Rohit Ghai


Rohit Ghai

After making his name and winning Michelin stars at some of London's most high-profile Indian restaurants, Rohit Ghai's solo venture Kutir cements his reputation for cooking some of the best Indian food in the UK.

Foodies across the UK – and London in particular – have had a love affair with high-end Indian cooking ever since Atul Kochhar won a Michelin star at Tamarind back in 2001. Ever since, the capital has become a bit of a magnet for some of India’s most talented chefs, who set up shop in the city to offer their own unique takes on the country’s incredibly rich and varied food scene. Few, however, have attained the accolades and respect that Rohit Ghai has, who has a track record for winning Michelin stars and putting together knockout menus for the vast majority of London’s acclaimed Indian restaurants.

Originally from Punjab in the north of India, Rohit attributes his love of cooking – like so many chefs – to his mother, who would prepare simple yet expertly balanced dishes at home. This spurred him on to make food his profession, enrolling at the Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi to become a chef. In India, many of the country’s best restaurants are housed in grand hotels, which is where Rohit honed his skills and began to get acquainted with the many different regional cuisines found throughout the country. This included stints at both Taj Hotels and Resorts and Oberoi Hotels – two of the most esteemed groups in India.

Seeing how the perception of Indian food was changing in the UK, Rohit made the decision to move to London in 2008 and bring his expertise to a new audience. Joining Atul Kochhar at Benares as a sous chef, he stayed there for the next five years until an opportunity arose to become an executive chef with JKS Restaurants, which owned Trishna and Gymkhana. Here, he was able to move away from the somewhat muted, westernised (yet still delicious) spicing that encapsulated Benares’ style in favour of an unabashed, in-your-face, bold and instantly popular way of cooking that made JKS one of the hottest restaurant groups in the UK.

By 2016, Rohit’s success at JKS had earned him a reputation for running critically acclaimed kitchens. Leela Palace Hotels convinced him to leave the group and work with them on opening Jamavar – an all-day dining restaurant with a slightly more contemporary and pan-Indian menu. Just ten months after opening it, Rohit became the first Indian chef in the world to win a Michelin star within a year.

Up until this point, Rohit had always worked for others, and soon enough felt it was time he ventured out on his own. Partnering up with Abhishake Sangwan, who he’d worked with at JKS, the duo opened Kutir in November 2018 to offer a slightly different take on London’s high-end Indian food offering.

‘The restaurant is based on the hunting lodges of India,’ says Rohit. ‘I’ve done a few projects in London before, but I always look to bring something new and refreshing to the city as people are so open to trying foods they haven’t had before. When I was part of the team at Oberoi Hotels in India I helped to launch a luxury lodge in the heart of the forest, and that’s what inspired me to do something similar in London. It was perfect – we didn’t want to open a big restaurant so we could really focus on the food and have staff talk customers through some of the more unknown dishes.’

Housed in a small townhouse in the centre of Chelsea with sixty-five covers, Kutir gives Rohit the chance to properly show off his culinary prowess. Taking inspiration from all the different regional Indian cuisines he experienced when working at the big hotel groups, his menus make the most of seasonal British produce – particularly game when in season – and shine a spotlight on lesser-known traditional Indian dishes. Presentation is bright and colourful without being over-complicated, and his expertise at balancing freshly toasted and ground spices is prevalent in every course.

With two Michelin stars to his name at previous restaurants, another can’t be too far on the horizon. And while Rohit’s own restaurant is perhaps more affordable, relaxed and friendly than the hotel restaurants he used to work at back in India, there’s no denying the skill and talent on show. While more familiar dishes appear on the menu, it’s the dhoklas, khichadis, khastas and faloodas that really showcase Rohit’s flair. Indian food in the UK is enjoying a bit of a golden age at the moment as we start to understand its many regional cuisines – it’s chefs like Rohit Ghai that we have to thank for that.