Charcoal is the follow-up to Soho Hospitality Group’s hit rooftop bar in the same building, Above Eleven, and there’s a familiar air of pre-drink dining about this Indian kabab
-specializing restaurant and cocktail lounge. With its sultry blend of dark woods, lattice screens, spice jars and barely existent lighting, there’s a clear similarity to Maya
, its closest contemporary Indian competitor, though here you’ll find a tighter menu focusing almost exclusively on tandoor-cooked kababs. Like all Charcoal’s food, these are wonderfully spiced and flavorful.
The classic lamb sheekh kabab (B390 for three pieces) features finely minced lamb blended with a potent mix of ginger, green chilies, coriander and royal cumin, while the murgh malai kabab (B400 for five pieces) is composed of juicy, perfectly barbecued pieces of chicken in a light marinade of cream cheese and hung yogurt.
It’s very hard to fault Charcoal on the food. From the complimentary arrival condiments and papadums to the sinfully buttery dal charcoal (urad lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, B200), the spicing is consistently bold and well balanced. Even for dessert, the phirni (Indian rice pudding, B200) is packed with the powerful flavors of saffron and cardamom yet never tastes overwhelming.
Ubiquitous mixologist Joseph Boroski devised the India-inspired cocktail menu, and it delivers some genuinely original drinks that live up to their theme, whether it’s the clove-rich 1947 Independence (mace and clove-infused vodka, Indian pomegranate, fresh lime, hibiscus syrup and frothed egg, B300) or betel-leaf-infused, martini-style Horn OK Please (gin, betel nut leaves, basil, green mango chutney puree, lime and sugarcane B300).
As a place to dine, the grownup atmosphere is let down somewhat by kids playing in the swimming pool outside, but any noise is drowned out by a soundtrack of slightly cheesy dance anthems. Our only other gripe is the service staff, who deliver such a minute description of every dish that you wonder when you can start eating. But if what you want is flashy Indian, then it delivers both on flash and flavor.
This review took place in May 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.