The Leela Experience

Back in 2008 I had the pleasure of staying at The Leela Kempinski in Mumbai, and what a wonderful stay it was! Even though, just a month prior to my visit the bombings took place, that did not frighten my visit, infact, it was made even more safer for me to travel. The security was at an all time high.

It’s a beautiful hotel, one of the best I have stayed in, even though I was only there for 1 night, on the eve of New Years Eve, it was a buzzing atmosphere. From the service to the rooms to the array of breakfast items, I did not want to leave. I felt like a total queen! 

Jamavar was conceived in the late 90’s by Dinesh Nair, co-chairman and MD of The Leela Palaces, hotels and resorts. First opened in 2001 at The Leela Palace Bengaluru. Garnering almost as many accolades for its lavish design as for its menu, it was named among the World’s Top 10 Power Dining Spots by Forbes USA. 

When I heard the Leela Experience was coming to London as Jamavar, I was beyond excited! On the menu are dishes from the Royal Kitchens of the North along with succulent options from the shores of the South. The kitchen team is led by Executive Chef Rohit Ghai who is of revered culinary pedigree having lead several Indian Michelin starred kitchens, including most recently Gymkhana, Trishna and prior to that, Benares. The menu tasting plates are inspired by his travels to India, and the signature Jamavar dishes, are based on his deep dive into the culinary wealth of The Leela, with its Corporate Chefs de Cuisine. 

I took my fiancé for his 30th birthday, a grand gesture as one would call it. Bookings have to be made in advance! The interior is modern colonial, very majestic, spacious too. We were sat in a corner on a large table, it was nice as we had an almost booth/sofa setting, yet still admiring the views. I opted for the tasting menus, to get a real feel of their cuisine. For my fiancê the veggie, and for myself the normal. You get 7 courses, which is a heck of a lot, so make sure you visit on an empty stomach! The cocktail list is endless, after a few hummings, we opted for Sam Fire: Konik’s tail vodka infused with pink pepper corn, shaken with chai tea syrup, lychee puree, Peychaud’s bitter, egg white. And Sarpanch: Wray & Nephew, dry orange liqueur shaken with mango puree, vanilla sugar, topped with coconut foam. Sarpanch looked more like a dessert, and how would one drink that was the question on both our minds! 20171109_191418.jpg

Both were incredibly delish, sam fire was like a masala chai and sarpanch was a different level of taste, the coconut foam helped balance the taste of the dry orange liquer. We also celebrated with a glass of champagne which was really nice too! Our first course was served up pretty quickly, for my fiancé the: Chandni Chowk Ki Aloo Tikki and for myself: Tellicherry Pepper & Garlic Soft Shell Crab. Both presented beautifully well, I know my fiancé enjoyed his aloo tikki. As for the crab it was spicy, bearable but maybe a little bit too much. The accompaniment of the garlic chips made it extra special.

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The second course came soon after that, our host was very good and the service was very efficient. Podi Idli: curry leaf, black pepper & aubergine sambhar. Lobster Idli Sambhar: idlis, black pepper lobster & aubergine sambhar. Yum yum yum, the idilis were melting in my mouth, was such a light dish, the lobster was so soft and again melted in my mouth. I couldn’t really taste the aubergine. 20171109_193609.jpg

After this we were both getting rather full and somewhat bloated and remembered what we got ourselves in for! If we didn’t have lunch, then we could have definitely eaten it all! So rather than fully stuffing ourselves, we ate what we could, we tasted everything, had a few spoonfulls and rested our tummies. The third course was: Chatpata Tawa Salad and Malai Stone Bass Tikka. Both were exceptionally wonderful, the flavours were savouring, the masala quinoa was something I’d never tasted. The stone bass tikka was cooked to purfection, just wow, tender layers, and packed full of flavours. I could have ate a whole fish! The avocado chutney was somewhat different, pleasant, but not something I’d have again.20171109_194913.jpg

Course number 4: Dal Chawal Aur Achaar and Tulsi Chicken Tikka. Ok so I don’t know what the veggie tasted like, it was a crispy lentil & rice dumplings, green chutney, with heritage carrot pickle. Looked good though. However the chicken tikka was moreish, like soooo goood, and covered in the sweet basil chutney. My gawd, if my stomach wasn’t bursting I would have literally licked the plate off. The chicken was so tender and the taste of the tandoor made it even more special. I can literally taste it as I’m typing. I need to go back for another! This is more of a sharing dish, only if you dare though!20171109_200019

Ok so the one course I was looking forward to all day and the one I have heard loads about, the Adraki Lamb Chops and Kasundi Paneer Tikka for him. He got so happy when his paneer came out, like a fat kid high on sweets. But nonetheless, I too was excited about the lamb chops, they smelt so nice, and the colour on them looked good too. Nothing like the standard places overcooking them, I went in for my first bite, and it was so moist, and juicy, like oh ma gawd, where have I been all my life?!?!?! These are the best of the best!!!! I couldn’t recommend it enough, and yes he also enjoyed his block of cheese haha. 20171109_201149.jpg

So at this point, we were full to the bream and still had mains to go and lets not forget dessert, the most important meal of the day, hah! For mains we had a choice of 2 dishes, I picked Jheenga Moilee which was a prawn curry and for him Gucchi Mutter which was a green pea curry. Both accompanied with basmati rice, naan, gobhi aloo, dhungar dal – char-smoked, tempered yellow lentils with ginger and tomato, and for him a special jamavar dal – slow cooked black lentils.20171109_202709Exceptionally good, I’ve not had a prawn curry before, but this one was really nice, the sauce was lovely, I ate it with the rice more than the naan. The gobi aloo was cumin spiced cauliflower and potato, rather pleasant it was. The green pea curry was moreish, and quite delicate on the palette, nonetheless very refreshing. I’m not usually a fan of daals, but the dhungar dal was too good to be true, if I wasn’t full to the bream, I would have happily devoured the whole bowl! 

Next up on the list was dessert, as it was my fiancês big birthday, I had to get him a special dessert. He had a plate of sorbet, as he’s allergic to nuts, and a special chocolate mousse cake for his birthday. It was definitely special, they fulfilled every bit of my expectation when it came to meeting his dietary requirements. I was back and forth on emails with Caroline, the events manager and they really did go above and beyond. The chocolate mousse was delicious, as was the unusual basil sorbet, which after a sweet dessert, went down rather well. The mango and passionfruit sorbet was delish! I got the Chilli Chikki Lava Chocolate Fondant with cinnamon kulfi and caramelised pecans. That was insanely delicious, and wasn’t heavy either. Light airy sponge, with a nice gooey centre, the cinnamon kulfi was my favourite thought. It reminded me of cinnamon grahams. Definitely a must try!! 

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Our experience was really good, the service and attention to detail was 11/10. It is definitely pricey, so not a random night out kinda meal, definitely one for a special occasion. From the drinks to the food, everything was really delicious. I’d recommend going on a rather empty stomach as you want to enjoy the flavours! 

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