33c Holland Street, Kensington
Photo credits: Mel Yates
Located in the heart of Kensington, Chakra Restaurant is chiselled into one of the borough’s many sloping and slaloming streets, Holland Road. The road, much like the borough, is awash with pristine white houses, a quaint pub and a stone’s throw from the thronging High Street Kensington. Ostensibly, Charka’s porcelain exterior adheres to the borough’s mise-en-scène, but as my dining companion and I walked inside, we found ourselves ingratiated with a uniquely Indian experience.
Though I was not able to visit Chakra before its grand re-opening this year, it looks a restaurant in rude health: a friendly and engaging staff, an elegant dining area, and of course, the food. To open the meal, my dining companion and I opted for the Truffle Kulcha (£3.50), a naan bread stuffed with shredded wild mushrooms and black truffle, and Samundari Khazana (£10.95), a South Indian spice flavoured Atlantic sea scallop, squid and fresh water prawn with passion fruit sauce. It was an eclectic combination, the latter of which more adventurous than the former; while the passion fruit sauce gave the platter an exciting twist on a traditional meal, the scallops on this occasion were a trifle tough. The naan bread was sumptuous.
To compliment my companion’s fish, we shared a bottle of Oltre Passo Falanghina (£25), a crisp Italian white. It paired well with our mains too; my guest chose the Khubani Murgh (£12.95), chicken breast braised in apricot and mace flavoured onion sauce, which was well seasoned and had a delightful texture. I selected the Jalandhar Chicken (£12.95), Chakra’s own twist on the Punjab tandoor grilled chicken in fine tomato and cream masala, which took home the award for best dish via a unanimous verdict.
My guest and I arrived quite early for our dinner but by 8pm, the restaurant was operating at nearly full capacity, an impressive feat for a Monday. Fortunately, this did not slow down the service and our puddings arrived soon after. The temptation of a choco-fudge cake weighed heavily on our minds, but neither my guest or I blinked first, and instead opted for puddings more fitting to the Indian cuisine. My guest’s Rasmalai (£5.95), harking from the Indian subcontinent, is a dish typically reserved for special occasions such as weddings and although there was no ceremony as such, the Rasmalai certainly gave us cause for celebration. Doused in a milky sweet sauce, these spongy balls were the perfect sweet to close the meal. Likewise, my Galub Jamum, also a milk-based pudding from the subcontinent, was splendid and I would heartily recommend both dishes.
Chakra Restaurant is Kensington’s best-kept secret. Part of the restaurant’s charm lies in its concealment from public view, but this should not dissuade new faces from visiting. But for those who cannot muster the strength to leave their house, fear not: they deliver too.