We're expecting something a little elegant-but-staid from an evening at this new Albemarle Street restaurant — if only because of the Mayfair postcode, the uncontroversial luxury of the marble and velvet decor, and the noise levels (with nearly every table taken, it's still just a calm murmur).
But Indian Accent, newly arrived on UK shores (with branches in Delhi and New York) serves up surprisingly maverick hit after hit. In fact, it's some of the best Indian food we've had in years. And you should know that we're risking a grandmother’s wrath to make that claim.
A pre-dinner bite arrives low on primping and big on flavour: a round of naan the size of a coin, with a shotglass-sized jug of coconut curry to drink. The naan's thin, soft and piping hot. It sighs out a gentle puff of blue cheese fumes when we tear into it, and instantly kicks every other Indian carb we've eaten in the last 12 months into second place.
While their website says things about progressive ideas married with nostalgic dishes, that sounds a lot more solemn than the reality: a collection of careful, modern twists on regional traditions and flavours.
Those twists include a ghee lamb dish, cooked to dense richness and served with sauces and roomali roti pancakes to wrap it in, in an echo of Peking duck. Proof that Indian Accent's meat dishes are to be reckoned with, but it's actually the vegetarian points in our dinner that steal the show. Among our trio of mathri (under-table Googling says: a salty Rajasthani cracker-meets-biscuit), the smoked aubergine bharta is a small hit of richness that eclipses even the duck khurchan it comes with.
Indian Accent never really strays into recognisable curryhouse territory — the beef laal mas and the lentil-rich dal moradabadi, like the rest of our dinner, both offer up slow, rich warmth rather than a big slap of heat.
Desserts are worth the space we barely manage to save for them. The treacle tart is a tiny, flaky-pastried twist on doda barfi, the traditional Diwali sweet; the stickiness smoothed out by the crumbly pastry. And the makhan malai dessert's a dusky gold beauty with an ingredients list that reads like poetry: aerated saffron milk, rose petal jaggery and almonds. It looks lovely, and tastes lovelier — sweet, nutty, cloudy and crunchy in one bite.
The prices are distinctly Mayfair, and there's no particularly cheap route through chef Manish Mehrotra's menu — though lunchtime's a bit less steep. But if you're looking for out-of-the-ordinary (and progressive, nostalgic) Indian cooking at special-occasion prices, it's worth planning a visit to that blue cheese naan.