Quilon isn’t your usual option for Indian cuisine, it doesn’t feature any of the usual Indian options like Chicken Tikka Masala, Korma and Naan. Some may be familiar with the traditional South-Indian favourites like Dosas and Idli, but for the majority (including myself), that’s where my knowledge ends. Quilon, with it’s one michelin star, goes even further to extending our Indian cuisine knowledge base and is dedicated to the coastal cuisines of South India. Don’t know what that means or where that is? Neither do I, but I was in for a treat!
To make sure we try a little bit of everything, we go for the Tasting Menu, an extensive range of items all meant to be shared and dipped into, in true authentic Indian style.
We start off with a selection of Poppadums and dips, but as might be expected, these are a cut above the norm. Small little discs of poppadum, perfectly sized to allow a bite of a dollop of one of the variety of chutneys, I’m a fan of the mango one which is laced with garlic and manages to not be too spicy or garlicky all in one taste.
The starters are herb crusted tilapia, perfectly cooked with a little crunch to the crust. The grilled prawns are a surprise addition to the fare and meaty and juicy. The lotus chop is more perplexing, it’s not a taste I’m familiar with, the closest comparison I can make is a vegetarian burger patty, but a little bland.
I’m pretty glad that I didn’t bother finishing up the Lotus chop, because all a sudden there’s a swarm of activity and waiters line up to adorn our table with jewel coloured dishes, even smelling more amazing than the last. We’re served up a dry chicken dish (on banana leaf), sizzling marinated lamb, Mango curry and a side of Coconut with asparagus as part of my five a day. Do you know how you know you’re having an amazing meal? When you have a full plate but you can’t stop yourself putting even more on your plate from a favoured dish. And no matter what we did, the dishes were seemingly never ending and finally we were forced to admit defeat.
Was it the mild but rich Mango curry that was my favourite? Or the big hitting chicken? Or the asparagus and snow peas, so gently cooked and flavoured with coconut? Or was it possibly the impossibly flaky and light Malabar Paratha. And for anyone in the know, it’s almost impossible to class Parathas as light – they’re literally a heart attack waiting to happen, cooked as they are liberally in ghee. But somehow, they manage to make it work here and I can almost believe I’ve chosen the light option. Leave me to my delusions please.
While we’re eating, they bring us out jewel coloured glasses of Rasam. I’m trying to explain what Rasam actually is to fellow guests and I’ve got as far as the inadequate explanation of ‘A kind of Indian soup’ when I realise that absolutely nobody is listening to me, they’re all too busy inhaling the warm tomato spicy aroma and guzzling it down and casting longing looks at mine as I’m busily talking, instead of drinking it. It’s divine. I wouldn’t have listened to me either.
By this stage, the very thought of dessert is making everyone feel a bit ill, but Quilon doesn’t have a Michelin star for nothing and they’ve planned their dessert to utter perfection. It’s a light as air concoction of coconut foam, fruit jellies and mango sorbet with a mere hint of sweet chilli syrup. It’s about 10 times better than I’ve just described it and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. If that doesn’t convince you, then there’s not much that will.
Chef Sriram Aylur can be seen busily going around the restaurant and if there’s one question I’m desperate to ask him, it’s Where is this coastal area that’s the inspiration for this meal, because I’d quite like to go there. Watch out South India, you’re about to be over-run.