Won't say no to swank Indian? Palli Hill might be your bag.
What is it?
No one has verified this for sure, but we think London probably has the widest variety of Indian cooking represented outside the subcontinent. There are so many Indian restaurants across the capital that they’ve developed their own taxonomy, falling into certain sub-categories that are instantly recognisable to Londoners who are fond of eating out. Take the ‘posh Indian’, for example – a well-established genre that includes Gymkhana, Tamarind, and The Cinnamon Club. It’s such a beloved trope that a raft of them have opened this year alone (Manthan and Palli Hill, among others).
Though London’s posh Indians specialise in different regional cuisines, they’re spiritually connected by their postcodes (usually W1), moneyed clientele, and high-minded cooking. Bibi – the latest posho Indian to open its doors – checks all the boxes: Mayfair location, Celine-bag-toting diners, high-concept dishes served on beautiful speckled tableware. Its posh bonafides are no surprise – Bibi comes care of the JKS Group, who also run posh big-daddy Gymkhana. Its head chef, Chet Sharma, is also a Gymkhana transplant, and a trained physicist to boot.
Clearly, his probing, scientific mind informs his cooking: the dishes at Bibi are wildly inventive and obsessively constructed. You can see this fanatical approach to ingredients on the menu, which lists the provenance of each spice used in the kitchen. Take a seat at the bar, where you have an unobstructed view of each beautiful dish being lovingly arranged in the open kitchen. Finely-powdered spices are flecked over hunks of cheese like snow; a Tamatar salad is a summertime explosion of greens, reds, oranges, and purples; a vortex of coriander and mint is swirled atop a thick, Dulux-white smear of curd and smoky aubergine pieces. It’s a restaurant that doesn’t rest on its laurels – through brute innovation, they’ve conjured entirely new textures and flavours, pleasantly unfamiliar ingredient combos that keep you teetering on the edge of your seat as you try to imagine what will be laid in front of you next.
So, though it may come from posh stock, Bibi is the young buck ripping up white tablecloths and reinvigorating the genre. Its hubba-hubba dining space – decked in slinky velvet curtains, tassel-trimmed lamps and glossy walnut wood – is all upmarket chic, while the lippy-pink accents hint at a playful spirit. That’s Bibi in a nutshell: fancy, fun, and inventive. Like every great genre director, Sharma has lured diners in with a familiar premise, and then completely upended their expectations – by our estimation, an instant classic.
What should I eat?
The okra salan has become moderately famous in London food circles – five grass-green pieces of lightly charred okra bobbing in peanut sauce that’s so quaffable, many have implored the restaurant to bottle it up and sell it at a markup.
The chaat section of the menu is where things get the most experimental. Case in point: the nashpati bhel, a pile of puffed grains that crackle in your mouth like popping candy, topped with a bracing pear granita that soothes the white-hot chilli. Your tongue will tingle for minutes after you’ve dug your way through.
Dal, that evergreen and ever-welcome side dish, gets a fantastic outing here: bathed in grass-fed ghee, it’s as warming as mid-winter soup, and shamelessly rich. A grounding counterpoint to such a divine meal.
Why should I go?
Though it adheres to certain tropes, Bibi is ultimately in a league of its own – this superb restaurant deserves visit after visit.
42 North Audley Street, London W1K 6ZP