One vegetarian in a mustard jumpsuit and a book aficionado in a forest green dress wandered the quiet streets of Mayfair in search of progressive Indian Cuisine, where eight exquisite courses of supreme deliciousness took centre stage at Indian Accent. They would laugh bemused by the potato sphere chaat that danced on a bed of white pea mash alongside soy keema which embraced lime leaf pao with loving arms. Their eyes would fixate entranced by the Tofu Masala which hungrily engulfed asparagus and shishito pepper in a theatrical display of Bharatanatyam, while pumpkin and coconut shorba traveled through a reinterpretation of nostalgic Indian dishes, with an openness towards global techniques and influences. But it was the spiced Pear Tartine with Coconut Jaggery and vegan ice cream that had the final curtain call, as it plunged into our mouths with undisguised and unfiltered relish. Our mouths were peppered with moshka cocktails and brined with deep red wine, while our hearts were warmed by Indian Accent’s inventive menu, curated by talented Chef Manish Mehrotra, whose friendly smile radiated throughout each exquisitely prepared dish. Maintaining traditional integrity while exploring progressive ideas, is never an easy mix to maintain in fine dining cuisine but is one that Indian Accent nails so masterfully, the faint taste of pumpkin shorba coating our ravenous lips.
It would be a night to remember, two Instagram buddies becoming friends in real life, laughter bouncing around four walls. Giggles bubbling into inky darkness, plush seats toasted by warm bodies, out the corner of our eye we could see our fellow restaurateurs gliding into a world of culinary make believe, in this fantasy we were ‘woke’. Cocktails slithered sensuously in a game of carnivalesque song and dance, hibiscus infused vodka, blackberry, rose foam made up the prettiest Moksha. But lest we forget the blackberry mojito that slipped into our mouths in a lustful caress, ice cubes lolling around ravenous tongues. With compliments from the chef, we were swept into a vegan and vegetarian’s paradise, with an eight part menu that demanded our attention. There would be fresh green pea bhel sitting on its throne of crispy rice, while spinach saag kofta soaked up chilli takda dal and Makan Malai bathed in a bath of glorious saffron milk. And who could not love the spiced pear tartine battling with coconut jaggery, as it traveled the vegan coconut ice cream sea?
The Amouse Bouche decried we sit up and listen, pumpkin and coconut shorba swallowed in one flirtatious gulp, spices toying with our senses, we surrendered to baseless pleasure. In this land of culinary dreams we grabbed mini blue cheese naans, that were descriptive of waves upon waves of sensuality, sago crisp with watermelon a refreshing palette cleanser, the Libra of amuse bouches. It was undeniable that the pumpkin was the star however, as it pranced and preened, begging to enter our waiting mouths. Washed down with a bottle of Fleurie, Domaine du Calvaire Roche gres, (France 2015), a lovely nose of violets greets you, whilst in the mouth pure finesse and suppleness compliments our pre-starters beautifully. Our first course was on its way aboard the Indian Accent train, a potato sphere chaat with white pea mash, creamed in thick lustrous yogurt. As this was a hybrid vegan and vegetarian tasting menu, we were served the same again without yogurt, for the vegan friendly alternative that still packed a punch. The potato was soft and tender, the chaat a delectable blend of white pea ragda, moreish to taste, both vegan and vegetarian versions holding their own on Indian Accent’s chessboard of tasting courses. True to fine dining form our Second Course was haute couture eleganza, puchkas surrounded by five waters, wafers infused with relish delight. Organized from’spiciest’ to lightest, the five waters included mint raita (in the vegetarian version), sticky pineapple and tomato relish, poured into mouths like we were knocking back tequila shots. Instead, unlike aforementioned Tequila whose memory bears a shudder, the five waters were a pleasant aperitif, liquids dancing on flaky pastry cups.
But who could have prepared us for the masquerade ball that was the third and fourth course, tofu masala yearning for soy keema on melba toast? The tofu masala was divinely spiced, peppered with asparagus and shishito pepper, while the soy keema was almost akin to meat, morsels wrapped in an elegant stone basin, which when the lid was lifted plunged into our hungry bellies with reckless abandon. Dressed in one singular quails egg perched atop soy keema, the vegan version outshone the vegetarian with melba toast bringing out the flavours of the keema oh so delightfully. The keema was exceptional, we could have done with a second helping, we racked our brains to ponder whether they would notice if we ransacked their kitchens. But alas our brave hearts were in thought only, we would not be stealing any food tonight, staying put instead to see what our lucky dish number 5 would be. Fresh green pea bhel towered over crispy rice and kashmiri morels, dusted with walnut powder, and perched on a Parmesan papad, our mouths salivating as we whisked through our culinary dream. And whilst our sixth course of Anaar Chuski, was drying on the tongue, our reversion back to course number five, proved 5 is the magic number. The sandpaper esque palette cleansers with a faint taste of watermelon did nothing to whet our appetite but luckily this short blip in the tasting menu gave way to course number 7, where the koftas would battle to claim ultimate superiority.
And thus the spinach saag kofta shook the hand of the quinoa pulao gracefully, summer peas swept over side salad masterfully, green pea kofta coconut curry waiting in the wings. The green pea kofta was well seasoned and peppered with flavour, accentuated by plain naan with Masala Dal and Chilli Takda (Vegan) while the saag ate up black dairy dal nicely, its rich creaminess offset by the bitter yet slightly sweet tenderness of the ingrained spinach. Our bellies were beginning to swarm with a buzz of flavour, our food babies commenced, but there was one more course that cried out to be loved. In the final battle between Vegetarianism and Veganism, the spiced pear tartine put on its armor of coconut jaggery and trudged across vegan vanilla ice cream seas, while the Makan Malai took off its clothes and stepped into saffron milk, adorned with rose petal jaggery , as it ate brittle almonds. The spiced pear tartine was -as the name suggests- sweet yet tart, the pear tender in its poached naked state, vegan ice cream gracefully swooping in to change the game. But what of the Makan Malai I hear you ask, curious about the plethora of flavours that lay chillaxing in saffron milk? The flavours were dense, too much so for my taste, Indian sweets having a reputation for ‘sweeter than sweet sweets’. But the saffron milk was delightfully clouded by rose petals that gave off a floral note. In short the desserts were not my favourite,that much as true, but the spiced pear really did taste wonderful on the tip of my tongue.
Bellies sated, we were the last customers standing, smiling warmly at the staff who bid us goodbye as we waddled bloated into the darkness of night. The skies were inky black, scattered with a few silver stars, the tube steps glistening with undefinable stickiness. But despite the dark we saw only light, a torch waving its luminous brightness above our sleeping heads.