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The Sherpa Kitchen, Esher

This is a real find - Esher residents will kill me!

I'm almost reluctant to give away the secret of this neighbourhood restaurant - it's already packed at the weekends and busy enough in mid-week as well. But they deserve a pat on the back for doing a really brilliant job. From the street the place looks tiny, but as if by magic it opens out into three floors (if you count a mezzanine). The decor is sharp and minimalist, featuring beautiful Nepalese bric-a-brac which all looks very stylish. The tables are decked with spotless napery and the glasses are a special delight to those for whom wine matters.

As you would expect from a nation that produced the famous Himalayan guides and porters, as well as some of the bravest soldiers, (the Gurkhas), service is their speciality. The waiters are dressed for a top Parisian brasserie, and their attention to detail  is matched by their easy charm and professionalism.

We have been along three or four times, and it's been a real delight exploring different tracks down the menu each time. The starters are plated up in the latest modern European style, the presentation is imaginative and clear cut, and the flavours are well defined and carefully balanced. The chicken livers in a little pastry coracle is delicious, and last time I loved the delicately spiced pork dumplings and the stuffed baby aubergines. Starters go from £2.95 to £3.95 (no, really!). 

They have their version of a tandoori oven, called a Chuli, but the difference is, that with a tandoori everything seems to come out tasting of Masala. Here each chuli dish retains its own character. The mullet (£7.00) is moist and charred just enough, and all the fish we've had has been excellent. Forget prawn biriyani, prawn madras, prawn this and prawn that, here these is salmon, monkfish, tiger prawn, squid - you name it!

With main course prices in the range £5.50 to £10.50. you can afford to splash out on a some of the vegetable dishes: what about steamed pumpkin cooked in carom seeds? It's fabulous! And don't miss out the breads - especially the Gulyo Roti, which is the best "peshwari naan" I've ever had.

Desserts are a bit lacking, but the fresh fruit selection is excellent and it's probably a lot more authentic a way to end a Nepalese meal. We usually come out having spent around £25 a head including the very good house wine. Oh, and there's a car park opposite!

Clifford Mould February 2004

The Sherpa Kitchen, 132 High Street, Esher Surry KT10 9QJ

Tel: 01372 470777

Dine Online Highly Recommended


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