Karma – London, UK
44 Blythe Road
(020) 7602 9333
Open 7 days a week
Lunch: noon to 2:30pm / Dinner: 5:30pm to 11:30pm
What Comes Around, Goes Around. Karma.
How fitting that a fine dining, Indian restaurant entrench itself in the posh neighborhood of West Kensington in London and more importantly, in the home country of the former colonizer of the ancient lands known as Mother India. Striking out from the nearby buildings with its bold dark colored facade that stretches around a strip on Blythe Road, even the entrance to this lauded restaurant exudes a confident position entrenched right on the street corner. My how times have changed.
For its hard not to notice the incredible influx of India cuisine and cooking in many aspects of UK life. From fast food stands, hole-in-the-wall eateries all the way up to white table cloth establishments such as this place, the vast flavors, textures and rich aromas of Indian food has clearly been accepted by the locals and is now considered one of its appeals. I’m sure you’ve all heard how much good Indian you can get in London nowadays. Some even go as far as to say the best you can find outside of India.
Well, I had to discover this for myself…
Immediately passing through the heavy wooden doorway, you are into a small welcoming area that is fronted by a reception-like bar counter. Gazing towards the right, are three four-top tables neatly arranged waiting for hungry diners. Towards the side window-less wall are more smaller tables for two, which leads to a rear area that gradually begins to darken with candlelight the only source of brightness, adding to the mystical feel to this place.
Without a reservation, we were quickly seated by a very polite sounding waiter (full of “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”), who soon after provided us with the menus and took the order for the first round of drinks. It was a relaxed pace as on this rainy, late weekday evening, there were only a few other customers already dining, and I noticed a few people popping in to get their take away orders. Incidentally, Karma also does free home delivery in the evenings (6:30pm~11pm) to nearby neighborhoods with a minimum order of GBP 12.
Beginning our meal with some plain papadum (personally I prefer the spicy variety of these “Indian Crisps”) and some delectable and packed with flavour home made chutneys (sweet apricot I enjoyed the most, followed by a spicy mixed pickle, corainder, and an onion/mint salsa). I just love how Indian cuisine often has such a mouth watering opening volley, surrounding diners with pocket fulls of taste in even the simplest things.
After a long day and a delayed trip out for our dinner, we attacked our shared plates of appetizers with the eyes of pre-modern savages, of both the herbivore and carnivore variety. We began with the Vegetarian Appetiser Platter for Two (GBP 8.95), which consisted of of a medley of the crisped up lentil and gramflour dumplings better known as pakodi, paneer tikka, hara bhara kebab and crispy pickling spice-infused and stuffed with paneer fried mushrooms. I dabbled in this plate slightly, taking a taste of the paneer (grilled whey cheese with the refreshing tones of mint, how can you pass that up!) and some of the delicious spinach/lentil-based veggie kebab patties with interesting hints of coriander and ginger.
However my heart and stomach was clearly more engaged with the Non-Vegetarian Appetiser Platter for Two (GBP 9.50), and I instantly reached out for a sample bit of the yoghurt marinated lamb chop. With the distinct hint of nutmeg, rich cardamom and biting ginger, this was a true winner. For a double whammy of lamb, there was some galouti kebab patties, that were on the spicy side of things. Returning with the trifecta flavour profile of mint, spinach and coriander was the hariali chicken tikka. These portion sizes were perfect for sharing, each of us getting enough of what we liked and still having enough left over to “give up” what we didn’t enjoy. With some non-lamb lovers at the table, it was a good way for me to try and overcome my own hesitations about this protein, which I did thanks to the fantastic marinations and flavourings that only Indian cuisine can provide.
The decision about which main dish to order was a huge challenge – given the wide range of choices on the menu from both their regional specialties (chicken, other game such as duck, lamb, seafood and of course vegetarian), and the tandoori plates. In the end though, I strayed from my dining mates who went more with chicken and I elected the Seafood Allepey (GBP 13.95), at medium spicy with long grain Lemon Rice (which the server kindly recommended just a moment before I was going to ask him about it and for his insight into the rice accompaniment). Combined in an exquisite coconut milk-based curry flavored nicely with mustard seeds, the ingredients included shrimp, squid, prawns, and mussels. What can I say, this was amazing! And paired nicely with the tart tang of the lemon-infused rice.
With a balanced meal that enabled me to have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian (both turf and surf) ingredients, I was a very happy camper. Our waiter wasn’t kidding when he said that Karma’s food covered many regional styles from the north of Punjab down to the southern regions of Tamil Nada, westward to Goa and eastbound to Calcutta and everything in-between. Apparently though the head chef is from Goa, so try those signature dishes such as the Chicken Vindaloo and Lamb Xacuti – I assure you it will be good for your karma.