15-17 Blandford Street
London W1U 3DG
Tel. 0207 935 5624
Food type: Indian
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Trishna is the big sister restaurant of Gymkhana, under the same ownership. While Gymkhana gets more of the plaudits these days, probably because of its location and trendier decor, Trishna draws in the Indian families. You know that an Indian restaurant is authentic when there are plenty of Indian families dining there. After all, you wouldn’t dine out at a restaurant which makes mediocre curries that your mom can make better at home. The slight difference with the two restaurants is that Gymkhana focuses more on meat and game, while Trishna specialises in seafood dishes.
We visited for Sunday dinner, where the restaurant was packed and turning tables. There are a few menus on offer – a 5- and 7-course including meat and seafood, a 6-course seafood only menu and a 5- and 7-course vegetarian menu. Oh and there is also an a la carte menu which is what we opted for on our visit.
Now, remember when I mentioned the restaurant was really packed? Unfortunately they were also pretty understaffed as well and it took them a good 30 minutes to bring us some drinks. Not a good start and we were pretty much ready to walk when they finally brought us something to eat. A nibble of popadoms featured 3 different chutneys – the obligatory mango chutney and mint and yoghurt chutney were fine but it was their shrimp chutney that I was particularly taken by. This is the same shrimp chutney served at Gymkhana and it was equally as moreish and spicy. Suddenly, my agitation was calmed down and I knew that even though there might be a wait for the food it would be great.
We split our dishes so we could have a taste of everything. The portions here are fairly generous and great for sharing. I went for the soft shell crab which featured two generous pieces of crispy, deep-fried crab with a white crab meat salad. The spicing level was spot on – enough to enliven the palate, but not too insane to beat the crab into submission. My fiancee chose the bisi bele bhaat – fritters made from rice and aubergine with a mellow lentil and tamarind dhal. This reminded me a bit of arancini balls, except the dhal sauce gave the dish a whole new dimension. And this is very impressive given that this was a completely vegetarian dish.
Next up, we then tried some tandoori cooked dishes. My duck seekh kebab was very boldly spiced and paired with a sweet and sour pineapple chutney. Duck is more robust in flavour and this is reflected in the level of spicing by the chef who kicked it up several notches from our starter dishes. The kebabs themselves had a nice firm texture but with the meat still remaining moist and juicy. On less adventurous grounds, the tandoori lamb chops were tender and pink served with a spiced coleslaw of sorts made from mooli. Although the lamb chops were good, I personally think the version I tried at Gymkhana was a touch better. I’m not sure what it is, but the Gymkhana version had a better charred and smokey finish to the chops than the ones served here.
By this point, we were regretting ordering so much food but we ploughed on anyways because the best was yet to come. A shellfish pilau had fluffy individual grains of rice with tender pieces of seafood in it. We doubled up on the shellfish dose with a prawn curry made with coconut milk and curry leaves. The perfume of the curry leaves reminded me of plenty of curries I have eaten as a child. It was fantastic. On the side, we also tried some wild rabbit keema nan which were fine. The bread had a lovely texture but I am not so sure the wisdom of the use of wild rabbit here. The bread could literally have been stuffed with any meat and I would have been none the wiser.
After a short break, we both ended our meal with the rhubarb and pomegranate falooda. This dish was a win for both of us simply because it contained all the sweet things we really enjoy eating – a rose and white chocolate kulfi, evaporated milk and tart rhubarb to cut through all the sweetness. I just could not help but pour the whole jug of evaporated milk they had set aside into the dish to create one messy but heavenly concoction.
So here’s the thing. The service on the night was very poor. Even getting the bill was a chore because the front of house was so stretched with 5 different things to do. After the waiter had acknowledged that I wanted the bill, we waited a good 10 minutes before having to ask for it again as he had simply forgotten about it. This is a stark contrast with Gymkhana where the service was slick and efficient. Maybe we caught them on a bad night where they were short staffed. Who knows. But the truth is, I would still come back because the food is awesome. I would even say it is slightly better than Gymkhana, but thats like trying to split hairs.