At the centre of busy Wyndham Street overlooking Tai Kwun is new independent Indian restaurant Chutney. Taking over the space vacated by stalwart Bombay Dreams, the 68-seat tandoor house prides itself on a premise of tradition meeting modernity. We understand this to mean taking the best of established ingredients and methods, but not being strictly bound by traditional authenticity. The owners are planning to form a new restaurant group in Hong Kong, building restaurants that they themselves are passionate about.
The building is not one that grabs attention (and there is no signage at street level), but on taking the Carfield Commercial Building lift to the fourth floor, we were immediately greeted with a pleasant, buzzy vibe.
Out of the lift, we were met at reception by a staff member behind a glowing crystal ball, walled off on both sides by velvety curtains. Even with an early lunch booking, we could hear the buzz of conversation behind the curtains, building anticipation.
The interior renovations have resulted in a vibrant and textured space that seems to hum with the conversation of diners. It’s a colourful atmosphere, with wonderful natural light, plenty of window seats and two custom-made tandoori ovens perched at the end of the room like thrones. Polished to a silver sheen, one oven is specifically reserved for vegetarian grilling.
We were served a selection of dishes from the à-la-carte menu, but there is a very nice lunch set menu too (see below). One of our favourites of the tasting was the starter of chicken 65 ($128), inspired by the cuisine of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Fresh local yellow chicken is marinated in curry leaves and mixed herbs and deep-fried to achieve an optimal crunchy-tender balance with a subtle chilli kick.
Another excellent starter option we recommend is the fragrant keema pav ($188), a slow-cooked minced lamb mixture served with toasted milk bread. This is the ultimate comfort food, with only a low level of heat but plenty of complex spice to keep you looking for the next mouthful to enjoy with the slightly sweet bread rolls.
Looking stunning on a gorgeous plate and decorated beautifully with mint yoghurt chutney and corn chaat is the tandoori octopus ($198). The Spanish octopus is first slow-cooked for 12 hours and then finished in the tandoori oven at an extremely high heat of up to 400°C. It was cooked evenly, with a lightly charred crust, but we found it to be overseasoned.
Key to the tandoori dishes at Chutney is quality meat, seafood and paneer that are marinated and then cooked in the tailor-made tandoori ovens that can achieve exceptionally high temperatures. This process seals in the natural juices and ensures a perfect sear with a touch of smokiness.
Our group put the ovens to the test with Chutney’s mixed tandoori platter ($628), which includes barramundi tikka, a pair of enormous Australian lamb chops and two varieties of chicken tikka. Served with the tandoori platter is a trio of sauces (beet chutney, mint chutney and raita), of which we were particularly fond of the sweet beetroot chutney.
The various meats were incredibly tender and had a delicious char with a hint of smokiness, but on our visit, we found the lamb too heavily seasoned for our taste. This platter would be a good main dish to share between two (or even three) people, but on our next visit, we will order other dishes for sharing.
Do not miss the tandoori cauliflower ($168), which we feel is completely undersold on the menu. When enjoyed with the trio of condiments – beetroot chutney, mint chutney and raita ($28 each but included in the tandoori platter) – the lightly tangy and smoky cauliflower is the perfect base on which to layer your favourite flavours. As we noted earlier, one of the tandoori ovens is only used for vegetables and breads.
Another main we loved was the butter chicken ($198). Whilst this version might look like a classic butter chicken, the sauce is packed with the rendered flavour of a myriad of spices without being overly creamy. Rather than using an oil base, the sauce texture has a silkiness that comes from very fine blending. The chicken tikka in this dish is made with local yellow chicken that is slow-cooked and charred. This dish was our favourite of the day, although you might prefer the more well-known richer and creamier version. Alongside it we enjoyed some truffle and cheese naan ($58), but plain naan would suffice in order to ensure none of this luscious sauce is left behind.
After eating way too much, we still enjoyed the passion fruit and coconut cake ($108), which is bright with the flavours of passion fruit and citrus and not overly heavy, as we feared it might be. By coincidence, we happened to see a colleague at another table enjoying the set lunch (see menu below), and she highly recommended her dessert of ras malai ($108). She said that the spongy pudding soaks up the saffron milk (which might have a touch of rose or orange blossom too) and that it reminded her of her trip to Rajasthan – a great compliment!
The food and atmosphere at Chutney align – bright and vibrant, leaving us happy and satisfied at the end of our meal. Since our visit, we have been recommended the lamb shank option on the lunch menu (lamb shank nalli nihari; see menu below). That plus the gorgeous whisky and gin trolley (yes, at lunchtime) are even more reasons for us to revisit Chutney soon.
4/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Streeet, Central, 2330 0027
The current set lunch menu at Chutney
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.