Republic opened briefly in late 2020 before having to close due to the Covid pandemic. Now fully open, it serves modern Indian food on the site that used to be Hedone. Regulars at Hedone would recognise the layout, with exposed brick walls and a counter facing an open kitchen. The head chef and co-owner is Kuldeep Mattegunta, who was head chef at Kricket and before that worked at Benares, Nobu Park Lane and Quilon. Front of house is led by co-owner Mustaq Tappewale, formerly general manager at Kricket.
There was a short wine list of sixteen labels, only some of which had vintages shown. The bottles ranged in price from £20 to £120, with a median price of £44 and a hefty average markup to retail price of 3.3 times retail price. Sample references were Noordhoek Cape Point Sauvignon Banc at £40 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Domaine Moreau Naudet Chablis 2018 at £70 compared to its retail price of £21, and Ca’ La Bionda Amarone 2015 at £120 for a wine whose current market value is £53. Alternatively, you could drink Lukas Helles lager or Jaipur India Pale Ale at £5.
We started with an interesting dish, a spicy vegetarian sausage roll. This used minced soya that had been soaked overnight, mixed with cumin, garam masala, coriander seeds and fresh coriander, rolled out into puff pastry coated with sesame seeds and onion seeds. This was served with a spicy tomato ketchup that included a touch of Sichuan pepper. This was lovely, the pastry good and the spices enlivening the soya filling nicely, with the ketchup adding a kick of spice and meaning that the dish avoided any sense of being too dry. This was an original and enjoyable dish (14/20).
Less successful was a cauliflower dish with several elements. At the base was cauliflower purée with spices, topped with charred cauliflower with seasoning of pickled raisin and pickled red chilli, along with brown butter and a garnish of mint and coriander with fried gram flour. The texture of the cauliflower was fine but the spices were very subdued indeed (12/20). Seemingly, this was due to feedback from some early customers of the restaurant, who had complained that dishes were “too spicy”. Listening to your customers is good in principle, but frankly if you come to an Indian restaurant yet dislike spicy food then it is like test driving a Ferrari and complaining that it is too fast. The essence of Indian cooking is its use of spices, and although many dishes in India are quite mild, the spice flavours should be distinct and discernible.
Kasundi prawns is based on a Bengali relish called Kasundi, a peppery dish from Calcutta made with mustard, ginger, garlic and red chilli paste. The prawns were marinated with the relish and cooked in the tandoor, the result being tender and gently spicy, served with mint and coriander chutney (13/20). I very much enjoyed achari new potatoes, here being seasonal Jersey royal potatoes that were boiled and then fried before being broken up and laced with spices, lime pickle and sesame seeds. The kick of the lime pickle really lifted the flavour of the potatoes, which were carefully cooked and had excellent texture (14/20).
Given the very modern dishes on the menu, chicken tikka masala was perhaps an ironic menu choice. This iconic dish has somewhat disputed origins but may well be a British invention, a take on the northern Indian dish butter chicken. The version here was well made, the chicken tender and the creamy tomato-based sauce having a pleasant spicy kick (13/20). Also good was a classic Punjabi channa masala with shreds of fresh ginger, the chickpeas tender and the spices nicely judged (13/20). It is also worth noting that the rice pilaf was unusually good, the grains distinct and flavoured with cumin and a little saffron (14/20). Naan bread had good texture (13/20).
There was a single dessert, khova (dried whole milk) mousse with salted and roasted peanut caramel on a bed of chocolate oreo crumbs. This was original and enjoyable, the peanut flavour not too dominant and the crumb not overly dry (13/20). Service was excellent, and the bill came to £51 a head including beer. Republic is a most welcome addition to the Chiswick dining scene. Chiswick has badly lacked a good Indian restaurant, the main local place being a long established and harmless but unexciting curry house called Annapurna. The food at Republic is far more interesting and well made, and I will happily return here.