Belgravia, London

In a quiet corner of the capital, the fires still burn bright at this setter of subcontinental benchmarks

Concept kitchens come and go, but the capital’s clutch of newfound subcontinental restaurants can all trace their successes back to this stalwart Indian establishment, which

has been serving up flavours from the fiery kitchens of India’s lesser known regions since 2004. Quietly revolutionary on opening, the darkened dining room – centred around the theatre of tandoori cooking – set British palates ablaze at a time when they were swimming in Punjabi slow-cooked curries and sub-par pilau rice. At the time, the avant-garde system of ordering a handful of tantalising morsels, rather than set courses, and the daring suggestion that diners could share small plates between them, captured besotted critics with its novelty. Today, London’s dining scene – and menu formats – might have caught up, but Amaya remains reassuringly confident in its cherry-picked offering of the best pan-Indian tastes.

Moodily lit with burnt tangerine-toned lamplight, the slick interiors have barely changed. Kerala rosewood tables and shadowy Bengal terracotta sculptures interspersed with vast artworks of rambling elephants flank centre stage: the smoking, spitting charcoal grills, three vast clay tandoor drum ovens and a sizzling tawa griddle. It’s where black-robed chefs swirl metre-long skewers like blacksmiths forging sabres, plucking from the oven smoking quail breasts which arrive at the table seconds later, glowing fiery red in a spiced apricot glaze.

On our visit, we start with a chana chaat tart, a dish hailing from the Punjab. Crisped potatoes arrive balanced on thin pastry, piled high with creamy kale and dancing with a scattering of micro greens and pomegranate seeds. Chargrilled seabass follows in a fluid ebb and flow of plates, basking in its simplicity and served atop a coconut leaf with crispy skin. A sliver of aubergine, faithfully slow-grilled on the tawa, comes dramatically isolated on a white plate, swathed in its own smoky intensity. The only hint of flamboyance is a truffle-dusted naan, with all other dishes faithful to the complexities of Indian flavours: think fragrant rose-petal dusts intermingled with vicious red pepper heat. Just like its flashing coals and smouldering tandoors, the heat hasn’t left Amaya during its 16 years of service. The slow burn has only deepened its flavour.

Words by Lucy Kehoe. 020 7823 1166.

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