Atithi, 27 York Street, Twickenham
Chris Longhurst samples the cuisine at Atithi, 27 York Street, Twickenham. Tel: 0208 7443868
STARTING a review of a restaurant by reading what other people have to say about the place is not how I normally approach the task at hand.
But when you discover in advance the place you’re going is consistently rated Number 1 out of the 68 listed restaurants in Twickenham on a well-known travel website - well you have to have a peek at the comments.
I am nowhere near worthy of calling myself a curry connoisseur and can claim little knowledge of Indian cuisine in general. In actual fact I have to admit to being a real lightweight; I can’t handle anything too spicey and can’t tell my madras from my elbow.
Chef and co-director Krishnapal Negi’s early training was in the prestigious Oberoi group of hotels in India, before he moved to London in 2002 to join Yatra in Mayfair.
In 2007 he opened his own restaurant Swagat in Richmond, which has been recommended by Michelin guide since 2010. Atithi opened December 2011.
Words like ‘amazing’, ‘overwhelmed’, and ‘top-notch’ featured heavily and aren’t used lightly, so I have to admit to feeling genuinely excited as my partner and I stepped inside.
Things got off to a good start, the interior is clean and nicely decorated with statues, plants, and artwork.
The owner was welcoming (Atithi means ‘guest’ in Sanskrit); and had we brought a team or two from the famous rugby ground with us there would have been no trouble finding tables as the place is impressively vast.
The menu spoke of Murghs, Molees and Makhanis which had me totally baffled, but the reassuring presence of a few Rogan Josh and Jalfrezis helped me regain composure.
It has to be said it is also a vegetarian’s dream - something I believe is not always guarenteed of Indian restaurants.
The starters are very reasonably priced, making ordering a selection very tempting, and in the end we opted for a vegetarian Ambhi Paneer Tikka (cottage cheese cubes tandoor cooked and served in mango sauce and mint chutney - £4.50) and a non-vegetarian Murgh Haryali Tikka (chicken cubes marinated in mint, corriander and spices - £7.50).
The reviews reserved the greatest praise for the food, specifically the taste, and while we did find the vivid green chicken a little off-putting at first sight, the reward on tasting it more than made up for this.
The thing to praise most was how strongly the natural flavours came through. There were no ghost chillies or anything else designed to do nothing but induce sweating and nose bleeds.
Same thing went for the mains, my partner chose Khatte Jheengey (king prawns served with masala mash potato, onion and tamarind sauce - £13.50) and I, upon reading the words ‘very mild’ opted for Masala Liptey Murgh (chicken with onion, peppers and tomato - £6.95), with pulao rice (£2.95).
With the help of a Peshawari Naan (bread stuffed with shredded coconut and almond - £3.50) and a Plain Paratha (layered bread - £2.50) it was not long before we had polished off the lot.
The last course, a pudding of Pistachio Kulfi (Indian ice cream - £3.50) and Rasmalai (traditional Indian dessert of sponge in fresh milk and cream - £3.50) for me rounded things off nicely.
Over coffee we agreed that while we had enjoyed our meal, perhaps our expectations had been hightened unfairly (to the restaurant at least) by the reviews.
I think we thought we were in for food and surroundings which were fancier than those we found, and this had meant the reality struggled to live up to the fantasy.
Therefore I urge anyone who follows our example to go there with no preconceptions and recognise Atithi for what it is - an affordable and accomplished restaurant with no pretentions or desire to do anything but let its food - and its fans - do the talking.