The poshest curry ever?
Sindhu by Atul Kochhar is a curry restaurant but not as we know it. Muddy reviewer Jessica Jonzen whizzed off to Marlow to eat her way through the menu.
When it comes to good restaurants, Marlow has an embarrassment of riches. But step away from the high street and head over the bridge and you’ll find one of its best kept secrets. Sindhu by Atul Kochhar serves contemporary Indian cuisine using the finest seasonal British ingredients. It’s hidden away within the Compleat Angler hotel on the banks of the Thames, but is a firm favourite with those in the know.
‘Sindhu’ is the Sanskrit name for the River Indus and twice Michelin-starred chef Kochhar opened its doors in 2014. Now a two AA rosette restaurant, Sindhu is run by Head Chef Selvan, although Atul himself comes in to cook (and eat) regularly. With its refined tasting menu and extensive wine list, Sindhu is about as far away from the usual Friday night tikka masala as it’s possible to get.
Arriving is a treat in itself – perched on the riverbank overlooking the suspension bridge and All Saints church, The Compleat Angler undoubtedly occupies the most beautiful spot in Marlow. Step inside, though, and it must be said that the hotel could do with a bit of an update. The shiny tiled floors and décor feel a bit stuck in the ‘90s, but it’s welcoming and buzzy all the same.
Sindhu is at the end of a corridor at the back of the hotel, and the first thing that strikes you is the incredible restored stained-glass windows which run across the length of the back wall. They almost distract from the view across the rushing waters of the Marlow weir.
The décor mixes traditional with contemporary tastes, with dark stained wooden floors, wooden panelling painted in soft grey and with plush furnishings picked out in zesty saffron yellow. It’s stylish and grown-up without being po-faced, and really makes the most of its beautiful setting.
Despite its quiet location, Sindhu was busy on the Thursday lunchtime I dropped by, and it’s not just hotel guests eating there. The staff are incredibly attentive, and their enthusiasm for the food they are serving rubs off on the guests too.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
We started off with one of Sindhu’s delicious non-alcoholic cocktails – a Rasbhari for me (fresh raspberry puree, lychee juice, apple juice and caramel) and a Ginger Feast for my mother (pressed pineapple and fresh lime with ginger beer) – along with some very dainty poppadoms and freshly made chutneys.
For those wanting something stronger, there is an excellent selection of wines, Champagnes and sparkling wines by the glass as well as the bottle. There’s even a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 available, should you be wishing to really push the boat out.
Sindhu offers an a la carte menu, a set lunch menu, a seven-course tasting menu (with or without pairing wines) or the option of a five-course tasting menu. We ordered the maitre d’s recommendations from the lunch menu. The starters were a dish of Brill Kempu – lightly fried brill served with a sweetcorn chutney and steamed ginger, Malal Fennel Guinea Fowl – the guinea fowl is cooked in the Tandoor oven and served with honey chilli and aubergine pickle, and Samosa Chat, served with coriander chutney and yoghurt.
The brill was delicately spiced, while the guinea fowl was a rich and hearty dish for a starter, but the tangy aubergine pickle cut through and lightened it up.
After a good pause, the main courses arrived: a rich and beautifully aromatic Lobster and Prawn Kokum Curry; a surprisingly mild Lamb Stew; a Tandoori Medley of Vegetables from the starter menu, including Jerusalem artichoke, Romanesco and Hen of Wood mushroom, served with delicious cumin pilau rice and a selection of naan.
The lobster and prawn curry was the star of the show – juicy tiger prawns and fat, yielding pieces of lobster in a rich South Indian-style sauce made with coconut, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and chili. The lamb stew’s subtle spicing wasn’t quite for me – I would have liked a bit more punch. However, the medley of vegetables worked brilliantly as a main course dish and was beautifully presented. The rice was perfectly cooked and the naan, while much slimmer than the puffy great slabs of bread you get in less salubrious Indian restaurants, was a delicious addition.
By this point, we were nearly defeated, but not in the way you feel after a ghee-saturated curry. We could just about manage dessert and shared the Semolina Pudding – a delicious steamed cake served with a rose cookie and yoghurt ice cream, and the Kulfi – a traditional Southern Indian frozen dairy desert, made with mango and served with Falooda (vermicelli) and berries. The Kulfi itself was delicious and the cold vermicelli noodles were an interesting addition that I’d never tried before.
We finished off with fresh mint tea, served with homemade petit fours, and didn’t need to eat again for another day.
OUT AND ABOUT
With Higginson Park and the tow path just over the bridge, there is plenty of beautiful scenery to stroll through if you fancy a walk after lunch. Marlow high street itself is packed with opportunities to indulge in some retail therapy and you’ll find branches of The White Company, Space NK, Jigsaw, Sweaty Betty, Whistles and Mint Velvet, which currently has a pop-up of its childrenswear label Mintie on the high street, too. You’ll find plenty of interiors inspiration too, with branches of OKA, India Jane, Susie Watson and Biggie Best. Marlow also has some lovely independents including the Marlow Book Shop and the not-for-profit, zero waste homewares store Seed 1.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good For: A special lunch or dinner out with your other half, or a small group of friends or family. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options for the tasting menus.
Not For: It’s quite hushed here so not really the place for the kids – or a raucous night out with the girls, for that matter.
The Damage: The three-course lunch menu comes in at £22 per head, with a £7 supplement for the Lobster and Prawn Kokum Curry, and additional nibbles and breads coming in at £5 each. The seven-course tasting menu is £69 per person or £120 with pairing wines, while the five-course tasting menu comes in at £49 per person, or £89 with pairing wines. On the a la carte menu, starters average at £14 each and main courses come in at around £23 each.
Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, The Compleat Angler, Marlow Bridge, Marlow, SL7 1 RG; 01494 728126; sindhurestaurant.co.uk
Jessica Jonzen is the co-Founder of online interiors and lifestyle magazine The Home Page.