Madhu’s at The Grove was originally intended as a pop-up restaurant in 2021 but is now firmly established. The Grove is a grand hotel set in 300 acres of carefully tended grounds not too far from Watford. The establishment is a luxury hotel with spa and golf course, formerly the home of the Earl of Clarendon. The Grove was first referenced in the 13th century but the current building is of Georgian origins. Madhu’s has its own discreet entrance to the left of the main hotel lobby, with the dining room spread across three dining rooms plus a private room. The restaurant is part of the growing Madhu’s empire, which as well as the main wedding catering business has six restaurants. The original is in Southall, and there are others in Heathrow, Mayfair, Richmond and at Harvey Nichols. The menu features the usual Madhu’s Punjabi dishes, with a few unusual touches, such as aloo tikki and mogo chips.
The wine list had 76 labels and ranged in price from £26 to £475, with a median price of £53 and an average markup to retail price of 2.8 times, which is pretty normal. Sample references were Oltre Passo Falanghina 2019 at £27 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Waimea Estate Gewurtztraminer 2019 at £45 compared to its retail price of £16, and Stags Leap Hands of Time Red 2017 at £77 for a wine that will set you back £34 in the high street. For those with the means there was Dom Perignon 2010 at £300 compared to its retail price of £212, and the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2016 at £255 for a wine whose current market value is £167.
After popadoms and home-made chutneys we began our meal with some tandoori dishes cooked over the robata charcoal grill, which gives an attractive smoky hint to the dishes. Lamb chops were cooked well and had absorbed their marinade involving fresh ginger, the end result perhaps a little less spicy than the versions I have had elsewhere (14/20). Chicken malai tikka had pieces of chicken thigh that had been marinated with spices and cottage cheese to tenderise the meat. The chicken was cooked just a fraction longer than ideal but was tender enough and went well with the chutneys on the side (13/20). Aloo tikki had a central potato patty filled with peas, accompanied by chickpeas, yoghurt, mint, spices and tamarind sauce, which brings its appealing sweetness to enliven the dish (14/20).
Lamb biryani had aromatic rice with distinct grains, the meat avoiding dryness (14/20). Achari prawns were initially cooked a bit too long but when I mentioned this to the waiter a replacement appeared minutes later, this version flawlessly cooked, the prawns tender and sweet (14/20 for the replacement). Aloo bhindi was a mix of potatoes and okra, the latter being a tricky vegetable to cook properly. The version here was good, the okra avoiding sliminess and the potatoes retaining their texture (13/20). Black dhal was excellent, the lentils cooked overnight and having a rich, smoky flavour with a hint of spice (14/20). Naan bread was fine, having soft texture (13/20).
Desserts were attractively presented. Kulfi had plenty of almond flavour and good texture, avoiding the ice crystals that can sometimes detract from this dish (14/20). Halwa had the natural sweetness of carrots enhanced by milk, cream, cardamom and accompanied by pistachio ice cream (14/20).
The manager was a veteran of the Madhu’s group and the staff were very professional. It transpired that I was recognised and was entirely unable to obtain a bill, but a typical cost per person here might be around £65 or so, depending on what you drank. This is a solid addition to the Madhu’s group, with a very pretty country session, capable service and good cooking.