Hot stuff: Trishna is great for date night but mind the spice


15-17 Blandford Street, W1U 3DG

FOOD ***

Cost per person without wine: £45

TRISHNA is that rare thing: a rustic-chic restaurant serving top-dollar Indian cuisine. Elsewhere in London, posh Indians are in over-sleek rooms without windows and rustic is the very last word you’d apply to them. At the other end of the spectrum, of course, you have the eating halls of Commercial Road or the dives of Brick Lane. Trishna makes a nice change.

The cosy design of the place seems to make families feel welcome. At Trishna, my parents and I felt right at home among family groups with children of all ages. There were also young, well-heeled local couples having a romantic Friday night date.

Trishna specialises in south-west Indian food and is sister to the award-winning seafood restaurant Trishna in Mumbai. It is not brand new, but chef Karam Sethi – also the owner – has only been at the helm for a year.

There is a varied a la carte choice but we went for the tasting menu, moving through shellfish to fish and then to rich meat, with all the lovely side dishes of lentils, rice and naan that you’d hope for.

Sethi’s sister, Sunaina, is the sommelier and she impressed us with clever, interesting choices – a Brazilian white was particularly good with the bolshy flavours of the food.

Now, I like spice as much as the next biryani lover, but for my money, Sethi needs to tone down the heat and let the ingredients peep out more. Indian food is built around strong flavours, but with cuisine of these ambitions, a more moderate approach would have been better. Too often the coatings and marinades railroaded over the delicate seafood or meat they accompanied. Koliwada fried lobster and shrimp with carom seed, garlic and chutney, tasted mostly of batter and spice – a real shame – while Aylesbury duck seekh kebab – distinguishable from lamb kebab by its lighter colour and silkier texture – was utterly overpowered by a generic hot meaty flavour, albeit one of complex composition. And Dorset brown crab with garlic pepper and butter was just too much: too rich, too buttery and too slurry-like – the crab needed to be allowed to sing more and retain more of its texture.

Elsewhere, though, the menu delighted and I was glad, since Trishna has good vibes and should do itself proud. Hariyali bream with mint, coriander and tomato kachumber was a sensuous, smoky take on the white fish; guinea fowl tikka with fennel seed was just the ticket; star anise and masoor lentils were completely moreish, nutty and fragrant, and lamb – though we barely had space for it – was superb.

Indian puddings (at least in UK restaurants) are notorious, but the gulab jamun with cardamom and ice cream is an aromatic, satisfying treat.

Overall, the brother and sister team operating Trishna do a good job: they’re friendly, knowledgeable and talented, and the dining room excudes bonhomie. If the excessive flavouring of the tasting menu’s most ambitious dishes can be tempered, it’ll be great.

Perhaps the solution, for now, is to stick to the classics: lamb, chicken and white fish. These seem to be Trishna’s strengths and you’ll be in for a treat. Oh, and don’t forget the wine: Ms Sethi knows what she’s talking about.