A star regained

Posted on Back of House Mar 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
A star regained

Tamarind may have lost its Michelin last year, but it won it back this year. The restaurant’s executive chef talks to Tandoori about the experience.


Part of an elite of high-end London Indian restaurants, Tamarind has long been heralded as one of those establishments that pioneered modern Indian cooking.


Launched under the helm of super-chef Atul Kocchar, it even garnered a Michelin star in 2001, only for Kocchar to leave the following year and his second in command, Alfred Prasad, currently the restaurant’s executive chef, to take over. Ever since, the talented chef hasn’t put a foot wrong, keeping Tamarind at the top of the cream of Indian restaurants.


Until, that is, in January last year, a body blow was dealt and the restaurant’s Michelin star was taken away.


“The news could not have come at a worse time,” admits Prasad, “because we were already in the middle of a recession and down on our business target by up to 20%. Somehow it didn’t feel right that for so many years we’d had the Michelin star and then suddenly it had been removed. I took it very badly and bore the brunt of the pressure, not so much external pressure, but more self-inflicted.”


After citing that the Michelin inspectors removing the star must have noticed the small details that the restaurant had overlooked, such as the bread not being up to scratch or the pulao rice being inconsistent Prasad and his team saw it was time to put on a brave face and say to themselves they will now do better, no question.


“We had what one might call a post-mortem meeting and reflected on what happened,” says Prasad. “The overall conclusion was that while the damage was done, there was no use in being sorry and mournful. So the mantra from then on was that each and every customer who dines with us will go away happy. That way, we would return to our former glory. But we also had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact that we may not be able to regain our Michelin star for anything up to two years.”


Clearly, Prasad and the rest of the staff stayed true to their pledge because as the year progressed, customer feedback was the most positive ever. The chef even goes so far as saying that it wasn’t so much about the number of customers that walked through the door, but more importantly, “about how good an experience they had with us”.


Then, Tamarind received the good news, they had been given their Michelin star back. Prasad and his colleagues - from the kitchen brigade to the front of house personnel - were over the moon and their hard work and effort had paid off.


While he would now like to set his eyes on winning a second or even a third star, Prasad says that the chances are that moving in that direction would require the opening of an off-shoot restaurant of Tamarind where the cooking would be more haute cuisine Indian.


“At Tamarind, we have deliberately stopped short of cutting edge cooking,” he states, “because not only do we excel at offering high-quality traditional Indian food, the subcontinent still has a lot of regional variations which we have yet to explore fully.”


Tamarind Sample Dishes


Appetisers

Tandoori Khumb £8.50
Tandoor grilled portabella, shiitake and oyster mushrooms with pickled onions in a curry leaf dressing


Grilled Scallops £12.00
Flavoured with mixed peppercorns, fennel and star-anise, topped with oven roasted peppers and crushed fenugreek in olive oil


Curries

Tali Macchi £19.95
Pan fried fillet of sea bass with asparagus and raw mango on a sauce of tomato with mustard, curry leaves and coconut

Lamb Chettinad £19.75
Diced leg of lamb with shallots, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and a special blend of Chettinad spices


Desserts

Chocolate Mousse £7.75
Velvety dark chocolate mousse with a hint of cinnamon and orange zest

Stewed Pear £7.95
William pears stewed with star anise and cloves served with masala tea and ginger ice cream

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