Serving exquisite Indian food in smart surroundings, Moti Mahal is a class act.
With London’s buzziest restaurant, Balthazar, and firm favourites like Opera Tavern and The Delaunay established just around the corner from Moti Mahal, Covent Garden’s fast becoming one of the best places to dine in the capital. Moti Mahal been around longer than most and sits in the shadow of the architectural splendour of the Freemasons Hall, on Great Queen Street.
As much as there are plenty of great places to eat in Covent Garden these days there are still plenty of tourist-baiting dives. Moti Mahal puts any notions of having made a bad choice pretty much instantly to the sword. A smart, compact, ground floor dining room allows views into the kitchen via a huge glass window. Here, chefs beaver away, in order to dispatch impressive plates of food to a room of no more than 50 covers. Downstairs, there’s an additional room with leather booths and a bit more privacy for any punters who value this sort of thing.
There’s plenty of money in the room, with well-to-do diners arriving in couples and small and large groups to feast over several courses of impeccably presented food. Visitors to London are also in attendance, although these are more likely to have been booked a table by the concierge at a plush hotel rather than ones who stumble in off the street. Service is excellent throughout.
Huge leather-backed menus contain a la carte and tasting menus, with a whole section dedicated to the back story of the chef’s inspiration – he travelled across the Grand Trunk Road in the north of India in order to research and compile the food.
Moti Mahal is very much pitched at a fine dining audience and their meat and vegetarian tasting menus are a great showcase of the kitchen’s skills. Priced at £45 for several courses, with matched wines bumping the price to £60, it’s very much saved for a special occasion but the food is absolutely amazing from the get-go.
Highlights from the starter section include the fennel paneer, a green-flecked slab of cheese that's delicate in texture and delicious in flavour, and the katli, a chunky wedge of aubergine that’s been excavated and refilled with a fiery mix of diced vegetables. A tart pear and clove chutney on the side is a beautiful bedfellow.
The mains continue to excel in terms of presentation and flavour: a colcossia and jackfruit curry combines a yam-like stodginess (colcossia) with the sweet, fleshy jackfruit. Served in a viscous, intense tomato and onion-based sauce, it lingers pleasantly on the palate long after you’ve swallowed it. Other dishes, like the exceptional dal makhani (a black lentil dish that tastes like it’s been slow cooked for an eternity) and mushrooms in a light batter, all work perfectly together, the only problem being where to fit all the food, such is the sheer volume of it all.
Looking around the room, other diners order skewers of chicken off the grill, served theatrically in gold lamp-shaped vessels, in their dozens. And the clip-clop sound of the chefs preparing the roti bread before putting it in the kiln is an absolute joy to behold.
Choosing the tasting menu means your wines are matched to each course. Served in 100ml servings they’re just about the right size for you not to have to glug them down to keep up. The quality is, again, very commendable. The main wine menu offers plenty of action by the glass, half or full bottle. Prices start from north of £20 and peak at the staggering several hundred pounds mark, with plenty of champagne also on offer for big spenders.
The Last Word
In a part of town where picking an Indian restaurant is loaded with risk, Moti Mahal is a bastion of quality. You might have to splash out to experience the full works but you won’t leave disappointed. Not just the best Indian restaurant in the area, it’s one of the best in London.