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In these heady days of foodie-ism, where Peruvian fusion-cuisine is easier to find than baked beans, the humble Indian curry seems a bit lost.
Once the new taste trend, it’s now being threatened by exotic new arrivals. The latest ‘concept’ to get everyone excited is more likely to be Korean or Vietnamese.
We’re ready to go beyond Korma, Jalfrezi and Vindaloo. And many Indian restaurants are realizing this. Kishmish Fulham is now serving some imaginative and inventive dishes. The meat within the curries – pigeon, guinea fowl, duck – are more reminiscent of Henry VIII’s larder than anything on Brick Lane. You couldn’t quite call this bona-fide Indian. But you could call it damn fine.
The starters declare Kishmish’s intentions. Ostrich tikka on beetroot with mint chutney is earthy and rich. When have you had ostrich with Indian spices? It’s not a gimmick, either. My murgh tikka trio is more orthodox – rough chunks of chicken marinated in a trio of sauces, roasted in a tandoor. It’s cooked flawlessly, just enough time to begin crisping the skin but still soft and juicy within.
A tiny pot of soup is presented, about the size of a salt-shaker. Butternut squash, roasted and blended with cardamom, cumin and garam masala, is comforting. Spicy but subtle, each mouthful leads you through a deep sweetness into a mist of spiciness. It’s accomplished yet simple and rustic.
Our main courses are less remarkable but no less satisfying. Nariyal Ka Gosht is a spectacle. Lamb marinated in a lime leaf masala is served within the whole coconut in which it was baked, with the top of the fruit lopped off like a runny egg. Fortunately it’s a cut above coconut milk.
My partner’s murghabi masalam – pan-grilled guinea fowl perched atop a bed of risotto spiced with garlic and chillies – isn’t as successful, though again the meat is nicely cooked, with the guinea fowl wholesome with gamey kick. The risotto is a touch too dry.
Carrot halwa offers a cooling respite after the curries. Delicate parcels of carrot spiced with cinnamon are a pleasant way to conclude a meal, understated yet full of character. Each one is hand-made, and it shows. There’s that satisfying sense that each mouthful is different from the last, that enough thought has been put into the composition to make these humble little rolls hold their own.
As we’re having our coffee Saleem, the owner, asks how our meal was. I tell him what I’ve just told you – that the food is great, and the experimentation of the menu is refreshing. He nods in agreement.
“We’ve changed the restaurant to improve the menu”
“And how have the locals responded?” I ask.
“Not very well” he admits.
More fool them. Kishmish has been on the Fulham Road since 1966. And the people of Fulham, like the people of anywhere else, don’t like change. If the new menu was all flashy tricks and no substance, I’d be finding a new curry house too. But the food here is great. The portions are big and the care taken in their preparation obvious. The spicing is just right. A reserved atmosphere is lightened by a dining room which is tastefully decorated without being bland. Many of the classics, from onion bhajis to biryani, are still on the menu. And it’s fairly priced, especially for west London. Book a table now, while everyone’s still distracted by Mongolian-Swedish fusion brunch huts.
Kishmish is at 448 – 450, Fulham Road, London, SW6 1DL. For more information see www.kishmish.biz
words Chris Zacharia