Wedding anniversary last Tuesday, one of the better reasons for restaurant profligacy. After mulling over a few options and coming up against the brick wall that is the booking system for some of London's swankier joints, we managed to get a table at Rasoi Vineet Bhatia, reputed to be the best Indian restaurant in the capital. I did nearly lose the table mind you, going within a whisker of putting the phone down on the girl who rang to confirm the booking because I thought she was selling insurance.
It didn't disappoint. The welcome was warm, from all staff we passed on the way to our table, and food impeccable. Faced with a menu full of too many treats to choose just two, and a carefree attitude towards budget, only minimal consultation was required before we plumped for the 9-course menu gourmand, plus the full gamut of recommend wines (6 in all). There's no way I could remember everything, and we quickly abandoned attempts to take notes in a bid to actually spend some time talking to each other, but some dishes scaled the highest heights, while the remainder were just excellent. The only drawback was the cutlery - a knife with a good-for-nothing long, thin curvy blade, a spoon that kept turning over in the hand, and a fork where the food kept falling through the prongs, all of which threw themselves suicidally to the floor given the slightest nudge when the waiter collected the plates. Laughable - if you're ever thinking of buying some fancy-looking cutlery made by Guy Degrenne, don't! But nothing could have stopped me enjoying the food - Indians typically eat with their hand, anyway!Highlights included the mushroom khichdi, a fantastic lobster dish on rice and mouli (dyed green) with a wonderfully intense bisque, and a perfect goats cheese samosa, as well as a chocolate one with Indian tea ice cream as one of the two desserts provided. Maybe the crusted scallop lacked a bit of "zing", and the tamarind sauce on the quail was a bit over-intense for my palate, but really I'm scrabbling for faults where there were none. This was simply "modern Indian" cooking at its best - and Nicola was getting quite full by the time the creamy lamb korma arrived (served with idly - more commonly a breakfast item but a interesting match) so I got bumper helping!
One of the things you don't expect in an Indian restaurant is a German sommelier (particular a polite and informative one with a sense of humour). But that's exactly what RVB has, and it's an inspired move, bearing in mind how many wines from German-speaking areas complement the complex flavours of Indian food. Matches were well researched - including Alsace Riesling, Austrian Blaufrankish, Gewurtztraminer from Pfalz, and my personal favourite, a rich, chewy Sauvignon Blanc from the Sud Tyrol.
All told, an outstanding meal, and for once the 12.5% service was really earned. We paid the eye-watering bill (pushing Tom Aikens into 3rd place and only topped by Gordon Ramsey's lunch) and hopped in a cab. The best Indian in London? With outstanding food and wine, near-faultless service (shame he knocked off that table decoration...), understated decor and homely ambience, it's claimed the crown from the Cinnamon Club for me.