If you’re looking for an Indian restaurant where sweet becomes savoury and savoury becomes sweet, where spherification and cold smoke come as standard, and where influences from cuisines such as Thai, Italian and even British come together to provide an Indian meal with a difference, then look no further.
Chef Stephen Gomes is passionate about the reinvention of traditional Indian food. Cobra’s Best UK Indian Chef for much of the last decade, his Cardiff restaurant Moksh has been voted Best Indian Restaurant in Wales for 2013 – and took the runner up spot in the UK competition. High accolades indeed – and we were pleased to hear that the man himself would be cooking for us on the night of our first trip to Meluha.
Housed in the old ASK restaurant on Park Street, diners are surrounded by statement wall paintings and treated to a multi-sensory meal from the a la carte menu, or can opt for the gourmet taster menu, the gallery menu for private bookings, or the new chef’s table menu, available soon.
After poppadums with some fantastic chutneys (including a moreish guacamole with chilli) and a palate cleanser of a highly spiced lentil and spinach soup, we were taken on a whirlwind tour of some of Chef Stephen’s favourite dishes, beginning with an amuse bouche that is one of the favourites that has been brought over from his Cardiff restaurant. The “Salmon in the bay” introduced us to Meluha’s love affair with Kilner jars: one such jar containing cold-smoked, delicately flavoured salmon tikka (complete with smoke) with a spherification of spices, alongside a glass of the sweet and rich bacon jam, the plate dusted in edible sand. The combination of flavours shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Outstanding.
A combination of starters showed yet more diversity in chef’s influences: a delicate prawn and wasabi cocktail with the most intense of lemon foams sitting alongside a Westcombe Dairy cheese samosa, plus an exciting take on shepherd’s pie; spiced Hyderabadi minced lamb and potato, fragrant with cinnamon, topped with a chilli beetroot foam. There are no words.
A combination of meats and prawns cooked in the tandoor and a seriously intensely flavoured guacamole and chilli sorbet were then followed by our mains: tasters of four of chef Stephen’s curries, attractively presented in mini Kilner jars and with a green tea rice – one of seven rice options on the extensive menu. A spicy (potentially too spicy…) tarka dal sat alongside a Prawn Bollywood, fragrant with tomato and fenugreek and with beautifully crunchy and juicy prawns; the Ratnagiri Mango Lamb with plenty of coconut – a great combination of sweet and spicy; and chef’s own take on the Country Captain Chicken, with figs and raisins and topped with dried fruit. Truly an explosion of flavours, the prawns by far our favourite – we did find that the Kilner jars didn’t retain heat particularly well, however.
A glass of the Indian Shiraz from the Sula Vineyards from the wine list was the perfect match – not as much spice as a typical Shiraz, but amazingly fruity and full bodied.
If you’re a fan of the naan, you’ll find many of the favourites on the menu: plain, garlic, peshwari…but we were given something a little different. Chilli, chocolate and honey may not be the most obvious combination as an accompaniment for your main course, but the sweetness worked well with the spice of the curries, and the chilli really did give a bit of a kick!
Dessert-wise, we had no idea to expect. And once again, chef Stephen didn’t disappoint, urging us to try a range of fusion desserts that he had created. A “Mangomisu” was a refreshing, fruity take on the Italian favourite, while the tikka masala ice cream was a revelation. Coloured with beetroot (all of Meluha’s colourings are natural), it was slightly confusing to the palate but in a more than positive way.
These sat alongside a sweet raita with spherified gram flour and topped with homemade candyfloss; a Parmesan tower with watermelon, cream and honey; a seriously rich chocolate samosa and finally a white saffron mousse. Serious skill and imagination at work here: it was the tikka masala ice cream and the sweet raita that were my pick of the bunch.
Service throughout the night was impeccable, cutlery laid and relaid with a smile after every course, each dish explained in full once brought out, water glasses topped up regularly. Park Street, through the large front windows, was a world away from our culinary tour – which is also available for vegetarians and those on a gluten free diet.
They’ve opened the restaurant quietly so that they can bed in before becoming swamped with customers – which they undoubtedly will. Indian fine dining at its very best.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
51 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5NT