The outside of Tamarind is pretty unprepossessing – kind of a weird dark wood-panelling and tinted windows theme, like a funeral parlour in some ways, that I guess sends a message of exclusivity to the outside world. In fairness, I have seen one or two other Michelin-starred places that were a bit like that, so I shouldn’t criticise I suppose. Perhaps they’re right to intimidate the man-in-the-street: their monied customers may prefer it that way.
We had had to take an early reservation slot of 5.30pm so the place was pretty much dead when we went in. The dining area itself is in the basement, sort of down in the crypt. We took a table right by the kitchen – not sure my brother was too happy, but one reason I took it was so I could actually see: the whole place seemed incredibly dark to me. I seem to encounter this sort of thing a lot: yes, I understand the concept of ‘dim light = intimacy’ but I shouldn’t be squinting into the gloom to remind myself who I am dining with. The rays of strip lighting from the kitchen helped me identify what was on the table, you see.
You could argue that if you want Michelin-standard grub, you can’t expect it from the unadventurous stuff on the set menu: you need to shoot for the lobster curry and the chicken with melon seeds. I don’t buy that: there should be a level of quality across the board, not a ‘good menu’ for the millionaires and a ‘bad menu’ for the impecunious.
One last minor criticism: for all their attention to service, Tamarind did serve me one of my beers in a chipped glass (see the photo). No big deal: it’s no problem to drink from the other side and avoid a Glaswegian smile, but it just suggests a surprising carelessness – I am sure it was a one-off.
Just to be clear, I really enjoyed the meal at Tamarind. But inevitably, when Michelin stars are involved, one’s expectations increase, and measured against that benchmark, I felt Tamarind fell a little short.
http://www.tamarindrestaurant.com/ - Tamarind’s website.
http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/big-question/the-big-question-how-does-the-michelin-guide-award-its-stars-ndash-and-do-they-still-matter-773848.html - confirms what I had understood to be the criteria for Michelin stars: not just the food, but also the service, décor and location.
http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/fresh-mint-white-chocolate-recipe - Alfred Prasad’s recipe for making those excellent white chocolate mint leaf petit-fours.