Chef challenge

It's time for a taste test with some of the best names in the business. We find out if chefs can convert a <em>Time Oute</em>r from curryphobe to currylover?

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When Iz restaurant accepted our challenge – to convert me, a person who can barely abide Indian food in the same room as me, let alone within my digestive tract, into a curry enthusiast – I’m not sure they knew what they were up against. I hate to admit this in a land full of such fine Indian food, but following one too many rich, belly-busting dishes back in the UK, the cuisine makes me shudder.

Not ones to balk at a fight, the Grand Hyatt’s contemporary Indian eatery has invited me in at breakfast time – when I’m more used to muesli than luminous cottage cheese. ‘It’s marinated in saffron,’ Senthil Kumar, the restaurant’s plucky Indian chef informs me, when he catches me staring at it like it might eat me. Instead, he steers me towards salmon tikka. ‘We cook our meat in tandoor ovens, enriching the flavour without using sauces, therefore keeping it healthy.’ Not like many Indian canteens, then, where they lob on mountains of ghee.

Knowing this, the pink fish tastes even lighter. Senthil also emphasises how their portions are never so big they go cold before you finish them – another trait I equate with the fare.

After some well-done lamb, zingy dal and various chutneys (pineapple being my fave), I’m ready to try something hotter. ‘The prawn masala is my speciality. My grandmother gave me the recipe,’ Senthil beams, presenting the fishy commas swimming in a sea-green sauce. He nudges yoghurt in my direction. ‘This cools your mouth better than water, which provides only temporary salvation.’ Salvation? I think twice before swallowing. Fortunately, the yoghurt remains untouched.

I’ve acquired new confidence in my taste buds. Sipping on a strawberry lassi, I muse that I could start eating Indian food – if it was as light as this. Although next time I might stick to two portions, rather than five.

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