Peshawri Kolkata

ITC Sonar, Jbs Haldane Avenue, Science City, Kolkata, 700046, India

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Peshawri is actually a mini-chain of restaurants sited within ITC hotels in India, this particular one in the basement of the ITC Sonar hotel in the Science City area of Kolkata. The culinary theme is that of the rustic north-west frontier (Peshawar is the capital of the Khyber province in Pakistan), so Punjabi style cooking is the order of the day. The dining room decor follows the same approach, so there are rugs and lamps hung from the walls, plain tables and stools rather than chairs. Even the menu appears on a wooden board, and guests are encouraged to eat with their hands rather than cutlery. The kitchen is open to view, with an emphasis on tandoor cooking rather than curries. The final, and less desirable, nod to the notional informality theme is that all the dishes (except desserts) turn up at once instead of there being starters and main courses.

Cauliflower was coated with yellow chilli and other spices and then coated in gram flour, deep fried, then skewered and finished on a charcoal grill. This treatment works very well, the cauliflower retaining its texture and its spice coating enlivening the vegetable (14/20). Murgh malai tikka was a fine example of the breed, generous pieces of chicken marinated in spices and then cooked in a charcoal tandoor. The chicken was carefully cooked, the spices nicely balanced and the smoky hint from the tandoor pleasing (15/20). 

The star dish was fish tikka, made from bekhti, which is the local name for barramundi. As Australian chefs will testify, barramundi is a superb fish, with delicate flavour and a hint of sweetness, right up there with other premium fish like turbot and sea bass. The chunks of fish here were beautifully cooked in the tandoor, the charcoal note a good foil to the inherent sweetness of the fish, the spices of the marinade coming through well. This was the best fish tikka I have ever eaten (17/20 may be too mean a score). 

Black dhal was made in the style of that at the famous Bhukara restaurant in Delhi, itself in another ITC hotel, and this version was a faithful reproduction, the black urad lentils slow cooked overnight and flavoured with ginger, garam masala and red chilies. The result is a rich flavour with a little smokiness from the charcoal cooking (14/20). Naan and romali roti were good rather than dazzling, but enjoyable enough (13/20). At a second meal tandoori lobster was terrific, very tender and with well-balanced spices (16/20).

For dessert, gulab jamun (fried milk and flour balls with sugar syrup) was unusually good here, the texture lovely and the dish avoiding the sickly level of sweetness that all too often occurs (15/20).

Service was very good, the staff attentive but not intrusive. The bill, with beer to drink, came to INR 9372 for two, which works out at £47 a head, with beer to drink. This is a lot of money by local standards, but reflects the prices of a luxury hotel, and I think is in its own way a bargain given the exceptionally high standard of food. The fish tikka here was worth the price of the meal on its own. 

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