When twice Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar announced the opening of his second restaurant in the beautiful village of Marlow I didn’t hesitate to book a table in order to sample his latest menu. I’m a huge fan of Indian cuisine and have visited the majority of Atul’s restaurants with this being his forth. Three other restaurants feature in Atul Kochhar Restaurants; the newly refurbished Sindhu at the Compleat Angler Hotel in Marlow; Hawkyns at The Crown Inn, Amersham, and Indian Essence in Petts Wood, Kent.
Vaasu officially opened its doors to diners on 26th October 2020 after postponing its summer launch due to Covid 19, but has been open for take-aways only since July. I was fortunate enough to get a table during their opening-week directly before the second lockdown for Covid19 was announced.
The restaurant’s interior is adorned with floral wall art, warmed by rich hues of sage green and deep purple with dark wooden features and twinkling chandeliers. Inspired by the splendour of India and its northern regions it is beautifully plush, opulent and effortlessly chic.
Perhaps not the easiest of times to open a restaurant, Atul Kochhar has said “People have been asking me, why open a restaurant now during the pandemic? The answer is that the whole team has been excited about this launch for since we first acquired the site which used the be Villa D’Este for 33 years. We have invested time, money and creativity into this new restaurant and although it’s a longterm investment, we feel that now is the right time to open our doors”.
Being vegan it can be difficult to find restaurants which cater for special dietary requirements as most have a vegetarian menu or a couple of vegan options available if you call in advance; however, something I adore about Atul’s restaurants is his entire vegan menu is filled with exquisite spices, tastes and authentic flavours of India with an exceptionally modern twist.
Atul’s restaurants are always impeccably designed with the most wonderful atmosphere for dinner and drinks with prices starting from just £12 for starters, £20 for mains and sides for £9. The staff are fascinatingly knowledgeable, polite, friendly and attentive, explaining the meaning and concept behind each meal which inspires me to experiment with my own home cooking.
Absolutely spoilt for choice from their vegan dishes, I always choose the Vegan Tasting Menu as the delectable seven courses provide an extensive selection of each seasons finest dishes and can include wine pairing for an additional £48.00 per person.
The October 2020 Vegan Tasting Menu consisted of: Poppadoms, Amuse Bouche, Dal Kachori – lentil cake with mint gel, Subz Kebab – grilled and smoked potatoes, mushroom, pineapple, onions, pepper and smoked gel, Makkai Mutter – young corn pepper fry, green peas, Patialashahi Khumbi Aur Simla Mirch – Portobello mushrooms filled with truflled aubergine and peas, pumpkin chat, Apple & Mint Ice, Subzi Kathi – green jackfruit and winter vegetable parcel, kofta, gravy, quinos pulao, Yellow Dal With Pulao Rice, Apple & Raisin Samosa – strawberry sorbet for £65.00 per person.
Atul Kochhar’s inspiration for Vassu came from his travels to India. He has said “I’m passionate about gastronomic discovery and while we cannot travel and explore the world at the moment, we will bring the bounty of India’s beautiful flavours, aromas and spices to our guests. Vaasu celebrates the life and culture of India through a menu of magnificent dishes from India. I’m inspired by traditional cooking techniques like the tandoor oven and tawa griddle. With the current travel restrictions, there has never been a more important time to take our guests on a gastronomic journey.”
Vassu’s fine dining menu has something for everyone and features an à la carte, lunchtime and seven-course tasting menus including Vegan, which pay particular homage to Punjab, Delhi and Rajasthan. There is also an extensive selection of wines, cocktails and drinks to choose from and I enjoyed sipping my way through the Gulab Cosmopolitan, Vaasu Khathi Meethi Martini, Strawberry & Green Chilli Mojito and Chai Espresso Martini priced at £14.00 per glass.
For non-plant-based diners, highlights in the Vaasu main menu include appetisers such as Murg Bemisaal – free-range chicken Tikka, chutney grilled, crispy wing, and Changezi Chaapein – smoked Kashmiri chilli, marinated Tandoori lamb cutlet, aubergine chutney and Feta cheese.
Main courses range from shellfish and seafood such as Ajwaini Jhinga Aur Machhi Patialashahi – roasted prawns and monkfish with Spanish peppers, tomato Tawa Masala, vermicelli, to chicken, including Purani Dilliwala Tandoori Murg Aur Makhani – Old Delhi-style classic Tandoori chicken supreme, butter chicken, corn salad and mint chutney, and lamb, such as Mewari Khaas Maas ‘Classic and Contemporary’ – roasted rump of Lake District lamb, Masala turnips, clove-smoked shoulder curry.
Vaasu sides and accompaniments continue the culinary journey around India, featuring dishes such as Khatta Meetha Kadoo – sweet and sour pumpkin with Punch Phoran; Bataun Da Bharta – Tandoori-smoked aubergine with green peas and Ma Di Daal – Mama Kochhar’s signature black or tempered yellow lentils.
The Vegan Tasting Menu as always was incredible; a true feast for the senses beautifully created, presented and delivered from concept to table. The combination of taste, texture and flavour leaves the palate dancing from soft and succulent fruits all the way up to zingy chutneys, mint gels, perfectly crisp pastry and richly charred vegetables.
Amongst the electric hum of fellow diners, the gentle music, twinkling lights and sparkling cutlery, course after course the menu both delighted and excited as the journey through India unfolded. My personal favourites were the savoury and sweet marriage of the Dal Kachori, the rich and succulent Patialashahi Khumbi Aur Simla Mirch and the reassuringly familiar yet excitingly new twist of the sweet Apple & Raisin Samosa.
Paired beautifully with an eclectic modern twist to classic cocktails, the kitchen, bar and staff work harmoniously to ensure that no glass runs empty and each setting is seamlessly placed, changed and dressed for a spectacular night of fine dining and hospitality that you’ll remember forever, whatever the occasion.
Whilst I was fortunate enough to dine in at Vaasu before the second lockdown restrictions were imposed, a takeaway service is still operating allowing the opportunity to experience the Vassu menu in your own home. Restaurant reervations will resume from 2nd December as per Government guidelines and gift vouchers are also available with a 2yr validity making the perfect Christmas present and reason to come together again and celebrate once we are able to do so.