Over three decades of defining regional Indian cuisine in London
Chutney Mary opened at a time in London restaurant history when understanding of India’s culinary regionality was limited. It was in 1990, on the King’s Road in Chelsea, that the restaurant first opened, serving an Anglo-Indian menu that evoked the history of the Raj and had never really been seen in U.K. restaurants. Dishes included “Bangalore bangers and mash,” and even in 1990, the menu paid detailed attention to the regional and social histories of the dishes, noting the Christian communities in the country and the provenances of dishes like the Parsi roast duck and Mughal roots of a chicken korma.
Just a year later, it would transition closer to the regional specificity that today defines its menu. By then, the 100-seater restaurant had become a destination in London, known for short menus dedicated to specific regions, like a celebration of Goan coastal cuisine in 1991-1992.
While Indian restaurants in London’s residential areas like Harrow, Southall, and East Ham have quietly long devoted themselves to the regions of their owners, Chutney Mary was ahead of the broader interest in regional Indian cuisine in central London’s restaurants by 30 years. Its evolution into a pan-Indian restaurant embraced the fullness of the term, with a forensic dedication to individual areas and peoples, rather than a broad brush approach which washes over the fine lines of regional cooking. This earned it the title of “Best Indian Restaurant in the U.K.” in 1991, and put it even more firmly on the map.
A decade later in 2002, Chutney Mary underwent a renovation of its interiors to match that of its cuisine ten years earlier, introducing the flora-filled pavilion that would become famous in Chelsea, while maintaining the high standards of its cuisine. By 2015, when its lease expired and it moved to St James’s, numerous Indian restaurants exploring the country’s myriad cuisines had followed in its footsteps.
It took over the former Wheelers, run by Marco Pierre White, and added a light-filled anteroom looking on to St James’s Street, that would become the Pukka Bar.
The dining room is one of the most elegant in London, and its menu is just as suited to a banquet of shared dishes as it is an individually coursed meal. Those who seek to understand the complexity of India's cuisines will be left sated; those who just want the food to underpin the rhythm of conversation like a bassline will be delighted. This pioneering institution is ready for its future, as well as looking to the past.