I’ve been hearing about Chatora in Richmond for a while now, and finally went to check it out last week.
I went with an Indian girlfriend, Seema, as it made sense to visit with someone who knew her Asian onions, so to speak!
Chatora’s been listed in the Michelin Guide for some time, meaning it serves a good meal by the exacting standards set by the Michelin inspectors.
The restaurant is on Kew Road, and on three levels, with a small terrace in front for al fresco dining when the weather allows.
The proprietor, Jamshed Rahman, showed us to a table on the mezzanine – well placed to view the diners below – and explained that his chefs represent a diverse range of cuisines from across India.
We started by ordering a few starters to share (always my favourite part of a meal).
Having had another Indian mate recommend the chaat at Chatora, we chose Crispy Aloo Tikki Chaat (bhujia, pea shoot, artichokes and date chutney).
We had also been recommended to try the Anjeer Lamb Chops (two Cornish lamb chops, fresh fig marinade, farm fresh leaves, breakfast radish, cherry tomato, pea and mint chutney).
And I’m such a fan of soft shell crab that the Chatora version, (with crab meat, tomato lentil chutney and garlic chips), was a must as far as I was concerned.
Papads & Chutneys
We were presented with a delicious selection of papads and home-made chutneys to enjoy with a glass of house wine, a Kleinkloof Chenin Blanc.
One particular dip – yoghourt, curry leaf and onion seeds cleverly identified by Seema – was so delicately spiced. And it gave a taste sensation akin to a good cognac, with the flavours working their magic as they developed on the palate.
Our Verdict on the Starters
Reader, the starters were beautifully presented and sensational: the chaat was a combination of textures – crispy and soft – with a gentle spice.
The soft shell crab was amazing. It was a clever inclusion of all the components, with the white and the brown meat having been removed, gently seasoned, and then presented at the side of the dish.
There were curry leaves within the tempura batter and the dish tasted wonderfully of the sea, despite the spices; clearly an indication of the skill of the chef.
The lamb chops: well, I can honestly say that they were the best I have ever tasted. So very tender, delicately spiced, yet – as with the crab – the skilled brigade allowed the inherent flavour of the lamb to be the hero of the dish.
On the way to repleteness by this stage, we opted just to share a main dish and a couple of sides. Malvani Prawn (Tiger prawns, roasted chilli, curry leaf) was good, but slightly outshone, we felt, by the excellence of our starters.
The signature Chatora Black Dal (Black lentils simmered with garlic, tomato and chilli) served with a generous dollop of ghee melting on top, was smokey and creamy.
The Peshawri Naan was soft, generously filled with fresh coconut, and also fabulous.
And on to Dessert
We were persuaded to try some desserts, and Seema liked the sound of the Chocolate Samosa (dark chocolate and hazelnut chikki vanilla ice cream).
These were rich, deeply chocolatey, and reminded us of a cross between a florentine and a mince pie – but again, a triumph.
I am rather partial to Gulab Jamun (cottage cheese dumplings, roasted almonds, cardamom and saffron sugar syrup). These were some of the best I’ve tasted; not too sweet, and so very light in texture.
To sum up…
We were impressed with our Chatora meal, and will be back very soon.
The menu is well constructed, as is the wine list – with a good selection at under £30 a bottle.
I’d like to try the excellent value Bottomless Weekend Lunch (unlimited prosecco or Kingfisher beer accompanied by a two course set menu at only £30 per head).
There is also a five course Valentine’s special menu for February 14 at £50 per head which sounds really good value too. Full info on these are on the website.