We headed across London to explore the Indian cooking of one of just a handful of Indian Female Head Chefs at Pure Indian Cooking in Fulham.
Pure Indian Cooking is run by co-owners Michelin-level trained Indian Head Chef Shilpa Dandekar and her husband Faheem Vanoo. Both started their careers with the world reknowned Taj Hotels Group in India, and have also developed their skills at top London Indian institutions: The Bombay Brasserie and Michelin-starred Quillon. Also, Shilpa trained under Michelin-starred Chef Raymond Blanc OBE and became their first female head chef.
Pure Indian Cooking’s USP is that they use quality ingredients, sourced from their contacts developed working all these years in the industry, to create dishes with clean, fresh flavours with subtle spicing, and presented with finesse.
After receiving a warm welcome from Chef Shilpa’s husband Faheem, we settled down to cocktails with exotic ingredients that reflected both Shilpa and Faheem’s careers starting with Taj; we loved the restaurant with its bright decor, beautiful artwork and metalwork of the light fixtures.
C loved her light and fresh Lychee and Lemongrass cocktail, and I enjoyed the sweeter floral notes of the hibiscus syrup in the Hibane cocktail off-set with the sharpness from the champagne. I particularly loved the addition of the hibiscus flower, which opened up in the glass and was picture perfect! Thanks Faheem for the cocktail recommendation.
We were tempted by the Taste of Mumbai, a selection of streetfood that transports you to the authentic flavours of India and creates memories of the hustle and bustle of busy streets in Mumbai, but decided on kicking off with delicacies traditionally cooked in the Tandoor (a clay oven): malai (double cooked cream) lamb chops and tandoor king prawns.
The lamb chops were still pink and succulent, and the plump prawns had a wonderful, unique smokey note that you only get from the tandoor. Also the raw mango and ginger’s sharpness and gentle heat complemented the sweetness of the prawns.
As we were talking about our shared love of India with Faheem, he recommended one of his favourite cocktails – a mango and chilli margarita. It took us straight back to memories of drinking cocktails on the beach, whilst visiting relatives in Goa at the end of January!
As Faheem advised us that they use local butchers, that they personally use for home entertaining also, in Putney Bridge to supply all their meats especially game. We decided on the spiced Barbury duck roast and a spiced vension roast from their game selection. These were matched with side dishes of dal makhani, laccha paratha and peshwari naan.
Dal Makhani is a rich, creamy and delicious dal from the Punjab. Shilpa made this perfectly. We loved the cardamom and clove notes in both the game dishes; though in our opinion, the spice levels could be reduced slightly to enable the flavours of the game to shine through in those dishes. Lachha paratha is a North Indian speciality, especially from the Punjab, and is essentially means layers and layers in Punjabi (think of a mille feuille but in paratha/ bread form), and is cooked in the tandoor; we have enjoyed it when travelling in India, and take it from me, this crispy, flaky delight is perfect with a cup of hot Indian chai for breakfast! (Though I will probably be shot for saying that, as it is meant to be eaten with some sort of curry.) The highlight of the breads was the peshwari naan, which had a lovely balance of coconut, toasted almonds and plump sultanas.
Save space for dessert – I am sure you all know that you have a separate dessert stomach!
Shilpa has done a wonderfully unique and creative twist on the traditional halwa turning it into a lovely crumble (especially perfect for that comforting hug from a dessert on those cooler nights). Really liked the way it was served on a slate board and in a cast iron skillet. C said that she enjoyed the spiced chocolate mousse, though she found it a bit heavy after a rich meal.
Overall, their USP rang true especially with beautifully presented dishes showcasing Shilpa’s Michelin-level training , and a great experience with pleasant service and excellent mixology skills from Faheem – shame we did not get a chance to meet Chef Shilpa herself, as the restaurant was becoming increasingly busy during our visit; with dine in customers and also with take away orders. We take our hats off to Shilpa and Faheem, as they have to look after their small daughter (who was entertaining herself with an ipad) whilst looking after a busy restaurant. Also, we already have our sights on the Dover sole recheado, roasted aubergine, lamb sukke, and the saffron pulao for our next visit.
Be taken on a journey through India via your food. One of the restaurants we recommend you to check out for London Food Month!
Twitter: #Indian #cuisine @PureCooking @ShilpaDandekar #fulham #fulhamhighstreet #putneybridge @humayunhussain @TajHotels
Thank you to Food and Hospitality Consultant Humayun Hussain for inviting us to review Pure Indian Cooking.