There’s something about a restaurant that seems to tell you that it’s a family affair. Often it’s the stamp of personality of the owners who, after years of practicing their craft for other employers, start out on their own. Then there’s the other sort where the owners have little experience of the hospitality industry but see running a restaurant as a new or supplementary career. I feel Sanmini probably falls into the latter category. It’s the sort of giveaway that the website lists the five family company directors – including two managing directors. And a technical director. And all this for a sixteen cover place. It’s also the sort of giveaway where the two front of house chaps (almost certainly family members) went home early, leaving the chef to take dessert orders and sort out bills for the three occupied tables.
That’s not to imply that the food isn’t up to scratch. The food is actually very much up to scratch. A lentil, spinach and cashew nut pakora was well flavoured and nicely crispy. A coconut chutney was just the right accompaniment. A kari dosai was elegantly plated - served as a square, with the corners folded to the centre, it enclosed spiced lamb mince and egg. It tasted as good as it looked. It wasn’t anything like as crispy as a normal dosa but perhaps that’s how it should be.
Chicken Chettinad was as good a version of the South Indian classic as I’ve come across. Served much dryer than some other versions, with the spices and the remnants of the sauce almost baked on, it was an improvement on the wetter versions I’ve eaten. The other main, Chennai potatoes was another dry dish that allowed the chilli/cumin spicing to be assertive. Lemon rice was excellent as were chappatis.
My partner was too full for dessert but I was attracted to the item called “beetroot beauty”. Shreds of beetroot had been cooked in sweetened milk along with raisins and cashew nuts. It looked fantastic in the glass bowl. Now I know that Indian sweets can be, erm, sweet but this was cloyingly so. I could taste nothing but sugar. Not a success but it was the only food miss of the evening.