THE PAINTED HERON
112 Cheyne Walk
Chelsea SW10 0DJ
Nearest Tube: Fulham Broadway (0.8 miles away)
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:00-15:00 & 18:00-23:00; Sat 18:00-23:00; Closed Sun
Tel: 020 7351 5232
Best Indian Restaurant ITV - Tio Pepe Restaurant Awards 2004
Friday afternoon and the excitement of impending bank holiday weekend was almost too much! Late in the afternoon, both the culinary hags had made contact and London was our oyster. The dilemma – where do we head for dinner on a Friday night, with no reservations? The answer – The Painted Heron.
The credit for getting us a table on a Friday evening with less than an hour’s notice has to be bestowed to Her Royal Hagness – her due diligence ensures that our culinary horizons are constantly expanding, along with our waistlines. So this Friday night, we were all dressed up with somewhere to go. Well, when I say we were all dressed up, it was all except the Man – again (a bit of a slow learner). He should have known better – after all we were headed to a restaurant near the Chelsea embankment for the night. Anyways, I digress. We made our way to the Painted Heron, unsure what to expect. After all, its located right near the Chelsea Embankment (our wallets braced themselves) and its bestowed with a posh sounding name like the Painted Heron (my tastebuds braced themselves), it definitely didn’t lend itself to the typical curry house image. With a modern, minimalist interior with colourful and contrasting abstract creations on its walls, the Painted Heron came across as sleek, and was very reminiscent of the Sherpa Kitchen. And like the Sherpa kitchen, our first impressions were good and with a well dressed table it lent itself an air of sophistication.
For a Friday night, the restaurant wasn’t completely overfilled, but always good sign was that it was also filled with several tables of Indian families enjoying the food. After being seated, we were surprised with a huge basket of complimentary poppadums and three dips by our waitress. The basket of poppadoms contained several different varieties of poppadums – small round ones, spicy conical shaped ones and of course the normal plated sized poppadums. The three accompanying dips that were served – a pineapple curry, mango chutney and the cauliflower and broccoli curry were DIVINE. They were so good that all of us were concentrating on feeding ourselves rather than pay attention to the menus. Well, Prince Consort and the Man had given up on the menus anyways as they left it up to the hags to decide and both hags were busily dissecting the complimentary food.
With the menus HRH and myself let prepared ourselves to be seduced by the menus and like most dates, we were a bit let down. Don’t get me wrong, there were very interesting items on the menu that captured our attention but nothing really screamed out in Jim Carey style “EAT ME! I’m DELICOUS!”. But, after the teaser with the dips and poppadums, we couldn’t really go wrong could we? So, in light of this, we settled on trying things that we’d never eaten like the Venison and Silver (hmm…edible silver?), rabbit leg tikka and Black Prawns marinated with rhubarb.
Our starters arrived all together and its safe the say that the portions are pretty well sized. The rabbit tikka looked like it came from a very well fed and big boned (okay – fat) rabbit and was more than adequate to share between 4 people. This velvety textured meat was wonderfully tender and very tasty - its definitely highly recommended. HRH has a bit of reservations about the black prawns as rhubarb wasn’t her favourite vegetable but the when the prawns came, I didn’t hear a complaint out of her (unusual I know). The grilled black prawns themselves were impressively sized (yes, size does matter – always….) and delicious. The rhubarb marinade must have been very delicate as I couldn’t really taste the rhubarb but it was very well done.
Alas our final starter though the most unusual one - venison and silver was a bit of a disappointment after the other two starters. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, it just tasted a bit ordinary. Served up in a nice plate with fancy garnish, it was still a couple of kebabs, albeit with some silver resembling melted aluminium foil. And at around £12 a serve, it had better be some decent silver that I’m digesting. But overall, we couldn’t complain.
For our mains, we choose the monk fish tail, which turned out to be succulent and juicy fish in a very spicy, rich tomato sauce. Eaten with a bit of plain rice, it’s a bit of curry heaven. But don’t just stop at plain rice, have this with the beautiful sweet mango and almonds naan, and I was almost having a When Harry Met Sally moment of public orgasm…well, that’s what it felt like on Friday night anyways (I blame the heady excitement of bank holiday weekends).
Also on the table was the pigeon breast curry, which we had selected over duck breast curry. The pigeon breasts were succulent and quite well proportioned (quite a handful, according to her royal hagness). If you don’t like the gamey flavour, don’t be put off – it wasn’t too overpowering and it can handle the punchy flavours of a curry.
For the mandatory vegetable dish (for a balanced diet and bowel system), we chose the English asparagus and sugar snap peas curry as it was the most interesting vegetable dish on the menu. Well, I say interesting as the other dishes on offer were ones that you could find in any typical curry house and since we weren’t in a run of the mill curry house, we tried to be different. The vegetable curry was quite delicious but then again, it wasn’t extraordinary. However, its nice to be able to find an Indian restaurant that creates dishes in keeping with seasonal produce – you know that you’re going to eat the produce at the best time of the year. Also, something other than potatoes or cauliflower curries are a welcome change.
The final curry for the night was a lamb shank and oxtail curry, which was the Man’s selection. A personal bias as he’s very partial to the lamb shank and also oxtail – so how could he resist two for the price of one? The dish came with a whole lamb shank covered in a spicy and luxurious gravy, whilst a oxtail joint was served swimming in a light, yet aromatic jus. It was quickly pronounced a favourite of the Man and with the chilli and rosemary naan (a little bland on its own) made a good combo.
It was amazing that we manage to finish everything. There was barely enough space in any of my stomach compartments for the wine, let alone any desserts. In the end, the damage came out to be around £102 (inc VAT and the obligatory 12.5% tip) for a 2 course meal with a bottle of wine and still water. I still think that Sherpa Kitchen is better value for money but hey, it was a gastronomic delight and one in the heart of London.
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