The Holiday Inn, King’s Cross is probably the last place you’d expect to find an impressive Indian restaurant, and so it proves, even if this is somewhere heralded by a number of online resources.
Poking out the back of one of King’s Cross’ more salubrious residences (exactly…), you can’t actually access Rasa Maricham via what should be its front door. Instead you have to wander through the lobby of the hotel, past another restaurant, to a door with an unmanned desk. It’s actually a pretty big restaurant, with a large service area that looks like it plays host to buffets (probably on a Sunday), and a dining room with simple tables decked in white linen, and pink chairs matching the slightly naff pink menus.
It’s not the busiest of restaurants, so all that space does feel a little cavernous at times. When it does begin to fill, it’s usually with hotel guests, so you can expect anyone and everyone to join you; from families to lone diners and conference groups. Staff are a little languid, but do at least ask how goes the meal.
This little chain has a pretty solid reputation around London for serving good quality Keralan food, from the south west state on the Malabar Coast. And whilst some of the dishes here are perfectly fine, some don’t boast anywhere near the kind of layered spicing you might expect from a region of such culinary renown.
They’re a little sneaky, too. A simple request for ‘just some pappadoms’ (often gratis, or at least very inexpensive elsewhere) delivers the whole shebang, with a basket of achappam, pappadoms, pappadavai, banana chips and murukku plonked down with no explanation. The £3.50 charge is more or less palatable, but charging another £3 for the pickles and chutneys is downright cheeky, especially given the fact that there’s not a huge amount of finesse to them.
Other starters are great though, with kathrikka (£3.50) very good: a pleasingly light batter (with coriander and chilli) hosting well-fried sliced aubergines. The lamb puffs (£4.75) too are great: gorgeously spiced, with a lovely black pepper masala base. Mains, though, are disappointing. A konju manga curry (£8.90) is incredibly light on mango, and pretty light on coconut, relying on turmeric and chillies to make it anything other than bland, but the Varutharacha chicken curry (£6.95) can’t even manage that, tasting like the kind of generic curry sauce you might admonish your local, average curry house for serving up. Lemon rice (£3) tastes much the same as the plain old boiled rice (£2.75).
Big bottles of Cobra come in at £4.90 a pop, which isn’t bad at all, and offer every bit of the gluggable complement to Indian food that they always have. If you’re looking for wine then the selection isn’t bad, with a fair few affordable options on a concise, but varied list.
The Last Word
A disappointing place, given the reputation of the Rasa chain. Prices aren’t bad and some dishes are good, but there are restaurants offering better insights into Keralan cooking elsewhere in London.