Recently we decided to branch out a bit in our food eating habits. Many times I’ve been tempted to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant, but the hassle of booking and waiting has usually put me off. When we eat out, we usually look for fuss free, simple food, that doesn’t require too much waiting time. Many times I’ve walked straight out of a queue after I’ve been told there’s a 45 minute – 1 ½ hour wait. I mean nobody should wait that long for food, especially when they’re hungry. My husband is also very impatient when he’s hungry, so waiting around is not an option. We have eaten in a lot of upscale places before, but I had yet to sample the elusive Michelin starred halal restaurants (I am well aware the non-halal restaurants cater for halal if you pre-order halal or opt for vegetarian, but I prefer to go to a fully halal option).
So when my sister (who is a HUGE foodie) announced her trip to London, I was secretly excited about trying all the different places she had in mind with the excuse of ‘keeping her company’. Honestly, it’s difficult to keep up with her eating pace (she’s tiny but eats like a horse) but I usually eat small amounts in each place, so I can sample everything. She crams so many food places into one day, that we are literally restaurant hopping. My stomach can only take so much food before it goes into complete meltdown, so when she decided that this trip was all about halal fine dining, I insisted in order to savour the food, we limit our food intake for the rest of the day. After much whining that she could only eat in four places in one day (yes FOUR places is less for her) she reluctantly agreed.
Amaya is one of the few fine dining establishments, which are halal and have also been awarded a Michelin star. Prior to this, I have never visited a Michelin starred restaurant before. But I am aware it is the most elusive and exclusive award given to a restaurant and there are very very few halal restaurants which have been given this award.
Firstly we made our reservations about a week prior to our visit. There were numerous restrictions regarding children, which was slightly off putting. Luckily they accommodated for children in the afternoon so we opted for that particular timeslot. They pre-warned us regarding no highchairs so if your child sits on a chair (or in a carseat), it should be fine to take them to the lunch option. I understand why fine dining restaurants allow limited availability for children, but it is still difficult to imagine what to do with your child if you want to dine in these places. The restaurant itself is located right in the heart of Belgravia, which is a stunning area to just wander around. It went from sunshine to rain in a matter of seconds so we hailed a cab and arrived at the destination from the station within minutes (just a quick note there are two Amayas. One which is an estate agents. Make sure you’re going to the right location!).
The building was inconspicuous and if we hadn’t known where we were going, we would have easily missed it. As soon as we got inside (folding away pushchairs taking off coats) I was taken aback by the amount of light in a space which had primarily, a very dark interior. The atmosphere was surprisingly casual. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but because of all the child restrictions, I was expecting a lot of old well to do people, making little or no conversation and who probably dislike children! Luckily, the restaurant was nothing like this, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
As we were seated in the centre, in front of the open kitchen, we browsed the menu whilst getting our glasses constantly topped up with our chosen drinks/water (I love having my glass constantly refilled!). The open kitchen concept was stunning and reassuring as I love to watch chefs preparing my food. The menu was quite sparse in its offerings, with a few unappealing choices and three different styles of cooking. Unsure of what to order, we opted for the taster menu which had a mixture of vegetarian dishes, chicken and fish.
This was probably the only disappointing item in the set menu. It looked fabulously simple and well presented, but as I am used to having moist and flavoursome paneer, I found the texture slightly crumbly and the grilled effect on the paneer, overpowering. When I saw the portion sizes my heart sank wondering if we would still be hungry at the end of the meal (there were four of us).
When this first arrived I felt quite apprehensive about the green colour. I do feel green coloured food doesn’t feel as tasty as other colours (is it obvious my healthy eating habits are not very healthy!). But my instincts were so wrong. The deboned chicken was soft, flavoursome and spiced delicately enough to ensure the chicken itself was not overpowered with any single flavour.
Our conversation went something along the lines of:
Me: You don’t eat spinach
The husband: Yes I do
Me: Since when? You always make faces at home
The husband: If you made it like this, I would gladly eat it
Me: (In my head) If I cooked like this I’d be working in a Michelin starred restaurant. Not cooking for you…
Yes, my husband who has a genuine aversion to anything green coloured (or healthy) practically ate the entire pot of spinach himself. At first I thought he was attempting to finish it all, because of the price tag (I wouldn’t put it past him). But becoming curious I tasted a small amount and was sold immediately. It was a wonderful texture, full of flavour, spice and cooked to perfection. It was probably the item we were least looking forward to on the menu, but turned out to be a gem!
We love a good grilled chop and honestly this did not disappoint. It is probably up there in our top ten grilled chops list. The meat was succulent and tender and cooked perfectly to medium. I probably could have eaten ten of these!
I really don’t know where to start with this course. The fish was flaky, soft, buttery and melted in my mouth almost immediately. Normally I am quite reluctant to order fish (as many restaurants fail to get it right) but this grilled fish was accompanied with a creamy sauce, which complimented the flavour of the fish perfectly. The fish flavour and freshness beat that of the one we had straight from the ocean in Maldives! At this point I was wishing I had ordered a single seabass as a main, instead of the taster menu. As for my husband, I sat secretly praying he wouldn’t want his fish, because usually he is not a big fan of sea food. Unfortunately for me, he decided to ‘taste’ the fish and promptly devoured it leaving me contemplating on whether to order more fish.
The kebab was filled with a tangy yet satisfying sauce in the centre. It was moist and succulent, with a hint of spice. I loved how the flavours of the kebab and the sauce married together to create a harmonious dish. At this point I was feeling quite full and still managed to enjoy the delicate flavours of this dish.
Naan and Grilled Potatoes:
The naan was nothing spectacular and slightly overdone in my opinion. It also came between courses so felt like an afterthought within the menu. The grilled potatoes however, were beautifully crisp and spiced with all the flavours that we associate with Indian cooking. I popped there crisp little balls of delight into my mouth one after the other, enjoying them more and more each time.
This dish came over a burner which was visually quite impressive. The scent and taste saffron in the dish was slightly overpowering. At this point I can honestly say I was so full, you could have put the fish or the chops in front of me and I would not have been able to muster the courage to eat it. I attempted one spoon of the biryani but common sense took over and I stopped myself from eating anymore. The rice had a nice texture and was flavoursome but I didn’t feel the biryani was as special as the other dishes (I have extremely high biryani standards and the subtle flavour technique doesn’t work for me in a pot of biryani!). It was accompanied with a creamy raita/sauce which I did not try. We were quite disappointed to be too full to try dessert (yes even my sister couldn’t manage any dessert).
We each ordered different mocktails and whilst they were refreshing and light, they were not as memorable as I would have hoped.
Overall, I would absolutely love to say, actually, Michelin starred restaurants are overrated. This would be great for my bank balance. But to be honest, I would be lying. The use of few ingredients and just one centre piece, made for not only an interesting meal, but a memorable and delightful experience, which I will probably savour for a long time to come. Normally we eat heavily spiced meals which are complex and plentiful. It was a nice change to have simple yet perfectly cooked food, with only a few spices. There were no plentiful sides or fries on the side and surprisingly, I didn’t miss these touches at all. When we reached the end, I understood why the menu offerings were so sparse. The food offered was done so well, there was no need for other items.
Although we paid around £50pp (and we don’t drink alcohol), I felt the experience and food was worth a lot more. The casual atmosphere, attentive staff and perfectly sized portions (yes I didn’t eat for nearly 24 hours after this meal! My sister on the other hand was hungry four hours later which is a new record for her) meant we were content and happy to pay for what we had received. My only slight criticism would be, the courses came a bit too fast for us, so we were still too full to enjoy some of the later courses. In the future, I would probably reserve this type of restaurant for a special occasion. But I can definitely say, I have converted to Michelin starred fine dining. Benares here I come! The overall rating for this restaurant would be 9/10.
I apologise for the long post, but I felt I could not do this place justice with just a few words. If you liked this post and would like to see more content first, subscribe below.