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Friday, 14 January 2011

London Restaurant Reviews - Quilon

Fine Dining Indian Restaurant in Central London

Why is good, authentic Indian food so difficult to find in the UK? A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Goa and had the most fantastic food there. It was fresh, beautifully spiced and flavoursome. It gave a glimpse of what Indian cuisine could deliver but also made me realise what a pale imitation is so much of the food we get in Indian restaurants across London. 
Since that trip to Goa, I have never found a restaurant back home that has lived up to the memory of those wonderful meals. It is not for the want of trying, and I have been looking ever since...

Quilon, on Buckingham Gate, serves South West Coastal Indian dishes made by head chef Sriram Vishwanathan Aylur. Sriram describes his food as progressive, and having looked at my lunch menu, I could see what he meant judging by the unorthodox ingredients in his cooking (black cod comes to mind!). He gained the restaurant its first Michelin Star in 2008, which he has retained to this day.

The restaurant's decor appears somewhat at odds with its elevated culinary status. Something of an '80s throw-back, the combination of salmon coloured furniture, with cobalt blue plant pots sticking out from the mirrors, and rattan chairs, made it look sadly like a Travelodge breakfast room.

With gaze averted, we started on the intriguing menu with gusto. Mini poppadoms were brought to our table with chutneys of tomato and coconut. Lightly spiced, these were sweet and appetising, making me rather hungry.

Next, Dr G and I shared a medley of starters including a "vegetarian fried cake" of lotus stem and soya bean served with a mango and plum sauce, and "slow roasted lamb shank" which was particularly good, and flavoured with fennel and mint. There were also "crab cakes" with curry leaves, ginger, and green chillies and a "grilled scallop" with small pieces of mango and chilli. I enjoyed all of these appetizers, and was pleased with the vibrant, fresh flavours of each dish.

As a palate cleanser, we were then served a hot, slightly spiced "tomato consommé". It was full of flavour, but I found it incongruous - neither refreshing nor cleansing.

For my main dish I had to go for the "Baked Black Cod" @ £12. As a South Pacific fish, this could hardly be described as indigenous. Black cod is more commonly associated with Japan, where it is hugely popular baked with white miso. Sriram's version had a similar texture - milky and creamy, but tasted deliciously different with the various Indian spices. I really enjoyed this dish.

Another excellent main was the "Prawns Byadgi". This was a massive, succulent prawn, beautifully grilled, and flavoured with the intriguing sweetness of the byadgi chilli.

We also ordered a Mangalorean chicken curry "Kori Gassi" @ £15. This was a sensational curry, and one I don't remember having tried before. Made with a coconut milk base, the curry contained a myriad of spices including coriander, fenugreek and cumin, and also a slight tamarind sourness which balanced the richness of the coconut.

One of the best dishes was the "Crispy Okra" @ £8. The okra had been thinly sliced, battered and deep-fried. It was delicious and a great accompaniment to the fish and chicken dishes.

The "Curry Leaf and Lentil Rice" @ £3 tasted fresh and had hints of coriander and coconut.

The wine menu is a cut above any other Indian restaurant I have visited, and it is no surprise that it received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2009. Prices reflect this with the least expensive bottles starting from £21. On our visit Dr G and I went for a 2009 Sula Chenin Blanc from Nashik @ £30. An Indian wine, it had delicious floral aromas and plenty of fruit and acidity to stand up to the dishes we ate. Many of the wines are sold in half-bottles at no extra cost (£30 for a full bottle, £15 for a half bottle), encouraging diners to try different wines with each course. This is commendable.

Quilon offers a 3-course set lunch menu for £24 (available all week except Saturday), and impressive 5 or 8-course beer and food matching menus for £65 and £85 respectively. Looking at the 8-course menu, I was struck by the quality and range of beers including some of my favourites like the Belgian Chimay Red (paired with the black cod), the Alsatian Kasteel Cru Rose and the Greenwich Meantime Pale Ale (no Cobra anywhere to be seen!).

For pudding, Dr G and I had a selection of their desserts including a Goan speciality of Portuguese origins called "Bibinca and Dodhol". Bibinca was a layered-crepe style cake made of coconut milk, nutmeg and flour served with Dodhol (a sweet made from palm jaggery and cashew nuts) and vanilla ice cream.

Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Quilon. I estimate that a 3-course meal would cost around £35-£40 per person excluding drinks which I believe to be good value for food of this quality. The lunch menu is also good value at £24.

Likes: delicious, fresh, exciting Indian food with an outstanding list of wines and beers. Black cod, 5 and 8-course beer and food matching menus, central location, excellent and friendly service.

Dislikes: the decor leaves something to be desired in a restaurant of this calibre. A refurb is long overdue.

Verdict: Quilon is outstandingly good. Few Indian restaurants have impressed me as highly and I cannot wait to return. Very highly recommended.

Quilon on Urbanspoon


  1. Pete and I went to Quilon last year too and we really enjoyed it. The decor is a bit odd, but the food was wonderful and Pete liked their beer menu too - nice to have the option instead of wine and not just a couple of boring lagers either.

  2. Was brought to Quilon by a colleague a year back. Didn't realise that it had a Michelin until I noticed telling signs - each member of the staff performing only a specific task: greeting guests, clearing table, bringing food from kitchen, presenting food etc.

    I thought that the food was better than I expected and some of the southern Indian dishes reminded me of a finer version of the Indian street hawker back home.

    Agreed about the dated interior. But 'Travelodge'? That's a new one. Heheh..

  3. Based on this post, we ate there last night. We found the food delicious - the fried okra a reminder of the American South - and found our waiter to have the best customer service we have ever had in this country over the past 6 months. We finished the evening by seeing The Kings Speech. Thank you for the reco -L

  4. Great review Luiz - food looks great but particularly love your description of the interior as like a Travelodge!

  5. Would agree Quilon needs an interiors guru! That crispy okra is really delicious. We tried some fish dishes when we were there and they were pretty good as well.

  6. Very good reviews about restaurant. These foods looking fantastic. I like this site. Thanks a lot....

    Restaurant reviews

  7. That fried okra looked lovely! I love okra, so glad to see it done a bit differently.

  8. I enjoyed the food here very much. The lunch menu is good value. I especially liked the bibinca and dodhol. Yum!

  9. Have been scratching for a decent Indian- thank you for pointing us in the right direction. Also pretty darn keen on some decent wine options while we're there... lovely. NB, your travelodge call is mighty entertaining.

  10. I thought Quilon was good, but I wonder what exactly got it it's Michelin star other than the decor, high price tag and posh service. I did enjoy my dinner but wouldn't go again. Well maybe if the lunch menu is as good as everyone says!

  11. Great site and I tasted "baked Black Cod" @ £12 with classic dinning enthusiasm!


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