Hoorah! A meal out on a Saturday night feels like such a blessing and to be invited to the Koloshi Restaurant in Charlton Kings is an honour. It has such a good reputation and holds the Tripadvisor Travellers Choice Award 2020.
Azad Hussain, owner and chef at Koloshi is an artist-a creator. He earned his stripes in London and it shows, not only in the slick and professional set up he has here but in the presentation of his amazing creations. Azad told me he uses memories of his travels to inspire his dishes, so it is important to him that they do not confine the menu to India alone, but rather his menu makes several stops around all Southern Asia from Sri Lanka to Miramar in concept and design.
We are shown into a large and airy dining room, decorated to a high standard with well-spaced tables, white cotton tablecloths and fine cutlery. It is clear to see that the building has undergone a major refurbishment since its days as The Reservoir Inn. The name Koloshi is derived from the Bengali word for the traditional water vessel carried by villagers, and is a nod to the beauty of the surrounding area sitting opposite the Reservoir. There are examples of these traditional water pitchers dotted around the dining room. From the well-stocked bar, they serve a fabulous selection of cocktails and their own ‘Koloshi’ lager on draught. It is important to note that although fine-dining in concept this is an unpretentious, family-friendly place, like the restaurants of old with lollipops for the kids. This can be a difficult balance to get right but they are achieving it.
Azad chats to us in his relaxed manner, there is nothing showy about him or the place, rather it is very cool and understated considering the standard they are delivering here - which is exceptional. It is not often you see pan-fried scallops with tamarind sauce or squid salad with a sweet and sour dressing on the menu, but they succeed in blurring the boundaries between the conventional and their regional cooking.
We were treated to the 7-course taster menu - ‘A Taste of Koloshi’. The menu rambles freely over the subcontinent and beyond and I cannot wait!
We order drinks and while we wait a colourful selection of pickles arrives with a beautifully fennel seed poppadum like a lace doily, it is so pretty, crisp and delicate.
I choose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc which is an ideal pairing with Asian food due to its high acidity and John tries the Koloshi lager on draft (love this touch) which he reports is very refreshing.
Aarambho (let’s get started).
Firstly, Anjeer Achari Paneer, which is Lego-sized jiggly cottage cheese with a fiery chilli and fig chutney. Lovely delicate and contrasting combinations of flavours and textures on the tongue.
Next, we are treated to a chunk of venison that defies description. Sitting in a delicate pool of Cauliflower cream with a pink inner and a crisp outer layer it is so soft and velvety smooth it almost isn’t meat. Our friendly host Abby explains the story of how the meat came whole from a local customer and was then taken to the local butcher to be prepared into cuts. You do not get any better than that for locally sourced ingredients. It is amongst the most delicious things I have tasted this year.
Now Bauliana Chingri, in this taster we have Panch Phoran King Prawn, literally meaning five spices, it is so soft and sublime, finished off with a snowy dusting of freshly grated coconut. John took several bites and proclaimed: “This is another level!”
As we relaxed between one sensational course and another, I noticed the dining room was now full. Busy waiters brought large trays parked tableside to unload all manner of treats. Before the next course, I decided It was time for some of those palette refreshing bubbles, so I order a glass of Extra Dry Prosecco. Perfect.
Also amazing is the Tok Jal Macch; bream simmered with shallot, ground nutmeg and green mango. Wow, now this is a piece of art. A fine fillet of fish with the flavours swirled in layers inside, it is a thing of beauty and not just to look at but to taste.
Next, Murgh aheli; fillet of chicken stuffed with lamb in fresh cream, cooked in the tandoor it has a delicious hum of fenugreek and heat from the ginger and green chillies. Superb.
Finally, Goru Mangsho is tender West country Beef with onion, chilli and curry leaves. A Sri Lankan dish with big bold flavours served with a supernaturally light butter Naan. This dish is meant to be eaten with your hands, by dabbing and scooping - a packed lunch for a day in the mountains.
To finish, dessert is a South Asian dumpling; Moist and sweet like a tiny warm sponge cake, served with sorbet and pistachios, it is lovely and just enough.
Lucky enough to get a tour of the kitchen, I see the smoky embers inside the clay Tandoor and a whole coconut on the flame, and I feel privileged to have this rare glimpse befascinating.
We thank Azad for the incredible meal, and when I congratulate him on his many awards both as a Chef and a Restauranteur, he explains that the joy for him is not in awards but people enjoying his food. Azad tells me that rather than explain the dishes he prefers to allow the food to speak for itself. The food spoke, and what it said was delicious and surprising at every turn. Each Picasso-like plate speaks of his passion, and drive to create, to bring his journey alive and share it with everyone. He is a gifted chef, and a creative; his head is packed with experiences and ideas which are delivered with style and precision. Well done Sir, very well done.