Tsaretta Spice opened in July 2019, an offshoot of a restaurant of the same name in Méribel in the French Alps, that has been running since 2016. Head chef Yousuf Mohammed was born in Hyderabad and has previously worked at Dishoom, Tamarind and the Bombay Brasserie.
The wine list had 36 labels, with no vintages shown, and ranged in price from £22.50 to £89.50, with a median price of £35 and an average markup to retail price of 3.1 times, which is tolerable by London standards. Sample references were Mont Rocher Vieilles Vignes Viognier at £26 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for just under £10, Pazo Señorans Albariño at £56 compared to its retail price of £20, and Biscardo Amarone di Valpolicella Classicoat £69.50 for a wine that will set you back £31 in the high street. Beer was either Kingfisher or Cobra, at £6 a pint.
Sev puri had wheat crisps topped with shredded moong beansprouts, sev (noodles made from chickpea flour) and three chutneys: mint and tomato and also tamarind to provide a touch of sweetness. This was a well-judged sev puri, with crisp texture and a pleasing balance of flavours from the chutneys (14/20). Miniature onion bhajias were crisp and nicely spiced, served with a little mango chutney (13/20). Hyderabadi lamb chop was marinated with sweet red chilli, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and a little honey. The meat was quite tender and the marinade worked well, avoiding any cloying sweetness from the honey (13/20).
Crisp chilli aubergine was the best starter, with strips of aubergine cooked with fresh chilli and also ground rice that provided a textural contrast to the softness of the aubergine that worked very well. This had a pleasing kick of chilli and the kitchen pulled off the trick, which so often eludes kitchens, of avoiding cooking the aubergine for too long (14/20). The exotically named “Hotel Buhari’s Chicken 65” was shallow fried pieces of chicken that had been marinated in garlic, ginger and red chilli. The first version of this arrived lukewarm, but was replaced without any debate, and the replacement was hot and tasty (13/20).
Sea bass was pan-fried and served with a sauce of coconut and mango sauce with crushed potato infused with curry leaves. The fish was cooked reasonably well, and although the farmed bass had limited flavour, the curry leaves and coconut nicely lifted the flavour of the dish (13/20). Chicken makhani had chargrilled fillet of chicken cooked with a buttery sauce. This north Indian dish had pieces of chicken that were cooked properly, served in a rich and buttery, lightly spiced sauce (14/20).
Chicken biryani emerged in a pot sealed with a pastry top, in this case using naan bread. Sealing the lid keeps in the aromas, that are then released at the table when the top is cut open, which is exactly how it is usually served in Hyderabad. The rice was fragrant and aromatic, and the pieces of chicken avoided dryness and had quite a bit of flavour. This was a genuinely classy biryani, of the kind that seems to elude many high-end London restaurants (15/20).
Gobi adraki had cauliflower cooked with cumin and onion and laced with ginger. I am very fond of this dish, but although the ginger was fresh and the spicing was fine, the cauliflower florets were a little overcooked (12/20). Mangalorean prawns rested in a sauce of coconut, tamarind and asafetida, the prawns quite tender and the tamarind bringing a subtle touch of sweetness to the sauce (13/20). A side dish of aloo shimli mirch had new potatoes cooked with bell peppers, stir-fried with mustard and spices. Unfortunately, the potatoes were cooked for too long, though the mustard and spices came through well (12/20).
Plain naan was fine, the texture of the bread soft and pliable, but cooked through properly and not floury (13/20). Dhal makhani was cooked overnight and had that dark, slightly smoky sensation that the dish ought to have if it is done well. The lentils still had some texture and there was plenty of flavour (14/20). Saag paneer had cottage cheese that avoided the rubberiness that often afflicts this ingredient, but the spinach flavour lacked much depth of flavour (12/20). It was interesting comparing this dish to the remarkable version at Dastaan, which has phenomenal depth of spinach flavour.
Carrot halwa was very good indeed, with nice balance of sweetness and pleasing texture (14/20). Gulab jaman was quite good also, the spheres of milk solids not overly sweet (13/20). Service was fine. The bill came to £68 per person, with beer to drink. We ordered ample food, and a typical cost per head might be a little less than this, maybe £60. I enjoyed Tsaretta Spice, which had an interesting menu and whose kitchen produced some genuinely good dishes, such as the excellent biryani. It is somewhere to seriously consider if you are in this part of the world.