The New Man at Mint Leaf

Posted on Back of House Jun 2011 - by Tandoori Magazine
The New Man at Mint Leaf

Mint Leaf in London's Haymarket, has a new heaf chef - Gopalkrishnan NS. He talks about his cooking style, both traditional and contemporary

For someone who happens to be vegetarian by choice, head chef Gopalkrishnan NS, or Gopal as he likes to be known, is churning out remarkably good meat dishes. But then being the new head chef heading up Mint Leaf, one of the capital's premier West End Indian restaurants, he would have to be good. Besides, his pedigree incoudes the Taj Group, Park Hotels - both in India - and then in the UK, the renowned Tamarind, in Mayfair.

Name a chef who wouldn't want all those on his CV?

Try out some of Gopal's bevy of starters on Mint Leaf's a la carte menu and the first thing you clock is the presentation. Not that there is anything wrong with the taste either, far from it. But what you get on the dish is never less than diverting. In fact, one can almost go so far as comparing some items as being so impressively eye-catching that's you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were dining in some high-end sushi restaurant! It's executed with such precision.

Familiar as they may sound, the likes of aloo tikki, tali shambuka - Scottish scallops with star anise and greem peppercorn - and shami kebab, to name but a few, have never looked so good.

"I was used to cooking more traditional food at Tamarind before I came to Mint Leaf," admits Gopal. "I had complete freedom to come up with a new menu here, but I was also very conscious that with the main curry dishes which are quite traditional, there is an unspoken rule that you shouldn't alter them too much. In the subcontinent, when you don’t have written down recipes it can be tricky to please everyone. The same dish can vary from family to family or even from restaurant to restaurant because the spice requirements can differ according to individual needs and sometimes even the cooking method.

Nevertheless, I made a point of being more playful and adventurous with the starters. At the same time, while there was a European spin in terms of how those starters looked, the authentic Indian flavour was always there in its entirety."

With Gopal’s farther owning a small restaurant and even his grandfather running a catering business, his upbringing in south India, just outside of Madras, was very much dominated by local cuisine. His professional career, like any well-informed chef though was much more diverse. He started with the Taj Connemara. In J2001, he joined The Park group as Kitchen Management Trainee in the Kolkatta unit and got transferred to The Park, Chennai as an opening team member. The rest was natural progression till he hit London at Tamarind to work under master chef Alfred Prasad.

“All the top chefs working in the best Indian restaurants in the UK,” notes Gopal, “have been trained in wide-ranging cuisines. But even though I’ve always loved such national foods as Italian and Thai, Indian cusine is the one I’ve grown up with and will always come back to.”

 

Sample Menu

 

Starters

Spice Roasted Vegetable Salad                   

With Rocket and Lollo Biondi, Honey and Cumin Dressing

Malai Salmon Tikka                                                                        

Grilled Salmon with Cheese, Yoghurt and Pink Peppercorns

Adraki Pasliyan                                                                                            

Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Lemon Rind and Dried Ginger

 

Mains

Sorse Maach                                                                                                 

Pan Fried Gilt Bream with Mustard, Yoghurt Sauce

Chicken Chettinaad                                                             

Chicken Leg with Onion, Tomato and Chettinaad Spices

Kadhai Gosht                                                                                               

Tender Lamb with Freshly Ground Cumin, Chilli and Coriander

 

Desserts

Gulab Jamun Brulée

Carrot Halwa Wrapped in Filo pastry, cardamom ice cream

Coconut Parfait

With winter berry compote

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