Nirvana Kitchen might sound like the type of name given to a restaurant project of a later-year rock super fan, but in reality there’s little brash or loud about this subtle foodie haven located in the Montcalm London Marble Arch. Instead of iconic rifts and hordes of one-track groupies, this place gets its kicks from simplistic but sophisticated pan-Asian cuisine, and a notably relaxed approach to high-end dining.
Opening last year in the former home of Sixtyone Restaurant, the décor of Nirvana Kitchen echoes its foodie ethos - simplicity. Don’t expect any huge design surprises, but do anticipate a luxe feel with creams, golds, design-style leather seating and a hanging brass installation to centre the room.
Though the restaurant is spacious – and was busy on the Thursday night I visited – the atmosphere is pretty dependent on the crowd. There’s no background music so it does risk a lack of ambience if you’re in the company of timid fellow diners. With that in mind, it feels like the type of place primed for a romantic date night sure to impress, over a more rowdy group celebration.
Nirvana Kitchen’s foodie approach means that they let their authentic ingredients and skilful cooking do the talking rather than any gaudy gimmicks, and if you’re a fan of pan-Asian cuisine with a touch of individual personality, this is certainly the place for you.
The food menu is split into smaller plates, charcoal dishes and their own take on ‘pots’ – and they recommend to order 4-6 dishes between two. Smaller plate-wise, the Duck Watermelon Salad (£14) (served with mandarin, pomegranate, cashews and a light hoisin sauce), the Vegetable Tempura (£9) and the Black Cod (£15) (marinated with harissa and served with Thai som tam dip) all impressed, and despite the name, really weren’t that small. The cod and the tempura came beautifully presented and were well balanced with their individual flavours, but the duck and watermelon salad though simple, was standout, cleverly fusing the tartness and freshness from the fruit with a deep, tang-filled flavour coming via the hoisin – a far cry from your usual Thursday night takeaway duck/pancake combo.
Though the dishes from the 'Charcoal' options also fronted the same high level of thought and taste, the Lobster Curry (£28) from the ‘Pot’ section stole the show by a country mile. Topped with the outer shell of a lobster and served in a coconut, the rich yellow curry was littered with pineapple, fine beans and lobster, all brought together with the flavour from the coconut. A pot sure to impress your Instagram feed and stomach alike, this dish slightly moves away from the restaurant's simplistic ethos, but when it tastes this good, let’s be honest who really cares.
The restaurant and bar are separated, but you can still order from the cocktail list at dinner. And you should. Their expert mixologists boast a menu of delicious bespoke and classic cocktails, ideal for a post-dinner drink in the place of dessert if, like me, you went too hard on the earlier courses.
Nirvana Kitchen's mission of serving high-end but simplistic plates is a tough nut to crack - it’s difficult to impress premium diners with simplicity - but the restaurant's clear and in-depth knowledge of authentic Asian flavours and intricate cooking pays off, and the end result here is utterly delicious.