The Quilon Restaurant and Bar, takes its name from a city in the south-west of India known as "The Land of Cashews" which was once the hub of the international spice trade. From as early as the 1500's Quilon (or Kallom) has seen settlers from Europe with first the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British in 1795. It is now a popular tourist destination, competing with the likes of Goa.
The restaurant based in Buckingham Gate, is just a stone's throw away from several quality hotels (including Rubens, see Red Carnation Group in the UK hotels section of www.NiteDine.com) and of course the most exclusive Buckingham Palace. I had invited "Lizzie", to pop round and do the review with me, but unfortunately with a garden party in the afternoon, she could not make it. I had to make do with Wally!
Quilon offers a menu indicative of the cuisine of southwest India, and differs from typical Indian restaurants found in the UK. These restaurants mainly deal in the Tandoori (northern Indian) type of dishes. Additionally the authentic cuisine has gradually changed to fit the English perception of Indian food and to suit the English palate. I'm not complaining and regularly enjoy this type of food, but Quilon's authenticity makes an ever so welcome change. The menu offers an excellent selection of lamb, chicken and duck dishes. But the choice of different fish dishes has to be seen to believed, offering Clams, Mussels, Prawns, Lobster, Sea bass and Red Snapper to name but a few.
For starters I chose the Masala Vada (Crispy dumplings of yellow lentil, green chillies, fennel and curry leaves). The dumplings were more crunchy than crispy, with a soft smooth texture in the middle and were perfectly complimented by the serving of coconut chutney that arrived with the dish. Wally chose the Pepper Shrimps, which I was surprised with since he tends to avoid fish dishes. Anyway I managed to a remind Wally, that I was writing the review - in due course a sample of his dish made its way to my side of the table. The shrimp, won hands down, compared to the Masala Vada. It was spicy and your mouth exploded with the aniseed, peppercorns and curry leaves (though not to the point of having to reach for the water). It then mellowed as you bit into the meat of the shrimp which was absolutely perfect
The main courses followed at a reasonable intervals with no rush and pressure placed on us. I went for the Red Snapper Reshad (Whole boneless red snapper marinated and cripsy fried, Served on a bed of tangy masala of shrimps cooked with onion, tomato and garlic). Wally opted for the Mangalorean Chicken Curry (Succulent pieces of chicken cooked in finely ground fresh coconut and roasted red chilli, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, tempered with chopped onions, methi and cumin seeds).
The red snapper could not be surpassed and was absolutely delicious, it went well with the masala, and was perfectly complemented by the side dishes of Spinach Poriyal and Red Rice. I normally clear my plate and am rarely defeated by large portions, but Quilin portions are very generous. So I could not even find room to finish my spinach, a vegetable I hated in my childhood, but now can not get enough of!. Wally's Chicken was equally good, I'm not sure I'd have chosen the lemon rice to go with it, but it was certainly enjoyable.
To finish the meal, I had Dodhol and Wally had the Bibinca followed by a south Indian Coffee. Both sweets and coffee can be recommended.
In summary, Quilon is an excellent restaurant, in an excellent location, with excellent staff, and a quality of service that could not be faulted. It should be recommended to every lover of Indian food, extending their knowledge beyond that of the Tandoori houses found on every UK high street.
It should also be recommended to all who avoid Indian cooking, "not liking spicy food". The menu covers both spicy and non-spicy dishes from the south-west of India, and opens a door way on an aspect of Indian cooking I've never sampled before.Tel: 0207 821 1899
Adam Nelis, Wally Robertson, July 2001