NRI – Non Resident Indian, no we are not talking about people but we are talking about the Not Really Indian restaurant by Chef Atul Kochhar.
Atul moved to London to open Tamarind restaurant, where his culinary excellence was recognized and he was awarded his first Michelin star in 2001. He opened Benares Restaurant & Bar in London in 2003 with focus on combining his heritage and British ingredients. Innovative modern Indian cuisine successfully redefined the perception of Indian cooking in Britain, leading to his second Michelin star in 2007. Atul now comes back to cook in India.
NRI interior design is conceptualised by Andy Lampard from the UK and executed by Architect Udayan Bhatt. It has a touch of colonial nostalgia and deep-rooted Indianness in a warm and casual setting with Victorian lamp posts, a chic thela (food cart), and seating that references railway stations from the 1920s.
Indians are living in all the continents but they love to have the food which they were used to have from their parents/Grant parents Kitchen. Due to non-availability of ingredients they adopted the local ingredients which have changed the taste and flavours of typical Indian food. NRI bring these new flavours from outside India but use mainly local ingredients and showcase how our own people and their cuisine have evolved outside the motherland.
A strong believer in the policy of using local, seasonal and sustainable produce with a low carbon footprint, Atul is working with a horticulturalist, who is helping him to grow his own produce for NRI.
NRI is serving a menu typical of the vast Indian diaspora living outside India. "With every migration there were some classic recipes that went out with people. And in their new habitat they created a recipe with local ingredients that became part of their new homes and heritage" says Atul. Roti Canai, Pepper Crab, Caribbean Goat Masala with Buss Up Shut Roti, Mombasa Zeera Chicken or Paneer, South African Bunny Chow, Sri Lankan Potli and South African Piri Piri Chicken Wings are some of the examples that are reminiscent of Indian food but have a distinct diaspora flavour.
“NRI is going to star dishes that Indian immigrants took with them to far corners of the British Empire, adapting the recipes to locally available ingredients. Each dish has a beautiful story and I believe it's a good time to bring them home,” Atul says.
The menu at NRI is drawn as much from Atul personal and professional travels across the globe. “It's the stories that make food fascinating... There's the time I tasted vegetarian chili for the first time in a Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple in Toronto. I thought that it was very Indianesque, although it was classic Canadian chili, made to the tastes of vegetarian Indians there,” Atul recalls.
Signature deserts like the Masala Chai Baileys Brownie, Jaggery Bread Pudding, Tropical Entremet, Celebration Cake, Orange Cheesecake with Ajwain crumble and many more, are an amalgamation of Indian recipes that left the shores, with Chef Kochhar's signature touches.
We can say NRI – Not Really Indian has Indian Soul with Global Taste.