Oh Goodness Gracious Me!
As anyone who practices yoga will know, chakra is a Sanskrit word which literally means ‘wheel’. In Ayurvedic medicine and Indian spirituality, it refers to seven tantric energy centers in the human body which happen to coincide directly with our seven main nerve ganglia.
Moving up the body, the root chakra corresponds to survival, and basic individual needs, the sacral chakra matches up with pleasure, abundance and sexuality, the solar plexus chakra relates the immune system and emotions such as self-worth and confidence, the heart chakra governs our ability to love and experience inner joy, the throat chakra is responsible for speech and communication, the third eye chakra is linked to intuition, imagination and wisdom and the crown chakra, represents the connection to meditation, purity and spirituality. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, we should aim at all times to keep our chakra energies flowing freely for a happy, healthy and balanced life.
Obviously, I’m always keen to ensure that my life is perfectly balanced, you understand, so as ever, I was eager to indulge my sacral chakra once again, the one that deals with pleasure, abundance and yes, of course, food. Where better to do so than at Chakra on super cute Holland Street in Kensington? This little road, just of Kensington Church Street, is absolutely delightful with pretty little mews houses and interesting shops, almost villagey, smack in the middle of town. And there on the corner is this small restaurant with a tiny terrace facing the lovely residential houses, shaded by large white umbrellas and enhanced by greenery. Just looking at its inviting exterior makes you want to sit down here and while away a summer’s evening.
The food at Chakra is contemporary Indian and about as far removed from your Friday evening curry and beer fest as the Subcontinent is from England. The only saucy dish is a mild Lamb Korma, everything else on the short menu is of a drier variety. There are several luscious sounding vegetarian options, chicken and fish, delicious and well combined salads, tempting starters, but no red meat other than the afore mentioned Korma and a lamb burger, so you can entirely forget about the beef Vindaloo, the Chilli Masala, the Onion Bhajis or any of the usual Indian fare you might order at your neighbourhood Indian. This is something altogether different, and pleasantly so.
It’s a mild evening following a warm and sunny day, so we sit ourselves down at an outside table. It’s a good thing we’ve booked ahead because, although it’s midweek, in no time at all this minute 34 cover restaurant is choc-a-bloc full of people, with some even queuing outside to get in. Clearly it’s very popular and this augurs well!
Sure enough, it all starts off very enchantingly. Along with our bottle of Cobra beer and a glass of crisp cool Sauvignon Blanc, we are served a tiny wooden box full of miniature poppadoms with a plum sauce to whet our appetites. This they do fantastically well, and we are excited at the culinary joys yet to come.
Between the two of us, we order Sweet Potato and Pea Open Samosas with Tamarind Chutney and a Vegetable Trio consisting of Spinach Galouti, a kind of small spinach patty, Baby Spinach Fritters, which turn out to be like spinach crisps, and a small gibbous mound of spinach and radish salad. All of them are subtly but enticingly spiced morsels, cleverly pairing vegetable crunch with comforting mushiness, and very appealingly presented on slate boards. So delicious are they, that I could spend the rest of the evening devouring more of these tasty Indian tapas without any regret whatsoever. My sacral chakra is rejoicing!
My main course of Tandoori Poussin with Red Onion and Lemon arrives looking scrumptious. The onion and lemon are absent but there is a solitary roasted mushroom. The meat is succulent and falls off the bone, its richly flavoured covering giving the chicken a mouthwatering juiciness, good enough to reject all polite table manners and pick, nibble and suck at the debris. Disappointingly, there is no Indian mint sauce served alongside it nor, in fact, any condiments at all. Now that would have been perfection but hey ho. My unusual but interesting sounding Blue Cheese, Garlic Peshwari Naan is a bit on the uneventful side too. I can’t taste either blue cheese nor garlic and it’s not particularly spongey or buttery either, just an average flat bread.
The Lovely Husband is somewhat hard done by too. His Clay Oven Cooked Black Cod, Green Chilli and Garlic Yoghurt turns out to be a very nicely prepared piece of fish looking pretty, if rather small, on the slate board adorned with edible flowers, chopped herbs and six decorative bloblets of garlic yoghurt but otherwise sits there rather lonesomely. His Steamed Basmati Rice order is completely superfluous. What in heaven’s name is he supposed to mop up with it? There’s nothing else there to enhance or complement the nice but bland fish, What a shame!
Belatedly, we realise that perhaps we should have ordered the Okra or Sweet Potato listed on the menu to turn our food into a complete meal but who was to know ? The sullen waitress certainly gave no hint.
Ah well, maybe our pudding can make up for it. There are four desserts on the menu, a Sorbet, a Mango Kulfi , Chocolate Soil with Chocolate Stones, whatever exotica that may be, and our choice, the Gulab Jamon Caviar, Pistachio Toast and Cardamom Crème. Amusingly the ‘caviar’ turns out to be chickpea sized doughballs swimming in a thick sweet honeyed syrup, presented in a convincing fake caviar tin with a tiny mother of pearl spoon and accompanied by two finely cut, toasted nut and raisin bread slices and a generous swirl of flavoured whipped cream. It’s different, it’s good, but it’s not really awesome.
All in all, this restaurant brings to mind the image of a stereotypical bimbo. It’s certainly goodlooking, it’s cute, and it has a lot of seductively attractive features going for it but somehow the substance is missing. There’s no love, no devotion, no rounded out harmony of food or service, no cohesion, no completion. It’s all looks but no heart or thought. Chakra’s chakras are out of balance.
Our meal cost just under £100, the hefty bill was sweetened by some boiled sweets.
What I wore
Pale blue J Brand skinny jeans, Zara lace top with white cotton vest top under, white Diane von Fuerstenberg flip-flops, Plastic shell magazine clutch bag.
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