He’s already flown the Ramsay nest but we’re still waiting for the launch of Jason Atherton’s UK offering, Pollen. However, former head chef at Regent Street’s Veeraswamy, Manoj Vasaikar, has just opened his third restaurant.
Indian Zilla is located on the site of the former Barnes Grill. Manoj, who already runs the successful Indian Zing in Hammersmith and Indian Zest in Sunbury, Middlesex, is passionate about authentic Indian cuisine. And to prove it, has travelled throughout the sub continent, running the culinary gamut from home-cooking and street vendors to haute cuisine served in Maharajas’ palaces.
Having assimilated everything, he blended regional recipes and traditional ingredients with his own modern techniques, flavours and presentation.
Menu staples include Vegetable bhanavla – Manoj’s modern take on the onion bhaji, Mussel rasam – shellfish simmered in a tomato and tamarind broth and Khyber Pass raan – braised shank of lamb in a strongly spiced gravy after traditional stews eaten by Indian herdsmen.
Just as one would expect from any self-respecting Indian restaurant, there’s a tandoori oven but even that has not excaped to Manoj’s culinary flair. In addition to baking chicken and lamb, it is also used for fruit – figs served with apple crumble and vegetables too – aubergine & paneer anyone?
Bright and cheerful surroundings of colourful Indian lamps and fabrics hanging on exposed brick walls are illuminated further by large skylight windows. The 40 cover restaurant and lounge doles out high-end take-away food as well. After all, Atul Kochhar's Michelin-starred Benares now delivers takeaway wraps to your Berkeley Square residence!
Zilla means ‘small district’ in Manoj’s native tongue and while we’re not sure if residents of Barnes would welcome such parochial undertones – they will certainly welcome Zilla.
Many head chefs have aspirations of setting up on their own and recent successes will certainly mean that there’s a lot more cooking in the kitchens of London than roast dinners.