December 2011 | Antoine Lewis

The Quilon - 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences, London

Breaking away from the 'Indian curry and naan' formula, The Quilon has crafted its own recipe for success by introducing London to South Indian cuisine

The first South Indian restaurant to win a Michelin star, The Quilon was also the first Indian restaurant in the UK to break away from serving stereotypical North Indian fare. At a time when Indian restaurants didn’t go beyond Punjabi and Mughlai recipes, The Quilon, which opened in 1993, took a bold plunge into the world of south-west Indian coastal cuisine. Focusing on food from Mangalore, Goa and Kerala under the guidance Chef Sriram Aylur, it offers an inventive array of traditional, home-style preparations tempered with a few modern Indian dishes.
 
Using Karavalli — which was opened by Chef Aylur — as inspiration and model, the dishes at The Quilon evolved a style suited to an international palate. The food, explains the chef, is rooted in the styles and flavours of the region it hails from. The cuts of meats, the use of the best local produce and contemporary presentation give the food a modern edge.
 
To ensure the authenticity of its flavours, The Quilon imports almost all of its spices, making it the largest importer of spices by variety among Indian restaurants in Britain. Believing that even basic flavourings like peppercorns can make a difference, The Quilon uses only Malabar pepper; the balchao is made with Goan vinegar; the Mangalorean chicken curry with byadgi chilli and the dodol with Goan palm jaggery. The attention to detail and the determination to recreate true flavours has paid dividends in the form of a Michelin star.
 
Success, however, didn’t come immediately. British diners, expecting another Indian curry house serving chicken tikka masala and naan, were surprised and confused by the new food. It took a few years of educating guests, tweaking the presentation and using familiar meats and fish before guests began to connect with the flavours and food. Today, The Quilon is definitively on the culinary map of London and its clientele includes business barons and Hollywood stars.
 
Chef Aylur has handpicked wines and beers that complement the contrasting flavours and subtle textures that are the feature of the food at The Quilon. In May this year, he took the concept one step ahead by making The Quilon the first restaurant in Britain to introduce vintage English beers.
 
Signature dish
The Japanese cult classic black cod miso has been reimagined and transformed into the signature black cod vattichattu. A fine example of modern, progressive cooking, the locally-sourced cod is combined with traditional flavourings and cooked by way of a combination of Western and Indian techniques. The end result: a beautifully tender fillet of fish with expressive Indian tastes but visually very international.
The chef
Sriram Aylur joined the Taj group in 1989 and rapidly rose through the ranks to become executive chef of the Gateway Hotel in Bengaluru. Acknowledged as one of the top chefs in India, he was handpicked to head The Quilon after the spectacular success of Karavalli. His culinary philosophy — combining the best ingredients to achieve the highest standard in modern Indian cuisine — has earned him numerous accolades. He is widely reckoned to be one of the top Indian chefs in England.

This article was a part of a photo feature on Taj Hotels published in the December 2011 issue of the Tata Review. Follow the links below to go to the other parts of the photo feature:
Photo feature: Featured are five of the best that the Taj group has, with a sampling of their signature dishes and the opulent ambience in which they are laid out

Thai Pavilion – Vivanta By Taj-President, Mumbai
Karavalli – The Gateway Hotel, Bengaluru
Wasabi By Morimoto – The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Prego – The Taj Coromandel, Chennai

top of the page