A touch of Indian seasoning

Posted on Back of House Mar 2012 - by Tandoori Magazine
A touch of Indian seasoning

Proprietor Salil Bhatia is one of those solid stalwarts of the UK Indian restaurant scene who always ensure that authenticity comes to the fore. With a stellar background in the hotel and restaurant world in India and subsequently a directorship at Gaylord, which is virtually an institution in London’s Mortimer Street, Bhatia has ensured that that his upmarket restaurant Indian Seasoning, in Fulham, also boasts robust and highly credible cooking.

 
Of course, any notable restaurant has to offer equally notable food, and that’s where a good chef comes in. For Indian Seasoning it’s in the guise of Mumbai-born Nirmal Save, who takes a no-nonsense approach to his menu.
 
“My family background,” says Save, “is couched in the farming community, so right from childhood I’ve had an upbringing in knowing about vegetables and other fresh produce. But I also have an uncle who owns a three-star hotel near Gujarat so you could say that my inspiration for the world of food and hospitality came from those origins. In addition, both my mother and grandmother were not only very good cooks, but also had a small pickling factory.”
 
Sure enough, fed on his mother’s wholesome vegetarian home-cooking and the knowledge he gained from his grandmother, Save became a dab hand in the kitchen himself from the tender age of 12.
 
“After my school years were finished,” states Save, “I joined the IHM catering college because I knew what my career path was going to be. My mother was very pleased with my decision even though my father wanted me to join the merchant navy. Having trained in the bakery and Oriental kitchen sections, I joined the JW Marriott group as an executive trainee and was installed in the Indian kitchen.”
 
A brief stint with the Oberoi group followed, after which Save decided to take leave for the UK shores and arrived in London.
 
“I love to cook Italian and various other cuisines,” admits Save, “but there was never any question in my mind that I wouldn’t be cooking Indian food. It’s always been a cuisine that I have been so immersed in and always been confident about my know-how of different spices, different cooking methods and also regional dish variations.”
 
After initially working at a small restaurant in Ilford for six months, Save joined Indian Zest, in Sunbury-on-Thames, to work under one of the UK’s finest Indian chefs, Manoj Vasaikar. He stayed with him for just over a year and says of his experience: “Manoj is a wonderful chef. I learnt so much from him and really liked what we achieved at the restaurant along with making it very popular.”
 
Then in 2008, Save joined Indian Seasoning to execute a menu with decidedly north-Indian leanings, the odd modern flourish and a smattering of Indo-Chinese dishes. He is now planning to give the menu a bit of a spin and to bring in more pan-Indian influences.
 
“I have been lucky enough to have travelled all over India,” states Save, “and been able to absorb what each corner of the country has to offer. As a chef, you pick up on all that knowledge and then when it comes to putting the dishes into practice, you just have to get the right balance of spices and flavours so that you do justice to the authenticity of those regions. You should keep it simple and not stray from the true origins of the dish.”
 
 
SAMPLE MENU
Indian Seasoning
 
Starters
Aloo tikki
Mumbai bhel
Walnut kebab sheek
Drums of heaven
 
Mains
Chicken kalimirch
Goan fish curry
Lamb shank
Chinese king prawn in pepper sauce or oyster sauce 
 
DESSERT
Firni
Kulfi falooda
 
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