Andy Mossack samples the new à la carte menu at Yaatra Restaurant & Bar
The Old Westminster Fire Station has seen a lot of history during its time, including a telephone call from Churchill when the Houses of Parliament were hit during the Blitz.
These days it’s the home of Yaatra Restaurant & Bar, a contemporary Indian fine dining restaurant, and as a writer, I’m very tempted to include a pun or two about the ‘perfect place to douse a fiery curry,’ but I wouldn’t stoop so low. Mind you, I would have loved to have had a go at sliding down the fireman’s pole which remains from the old station, as does much of the interior tiling and even the Watch Commander’s office.
Yaatra Restaurant is headed up by Executive Chef Amit Bagyal, a disciple of twice Micheline-starred chef Atul Kochar, where he was head chef at Kanishka, Kochar’s flagship Mayfair restaurant.
Yaatra Restaurant has two tasting menus (meat and vegetarian) at £75 each, but I was there to try Bagyat’s new à la carte menu, inspired by recipes curated from across India.
We kicked off with a poppadom basket, (£6) a very tasty mix of roasted and fried poppadom, alongside two chutneys – one a tangy tomato and lemongrass the other a creamy mint yoghurt.
Our choice of starters initiated a debate with my dining partner that was destined to last long into the night before our waiter made up our minds for us. They all sounded delicious, so we decided to order two and share them. The shortlist included a sweetcorn & coconut Tikki (£9) battered Amritsari Fish with cumin mushy peas (£12) Togarashi roasted scallops with coconut butter (£18) and a Goong lamb pepper fry with buttered pao (£16).
However, I loved the sound of the stir-fried momos with garlic pak choi (£14), a dish I had never come across before. Hailing from the Himalayas, momos are steamed or fried filled dumplings, not too dissimilar from the Chinese variety and filled, in this case, with either chicken or vegetables. A total triumph for me. Covered in a spicy sauce with a sprinkling of sesame. Heaven in a dumpling. Our waiter’s second choice was another belter. Saffron chicken tikka with mung bean sprouts and a mint and garlic chutney (£14). Delightfully roasted, the chicken juicy and tender.
Our waiter, seemingly a veteran of dining debates, stepped in with early main course suggestions to avoid another debating reoccurrence.
Again, the choice of grills and oven-based dishes at Yaatra restaurant was very tempting. Chargrilled butterfly sea bream (£22) or grilled freshwater tiger prawns (£24) or how about an indulgent roasted bone-in-leg of lamb for four with a lamb sauce? (£120)
We were gently guided towards Amit Bagyal’s chef’s classic from his grandmother’s kitchen: Garhwal goat osso buco with a ginger and turmeric sauce (£22) which didn’t disappoint. The meat couldn’t wait to fall off the bone, the sauce delivering a satisfying kick. We picked two terrific sides too. The baby aubergine in a tamarind and peanut sauce (£7) was an instant hit, while our satisfying black dal and kidney beans had a surprising kick to it that might have needed a firehose to put out the fire if one happened to be in the basement. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
It was all mopped up very nicely with a delicious assorted Indian breadbasket of buttered pao and garlic and butter nan (£12).
By now the Old Westminster Fire Station was heaving, pretty impressive for a Monday evening. A stream of waiters holding triumphant trays of food constantly marched out of Bagyal’s kitchen.
We had just about enough room left for a dessert each. A chocolate & orange mousse with chocolate crumble and raspberry sorbet (£9.5) for me and a theatrical mixed berry flambe with berry mousse and chocolate sphere, with cardamom ice cream and spiced rum (£12) for my dining partner. The white chocolate bomb doused in flaming rum was a suitably spectacular finale and an ironic dish for a former fire station.
In his new à la carte menu, Amit Bagyal has managed to embrace flavours and recipes from all corners of India, a refreshing change from the numerous Indian restaurants where the focus is only on one region.
Yaatra Restaurant shows what can be achieved in Indian fine dining by drawing inspiration from a country blessed with such varied culinary traditions. I can feel the old fire station nodding in approval.
All food images (C) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Yaatra Restaurant & Bar
Yaatra Restaurant & Bar, Old Westminster Fire Station 4 Greycoat Place,
London SW1P 1SB
T: 020 454 91906 E:firstname.lastname@example.org