The promise of snow was on the horizon, the girl in the pink coat and the blue lace dress could see it in their eyes, but still her quest for mouthwatering Indian delights would not be halted despite what the weather had intended. She sat legs crossed absentmindedly on a packed train, commuters milling and musing around her, but she paid them no mind. For her mind was elsewhere, consumed by images of chickpeas bathing in curried sauce, while the pilau rice danced circles round her hungry mouth. She imagined a smooth bottle of red wine with a velvety, spiced finish plying with her tongue sensuously, while vegetable samosas plunged into minted raita send her mind into food-gasmic spasms, a welcome image on a day plagued by turbulent weather. It would be an evening where two friends would reunite and gossip until closing hours, succumbing to Chakra Kingston’s culinary prowess that lured them into their gastronomic world. And even when their bellies were full and they could eat no more, they were dreaming of a paradise where food took centre stage, an Indian oasis that toyed with our sensibilities and emotions. The girl got off the train, pink stilettos and slippery ground, together the friends walked with purpose towards Chakra Kingston. Despite travelling an hour and a half to reach her foodie destination, the friends took their time, wandering over to the riverside that flanked the gorgeous Indian restaurant. And what a beauty it was.
Sumptuous forest green cushions accentuated by duck egg blue interiors, where the ceiling was clustered with imaginary stars and the mirrors were filled with selfies. The bar was evenly lit, and despite the quiet restaurant we were thankful that it wasn’t overcrowded, enjoying the tranquil intimacy of a restaurant that overlooked a still river at night. Welcomed by eager restaurateurs, our every need-from aid with photos to choosing the perfect meal- was seen to with upmost importance, as they did their best to give us the best gastronomic experience that we could have possibly have asked for. Despite the amusement at our photos, they nevertheless were willing to oblige, the manager even going as far as writing down the tasting notes of the wine that we shared so eagerly, happy to give us a helping hand. They were courteous true, but it was the exquisite menu that made the experience feel brand new, as we delved into Indian delights that were too good to pass up. With a separate vegan and afternoon chai menu, as well as it’s a’la carte menu, Chakra’s fresh and inventive options revolutionized the way that we viewed curries passionately, with their own incredible flair added to each dish that we sampled.
The two friends shared an inviting bottle of Baronde Baussac Carigan Vielles Vignes (South of France 2015) while they procured the menu thoughtfully, swilling the scarlet red liquid in their glasses absentmindedly as the taste of voluptuous black cherries caressed their raspy throats. And then it came to them, the starter choices were made and their quest for Indian delights had momentarily begun. They would crunch through poppadoms dipped in spiced tomato relish, devouring the chutneys such as raita that were begging for a dip, while the lady in blue would settle upon a vegetarian delight, a Samosa Ghugni Chaat (V) with spiced yellow peas, topped with, mint, tamarind and nylon sev. The other lady, the one with the red lipstick, would choose something meaty, a Kid Goat Kheema Naan with chargrilled minced goat meat stuffed naan, served with roasted garlic raita. She wanted to try something different, thus her wish was granted, naan cradled with tender meat. Yet despite her stepping outside of her comfort zone, the keema naan was not to her taste, preferring the spices that radiated so gloriously throughout my samosa chaat. Not too spicy, the mint added a fresh flair to the dish, while the dichotomy of the tamarind and the spiced yellow peas plunged joyfully into crispy, flaky samosa pastry was a joyfully unbounded feast for the senses, teasing our grumbling stomachs.
We poured another glass of wine as we laughed raucously into the night, the well bodied smooth warming red floating into cold stomachs. While often paired with pasta, beef and veal, Baronde was nevertheless an excellent wine pairing, effortlessly balancing out the spices in the Indian dishes that we consumed so hungrily with frantic delight. The mains came next to play on the chessboard, a half portion of Chakra Channa and a half portion of Malai Methi Mattar Paneer, for the vegetarian and good ole butter chicken tikka masala for the meat eater, whose mouths were open in delirious anticipation. Both mains accompanied by Iranian saffron, whole spice infused braised long grain basmati rice (Pulao rice) and chilli cheese naan with aged cheddar and chilli, spring onion stuffed bread, were incredibly moreish exploratory treats. The chakra channa featuring Darjeeling tea infused spiced chickpeas was a beautiful twist on an Indian vegetarian classic, while the Malai Methi Mattar Paneer with Cottage cheese, peas, fresh fenugreek, plum tomatoes was elegant to taste, a smooth, almost creamy concoction of paneer and juicy plump tomatoes that cried out to be relished and savoured. Red lipstick wrapped her lips around chargrilled Suffolk chicken, simmered in creamed tomatoes, dried fenugreek leaf, and unlike the goat keema naan of starters past, her taste buds salivated at the superiority of the tikka, with minimal spice, just the way that she liked it.
Out of the two vegetarian dishes the lady in blue could not choose a favourite, closing her eyes as the chilli and cheese of her aged cheddar bread complimented the soaked chickpeas swimming in curried sauce, as a stark contrast to the tomato based dish of paneer, that drove deep into her pleasure principles. Eventually when the two friends could eat no more, bellies slightly protruding with food, their meals were packed into doggy boxes, a treat for a midnight snack when the peckish faeries would pounce. But they would not leave without desserts first; craving a traditional Indian treat the blue lace dress asked for Ras Malai with eager eyes, a dish made up of flattened cottage cheese poached in saffron flavoured evaporated milk, while the smiling led lips cried out for Valrhona Chocolate Mousse, infused with orange zest. Both desserts were well worth the wait, the ras malai swimming in saffron milk, plunged into its milky waters ever so delightfully, while the orange zested chocolate mousse was tart yet creamy, diving into our mouths at the speed of light.
The curtain call had come and gone, our time had come to bid audieu. We crept into the icy solace of night, the snowfall came as weathergoers had predicted. But despite the frosted air, and the grounded coated with inches of white snow, our bellies were full and warm with Chakra Kingston’s Indian delights, where even the next morning the lady in blue could be seen ravaging the remains with famished fervor, craving a taste of that manna one more time.
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Please note we were given complimentary meals in exchange for content but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.