We had the pleasure of popping into the long-reigning one Michelin-starred Indian grill restaurant, Amaya Bar & Grill, in the heart of Belgravia’s Halkin Arcade. Beyond the doors of its sleek and simple exterior, the restaurant inside boasts a large, open dining room with dark, glossy interiors lit up by soft, incandescent lighting and dynamically contrasted with vibrant and a colourful original wall mural.
As you walk in, the establishment’s moody and upscale sophistication is reflected in the pendulous glassy structures and lustrous wooden flooring to the black and red leather and velvet upholstery and particularly in the dim-lit bar area with a more intimate seating arrangement and a seductive ambience. The focal point of the restaurant is of course its theatrical open kitchen which is impossible to miss as flames rise up from behind and it’s illuminated by golden back-lit walls and glowing glass ornaments whilst the vivid colours from the vegetables and fruit displayed next to that vie for your attention. The aromatic fragrance alone wafting out from behind the open kitchen and the tandoor ovens is enough to send your palettes into a restless tizzy, until you pass by diners tucking into their fresh, sizzling skewers, just teasing you even further with the glazy glint from their juices.
Starting off the evening right, we sampled some cocktails, and my dining partner enjoyed a Grapefruit Negroni made from Bombay Gin, Fernet Branca, Grapefruit, and Dranburie. I decided to try one of their signature cocktails, a delectable Wild Hibiscus & Elderflower Martini made with Elderflower, Star of Bombay Gin, Wild Hibiscus, and Champagne shaken together over ice and served in a charming long-stemmed glass.
Our menu for the evening was selected carefully to present the best signature tastes of Amaya’s sophisticated Indian fusion with European influences. All the dishes were served in smaller portions with the concept of tapas-style dining and a focus on real gourmet quality over quantity, making it an ideal choice for the discerning diner who, like myself, can be rather indecisive when it comes to choosing food.
We began with a Mandarin and Goats Cheese Salad. When I saw this prior to my arrival on the menu for tonight, I was immediately intrigued. Fruits, fierce cheese and salads are a combination that can prompt raised brows even from the most open-minded of diners, but I do believe that great, innovative fusion cuisine needs not be limited by boundaries, so long as the chefs possess the know-how to execute their visions. Much to my delight, the salad was a strong leading appetiser and we thoroughly enjoyed the bursting, sweet flavour from the mandarin combined with the arugula’s spice and the creamy cheese texture that came through in our petite, purple lettuce cups.
The Seafood Tandoori Platter had me daydreaming about her long after we parted ways and how could I not? With an assortment of exquisitely grilled crustaceans such as rock oysters grilled in a heavenly rouille sauce, king scallops in a lush green herb sauce, and tandoori ocean prawns marinated in a tomato sauce, I was in tandoor maritime paradise. The bright colours just screamed out to us as well as the tantalising char they all sported and the flavours were magnificent. The oyster had a beautiful, garlic and saffron flavour to it from the rouille as well a crunch, which was a texture I don’t normally expect from oyster but it welcomed wholeheartedly, nonetheless. The scallop, in particular, was so tender to bite into and the green herb sauce was a refreshing addition, not to mention a stunning picture. The prawns were lovely and moist, like all the other fishes the textures achieved from stellar techniques are up there at Michelin-worthy standards.
Along with the seafood platter came some Ghee Naan and Truffle Naan. They were incredibly scrumptious and addicting, perfectly excellent fluffy pieces to tear off and soak up all those rich sauces you don’t want to waste!
Moving on to the next part of our saga of spices, the Masala Lobster and Griddled Asparagus. As these dishes made their way to our table, already the vibrant vermillion red of the lobster’s shell on a bed of banana leaves and the glowing green from the asparagus spears were getting us extremely excited. The lobster meat was grilled to a succulent sensation and was absolutely bursting with fresh and rich flavours from the earthy sweetness of the Masala. The asparagus’ tender texture was delightful along with the herby, peppery notes in every bite and the subtle crunches from the sesame seeds.
The Chargrilled Aubergine came topped with an ample smattering of crispy onions, yoghurt and cress with a generously seasoned and well-spiced body. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of the aubergine exuded unrivalled earth and smoky notes from the grilling. Coming in hot alongside our vegetables, we were overjoyed to see a pair of simple, unpretentious Chargrilled Smoked Chilli Lamb Chops without any extra fuss or pomp, just allowing that perfectly charred, stunning deeply browned meat sit there, just resting on its bone. Stuffed with rich, spiced flavours in its inconceivably juicy and tender pink meat, we simply couldn’t get enough.
Reaching the last of our hot dishes, we had the Herb Chicken Biryani with Pomegranate and Rose Raita. Cooked and steamed in a clay pot with a caramelised tomato base with smoked boondi, this outstanding dish – a true icon of Indian cuisine – was packed with spices and moisture. The marinated chicken was complemented with caramelised onions, mint and basmati rice. What was particularly memorable about this dish was the wave of nostalgia that hit me with authentic, home-cooked quality, elevated to another level with the unique take on their refreshing, creamy Raita made with sweet pomegranate seeds and rose.