Think about your local curry house. I expect there will be a chicken tikka masala on the menu, imperial mints or foil wrapped chocolates that come with your bill and perhaps even coconut ice cream in a half shell – which incidentally I love.
Indian Essence in Petts Wood near Bromley is not your typical neighbourhood Indian. Run by Saturday Kitchen regular and Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar and experienced restauranteur Jitindar Singh the team behind this eatery is first-class.
Awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2015-2016 the restaurant is located in a small suburb of Kent where my company’s second office is located. It’s unassuming from the outside and blends in with the other boutiques and cafes nearby.
When we arrive there’s just one other couple eating. It’s Friday night, and me now being used to packed central London, I wonder if we’re in for a quite night. By the time we leave every table is taken and people are waiting at the door to come in. A colleague who lives in P-Dubz (as we affectionately call it) says people drive from far and wide to come to this place. When I try the food I understand why.
Tonight I am with four friends (also work colleagues) as part of my ongoing birthday celebrations. They’ve sneaked over in the daytime to choose a table and decorate it accordingly and say the staff were helpful and accommodating. We experience the same this evening – its slick, professional and attentive. The restaurant itself is bright and modern with an open kitchen to view the incredible culinary work going on.
They have a cocktail list – excellent. As with everything on the menu these are not standard cocktails – they come with a twist – Spiced Kir Royal and Masala Mary for example. Wines are offered by the glass and bottle but also carafe which provides a happy medium.
After a delicious aperitif we move on to the food. There’s an a la carte and tasting menu (only available for the whole table), and a set dinner menu is available Monday to Thursday.
There’s lots of fish on the menu: seabass, scallops and snapper plus rabbit, goat and guinea fowl. As I said this is Indian food in another league. We all order different things with the promise of sharing.
Over the course of the meal I sample Samudri Kazana (scallops, king prawns, squid and red snapper in a delicious spring onion sauce), a melt in the mouth goat curry cooked with crushed peppers, a zingy tandoori monkfish with oven roasted tomatoes, and railway lamb curry (tender lamp rump served with a lamb samosa and masala roast potatoes. All of it is amazing and is presented beautifully.
A delicious black daal and chickpea and potato vegetable dish (served in my current fave receptacle – mini copper saucepans) accompany this heavenly food. It’s the flavours I can’t get over – everything is so fresh and different. It’s such a change from the rich gloopy sauces I normally pick. One friend – normally ultra chatty eats in silence – lost in her dreamy kebab platter.
I was presented with a special birthday pistachio kulfi and offered complimentary drinks for our table – hugely appreciated after such great hospitality already.
Food of this quality means you’ll pay a little bit more than the usual curry house but if you want a special occasion restaurant or want to try something a bit different I would recommend you hop on the train to Petts Wood and give this place a try.