Jamavar: Food great; service not so impressive

Visit-one to Jamavar in March for a work lunch filled me with the belief that this could be among the best Indian restaurants in London. A second visit, on a recent Saturday night sampling the full tasting menu reinforced the notion that Jamavar has a lot of potential; but, our experience was let down by the service. It wasn’t actively bad, more characterised by utter indifference. Fine dining should be about theatre and experience; one expects chefs to be pushing the boundaries both in terms of preparation and presentation. Similarly, there is an expectation that those bringing the dishes will share in the endeavour, highlighting the restaurant’s creations with pride and enthusiasm. Likewise, for any well-trained sommelier, half the fun of the job is composing an interesting and innovative wine list to pair with such dishes. Subsequently explaining the rationale for why each wine was chosen to go with a given dish only enhances the dining experience. Sadly, no-one at Jamavar seems to have explained these notions to the waiters. Each dish in our seven-course menu was almost dumped on the table with little more than an uttering such as ‘the chicken’ or ‘the aubergine.’ Furthermore, at no time was there any synchronisation between the food and the wine – we would always be left waiting for one when the other had already arrived. The wines, when they did come were, again, virtually plonked on the table, generally with an absolute absence of ceremony. This was a real pity, since what we ate and drank was superlative (the chef and the sommelier did their jobs properly), at least as good as Trishna, which probably remains the benchmark for first-rate Indian innovation in London. Omnivores and vegetarians can both delight in the offerings here. On my seven-course menu, there was only one slightly questionable dish (the lamb chops), with everything else – from soft shell crab at the beginning through to chilli chocolate fondant at the end receiving high praise. The wine selection too was great, with the French Burgundy and the 10-year Tawny Port being the highlights. At £115 including paired wines, the price is also competitive against other comparable offerings. Herein, I think, lies the problem: the food and drink are excellent, they are priced reasonably, and the restaurant is located in central Mayfair close to many of London’s top hotels. In other words, Jamavar does not have to worry about getting customers in through the door (indeed, the place was packed when we visited), and so it appears to have taken the somewhat disappointing view that it doesn’t need to put any excess of effort into the service. However, without some improvement, it will be hard to see the place getting a Michelin star; and, in the meantime, it won’t be an immediate priority for us to return.