Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai, who currently runs Kutir in Chelsea, has returned to his former stomping ground of Mayfair (having previously been Executive Chef at Jamavar and Bombay Bustle) to open new spot Manthan on the site where Lucknow 49 used to be. They’ve done quite the job on the redecoration as the place looks completely different; it’s now a very sexy looking spot with lots of mirrors, marble surfaces, black walls and blue velvet seating. There’s a subtle ocean theme running throughout too, with fish prints on the walls, gluggle jugs for the water and shell-topped metal straws for the drinks.
Co-founder Abhi Sangwan has carried that theme through to the drinks list with a cocktail menu inspired by the seven oceans of the world and featuring fresh exotic fruits, botanicals and infusions. The Menaka, with wild hibiscus-infused mescal, vanilla, bitters and jasmine & white peach soda, was smoky and sweet and went down a treat.
In the kitchen, Ghai unites his childhood experiences growing up in Madhya Pradesh with his knowledge of working in those high-end Indian restaurants to create a refined take on home-style cooking. And almost half of the menu is meat-free so it’s an ideal spot for both veggies and carnivores. It’s a tight menu so between two you can easily hit all the menu sections. From the small plates we went for the chicken buttermilk, essentially a take on popcorn chicken with curry leaf and tomato sauce dressing, and the ghati masala prawns, which were also deep fried (admittedly we didn’t realise this when ordering) but spicier and crispier enough to feel different to the chicken.
With the larger plates, one curry and one grill dish is plenty, especially if you also get rice and paratha for mopping action. The lamb osso buco was excellent with chunks of tender meat falling apart in the sauce rich in Jaffna spices, a definite highlight of the meal. For us, the halloumi tikka didn’t quite hit the heights of the curry, as although it was interesting to see this cheese used rather than paneer but ultimately it was too salty.
There are only three desserts on the menu but when one has garlic in it, that’s what jumps out immediately. The garlic kheer is Ghai’s take on the traditional Indian rice pudding, served in a brandy snap-style biscuit basket and it’s one of those dishes that you keep eating to work out whether you like it and then realise it’s almost all gone. The garlic is actually very subtle, giving a savouriness to the kheer, amplified by pistachios and almonds, so the only sweetness comes from the biscuit – a real clever piece of work.
We’re already fans of Rohit Ghai thanks to Kutir and happily the food at Manthan is just as good, so it’s a very welcome return to Mayfair from him.
49 Maddox St, London W1S 2PQ