India Dining, 6 The Green, Warlingham CR6 9NA - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 00:11 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 20:49 04 February 2016
The accolades have been coming in thick and fast for Warlingham's India Dining, with the latest seeing it awarded two AA rosettes. Matthew Williams visits this fine-dining Indian restaurant
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2016
6 The Green, Warlingham CR6 9NA
Tel: 01883 625 905
What we ate
£39.95 per person
Large glass of Malbec, Finca de Origen, Argentina, £7.75
Large glass of Cape Mountain Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, £7.50
REVIEW: Having long been intrigued by what we were hearing from a little corner of Warlingham, interest in a visit to India Dining was piqued when it became a two AA rosette establishment. As long-term Surrey Life readers will be well aware, the embracing of fine dining in our county’s Indian restaurants is nothing new, but there’s definitely a heat around this village eatery at the moment.
Having first opened its doors back in 2003, India Dining is the brainchild of restaurateur Asad Khan, one of the original team who launched London’s renowned Cinnamon Club.
“Central London has more Indian fine dining restaurants than Delhi, but try finding one south of Wimbledon,” he says. “They are few and far between.”
Found just off Warlingham’s village green, the unassuming exterior of this particular restaurant belies a classy and relaxed interior.
Pop art adorns the walls (characters from Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction movie watch over), lights fall from the ceiling like stars, there’s a cocktail bar that we’re unfortunately unable to make the most of on our visit (the babysitter being back at home waiting…) and the seating is comfortable and well-spaced.
We arrive early on a quiet midweek evening, and are greeted by the affable manager Tony Sebastian with a warm welcome from the throes of winter outside.
Having ordered a couple of glasses, we browse the menu – and it immediately becomes clear this isn’t just any old Indian restaurant, with each dish as tempting as the next.
While the tandoori-roasted rump and slow-cooked Welsh lamb shank certainly tempt, they’ll have to wait for our next visit as we decide to dive into the tasting menu to experience India Dining style with a slightly broader brush.
We’re on familiar ground though at this early juncture, as a poppadom basket is delivered with home-made chutneys. This isn’t a throwaway dish, however, as it can be in less salubrious surrounds. And conversation warms as we break our ‘bread’ and sip our vino.
When the starters arrive, it reaffirms that this really is not your average High Street curry house. The tandoori pepper chicken tikka, marinated in cardamom and cream, and the home-smoked tandoori salmon, in a mustard and chilli marinade, are both beautifully spiced, succulent pieces of meat. Neatly presented on a single dish with a punch-packing north Indian- style lamb sheek kebab in chilli and coriander, they each showcase the chefs’ mastery of flavour.
The AA inspectors described this place as a “classy thoroughbred” with an “intelligent” menu on their latest review, and you can certainly see where they’re coming from. We’re told that all of the restaurant’s chefs trained at five-star hotels in India.
In another break from tradition, our taste buds are then brought back to earth with a delicate lemon sorbet. Unexpected, but a pleasant break in-between such bold flavours.
As the main courses arrive, ready for sharing from little white bowls, the aromas that waft from each take you on a journey to a place where the trees aren’t creaking under chilly winds outdoors.
From the Delhi-style chicken tikka morsels in a creamed tomato and fenugreek emulsion to the Rajaastani-style, firey-hot lamb curry to the tiger prawns in a moilee sauce (consisting of coconut, lemon and a hint of chilli), each offers an individual take on well-known dishes. The first two are deep and powerful, while the latter is a fresh and light dream that manages not to get lost against its heavy-hitting cousins.
Accompanied by a delicious coriander-infused mashed potato, saffron rice and an assorted naan basket containing easily the best variants of the breads I’ve ever tasted, this is a relaxed feast that encourages table talk. As we chat, we notice the restaurant moves from quiet to bustling and yet the noise levels even then allow for an easy chatter.
Normally, I don’t take a second glance at dessert menus at Indian restaurants, more from habit than lack of interest to be honest, but the tasting menu included home-made Gulab Jamun (a traditional favourite that has a little treacle sponge about it), coconut ice cream (they are supplied by St Joan’s in Leigh) and passion fruit crème brûlée, all served aligned on one dish.
Before visiting India Dining, I’d wondered if there was any way that it could possibly live up to the current hype but strangely, having been, this still feels like a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. We’ve eaten at a fair few exotic restaurants over the years in these pages, and this one holds its head among the best. The real skill is that with all the tweaks and refinements here, there’s nothing intimidating: this restaurant’s success comes from cooking great ingredients exceptionally well with a mastery of spice. As winter warmers come, it’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
3 more great Surrey curry houses
Nowadays, Indian cuisine sits comfortably alongside the finest dining in the UK foodie guides – and it’s fair to say Le Raj had a hand in this since opening nearly 30 years ago.
• 211a Fir Tree Road, Epsom KT17 3LB Tel: 01737 37137
No 7 Temple
They aren’t scared of trying something different at this Weybridge Indian. Expect sleek, classy lines and food and drink to match.
• 7 Temple Market, Queens Road, Weybridge KT13 9DL Tel: 01932 849847
Over the years, the curries at this Nepalese have drawn plaudits from everyday diners to the likes of Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star.
• 111 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0AX Tel: 01883 722621
• Share your Surrey restaurant tips with us by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org