London restaurant group JKS have built and backed a flurry of the capital’s favourite eateries, from Bao and Hoppers to Michelin-starred Gymkhana. Latest opening BiBi, a contemporary Indian restaurant that balances sophistication with the soulfulness of comfort food, has joined the latter in Mayfair. Lucky, then, that London’s appetite for inventive Indian fare seems near insatiable.
Housed in a smart Georgian building on the corner of North Audley Street and Lees Place, the restaurant is a slim, cocooning space, all dusky pinks and flattering lighting. Richly layered interiors include paisley panels and upholstery, while the rhythms of Rajasthani architecture have inspired decorative details like the curved mirrors which flank an open kitchen – a decision you suspect is as much about square footage as it is a desire to put the process on show.
It’s all a personal affair for Chet Sharma, previously the group’s development chef, who has named his first restaurant after his own grandmothers – BiBi is Urdu for ‘lady of the house’.
In a former life he was an Oxford-educated physicist, and there’s a tell-tale sense of precision to his menu of bar snacks, chaat small plates and sigree grill dishes, which draw on an eclectic food heritage of roadside cafés and carts from Punjab to Kerala. Later stints at prestigious restaurants like Moor Hall and L'Enclume suggest he's a safe pair of hands.
You'll be glad for the sharing format if only to sample a range of Sharma's creations. Okra arrives swimming in an unctuous peanut sauce, while a late-summer tomato salad is colourful and well-oiled – shame it's making a fleeting appearance.
The dahi aubergine is another highlight, its smokiness set against creamy curd. While Indian flavours are rightfully centre-stage, Britain is well represented in everything from the Orkney scallops to a moreish buffalo milk paneer produced in the New Forest.
‘Whilst my food doesn’t look traditionally Indian, I want to make sure the flavours are genuine, and something that any Bibi would recognise,’ says Sharma. He's surely done his own proud. bibirestaurants.com