drink. Overall Kashmir promised more than it really delivered. I really like the idea of a restaurant offering regional Indian cuisine, but just writing the menu is not enough – the cooking has to live up to the billing too. For me there were too many bland dishes, though as a local neighbourhood restaurant it was decent enough, and the romali roti at least was classy.