Manthan (“learn through reflection”) opened in September 2021, run by Rohit Ghai, who also runs Kutir and previously headed the kitchens of Gymkhana and Jamavar. This restaurant is in the premises that used to be Lucknow 49. The menu notionally draws on the chef’s upbringing in Madhya Pradesh in central India, but the menu dishes seem to range widely across India and incorporate British ingredients like salmon and Burford Brown eggs.
The wine list had 56 labels and ranged in price from £28 at £72, with a median price of £48 and an average markup to retail price of 2.4 times, which is very generous by London standards. Sample references were Stellenbosch Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2020 at £32 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Central Coast Pinot Noir MacMurray 2017 at £50 compared to its retail price of £19, and Brunello di Montalcino Il Poggione 2018 at £88 for a wine that will set you back £130 in the high street. For those with the means, there was Fay Cabernet Sauvignon Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 2017 at £225 compared to its retail price of £131, and Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru Joseph Drouhin 2017 at £725 for a wine whose current market value is £320.
The dining room seats just under forty guests. We started with pyazz kachori, a dish resembling a chaat made with Roscoff onion, tamarind mint and sprouts. This worked well, the sweetness of the tamarind complementing the high-quality onion (14/20). Jackfruit tacos had a rice lentil pancake encasing jackfruit flavoured with chutney and south Indian spices. The fruit was not overly sweet and the tacos had quite good texture (13/20). Tandoori lamb chops were marinated with Indian onion, royal cumin (aka black cumin) and mint. The end result was a surprisingly soft texture to the meat, much more so than with other tandoori lamb chops that I have tried. The lamb had quite nice flavour but the texture was a little off putting to me, and indeed to my experienced dining companion, who knows a thing or two about Indian cooking (13/20 at best).
Beef korma was served in a bone marrow with a sauce involving cashew nuts and sandalwood oil. I thought that this was the least successful dish of the night, with the beef tasting quite bland (12/20). Aloo paratha was the classic fried bread, but here stuffed with potatoes and home-churned butter. This was fine but paratha can often be a touch greasy, and I don’t think that the butter really added anything here (13/20). Ossobucco was flavoured with curry leaf and Jaffna spices (a Sri Lankan spice blend). The braised veal shanks had quite deep flavour and easily coped with the spices (14/20). Sarson chicken was chicken with yellow mustard seeds (sarson), Kashmiri chilli and fenugreek. This was enjoyable, the chicken cooked well and its flavour nicely lifted by the strong flavours of the fenugreek and mustard seeds (14/20). We tried two breads, tawa paratha and Sri Lankan pol roti, which is a coconut roti or flatbread. These both had nice texture (14/20).
For dessert, garlic kheer had a base of rabri, which is a sweet dish of condensed milk and jaggery, flavoured with almond, topped with pistachio crumb and served in a little tartlet. This was enjoyable, the textural contrast working well (14/20). The other dessert we tried was a trio of shrikhand, gulab jaman and laddoo, which perhaps needs a little explanation. Laddoo is a sphere of flour, sugar and fat. Gulab jaman is a fried ball or milk solids, sugar, rose water and cardamom. Shrikhand is a dish from Maharashtra made from strained yoghurt. These elements were all nicely made, and the combination of flavours and textures was quite interesting (14/20).
The coffee machine was out of action tonight so I didn’t get a chance to sample the coffee. Service was very good. I was being taken here by a friend so I did not see the bill, but a typical cost per person, sharing a modest bottle of wine, might be around £80. Manthan delivered an enjoyable overall experience, with smart décor, good service and an unusual menu with lots of interesting dishes.