Quilon opened in 1999 and specialises in the cuisine of southern India. It won a Michelin star in 2008, the kitchens led by chef Sriram Aylur, who has worked in the Taj hotel group since 1989 and was head chef of the Gateway hotel in Bangalore before opening the Karavali restaurant there. Quilon has its own entrance but is attached to the Taj Hotel, and its proximity to Westminster can be seen by the fact that it has its own division bell to summon MPs for House of Commons votes. The dining room was revamped in 2012, featuring original watercolours from Indian artist Paresh Maity.
At the beginning of the meal mini popadoms are brought with a selection of chutneys, which appeared to be made from scratch. Fried cauliflower florets were crisp and had reasonable flavour, toseed with curry leaves, yoghurt and green chilli (13/20). Pepper shrimps were tender and nicely spiced (14/20) and lotus stem and colocasia (taro) chop, a sort of vegetable pattie made in the style of a little rice and lentil dosa, unusual and pleasant, served with mango mint sauce (13/20).
Lamb biryani was made in a traditional way with a large pot covered with pastry to seal in flavour, though this is removed before serving. The rice was delicate and the gently spiced lamb had good flavour (14/20). Fish curry used halibut, which in itself was fine, though for me the sauce could have been a bit bolder (13/20). Mangalorean chicken is a dish from the coastal state of Kamataka, flavoured with coconut and a range of spices including fenugreek, red chillies and cloves. The meat was carefully cooked though this traditionally spicy dish seemed a little underpowered to my taste (13/20). Black cod was baked with spices and was pleasant enough (13/20), but I preferred chilli prawns with ground pink peppercorns, tender and with a bit more bite (14/20). Okra was deep fried and managed to be crisp, something that few Indian restaurants in London seem able to pull off (14/20). Breads were good, including a particularly nice paratha (14/20).
Service was very capable. The bill came to £36 a head at lunch, with just water to drink. Overall the meal was much as I recall here. I like the variety of the menu and the ingredient quality is reasonable, though at times the spicing feels as if it is has been toned down or perceived western tastes. It is certainly an enjoyable meal, and a good showcase for the dishes of southern India, which get less attention in the UK than they deserve.
Further reviews: 31st Oct 2010