Colony Bar and Grill, 7-9 Paddington Street, London

It's a truism in marketing that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. The sizzle-sellers have been hard at work building a story for Colony, the latest venture from star chef Atul Kochhar, of Benares fame. According to the pre-publicity, Colony's tapas-style menu would be inspired by Indian street food, specifically "the marinades, aromatic flavours and grilling methods" of the street traders of colonial Asia. Sounds great, doesn't it? But hang on – street food and the Raj? Isn't that two different stories we've got going on there? Surely only the most educated palette would be able to differentiate between colonial and post-Independence street food?

Still, the spiced-up pre-opening sizzle was effective enough to get the juices flowing; particularly as Atul Kochhar's earlier excursions into Anglo-Asian cooking include the thrilling Vatika, set in a leafy Hampshire vineyard. Colony, in slightly less leafy Marylebone, calls itself a bar and grill, but the menu is far less casual than this implies. Rather than serving a selection of patties, puris and grilled meats, or going down the Anglo-Indian route pioneered by Chutney Mary, the restaurant offers complex, recondite dishes which would have the memsahibs calling for the smelling salts. Roasted mallard marinated in lindi peppers and stone moss? Lamb meat loaf infused with rose petals? Veal vindaloo with coriander chips? Whatever this is, it certainly isn't street food.

The restaurant, too, doesn't conform to expectations. Nothing about this converted All Bar One just off Marylebone High Street signals Indian restaurant. The name evokes the vanished glamour of Raffles hotel and the woosh of the punkawallah's fan. We find ourselves sitting in a beige, windowless cube which feels like the panic room they'd herd hotel guests into should the natives start revolting.

Judging by the swishness of the bar, that's where all the money has been spent. In the small, underlit restaurant area, exotic as a stock cube, the only decorative touches come from some hotel lobby artwork and, as a passing nod to the tropics, a single spotlit palm.

Only the cocktail list conforms to the colonial theme, with such offerings as Empress of India, based on cardamom-infused gin and champagne. We lounged colonially in the bar for some time, but the sun was setting on the empire when our drinks finally arrived, by which time we'd transferred to our table in the panic room.

Weirdly, given all the pre-match talk about street food and Indian tapas, there are no starters on the restaurant menu – just a number of main course dishes, served in tasting portions (though not, at £9-£15.50 a pop, at tasting prices). Following the example of our neighbour, another undercover food critic, we commandeered a bar menu and ordered a few small dishes from it in place of starters.

Things began rather prosaically with a complimentary pre-starter which was, to all intents and purposes, an onion bhaji, an oil-less but heavy mouthful of fried potato and onion, revved up with a slash of tamarind sauce. The bar snacks-turned-appetisers were more exciting; particularly a cube of char-grilled barramundi, fragrant with coriander, lime and chilli, and sautéed calamari which delivered a chilli kick.

Mains are designed to be shared (the suggestion is four to six between two people). Ours ranged from the relatively traditional – an aromatic rogan josh-style dish of slow-cooked shoulder of mutton – to a vivid and precisely cooked piece of monkfish, roasted in the tandoor, and served with crab vermicelli. Quite why the inventive Kochhar felt the need to include a version of chicken tikka masala on the menu is a mystery; we ordered it to see if they'd done anything interesting with it. They hadn't; the Colony version was authentically inauthentic, in its creamy sweetness and brick-red colour. Side dishes included terrific smoky aubergine, cooked in a sauce flavoured with stone moss, and light and buttery naan.

The fusion concept seems to have extended to the service, which manages to combine faffing and fluffing with rather patchy delivery, from a team comprising sultry female greeters, Indian waiters, a French manager, and the looming David Dickinsonian presence of genial co-owner Carlo Spetale, whose signature cocktail, it is probably fair to say, would not be the Shrinking Violet. No fewer than three members of staff urged us to try the mango dessert, a dense, super-sweet mango paste in a cigar-shaped tuille, which we liked better than our other choice, a clammy square of clove-spiced rice pudding.

With a £39 bottle of Albarino, our bill came to around £50 a head, before service. Even though many of the dishes we tried were very good, they weren't quite good enough to earn Colony a rave review. Perhaps misled by all that sizzle, I'd been hoping for a masala of a meal – mixed-up, spicy and full of zing. Instead, the spice that Colony brought to mind was vanilla; sweet and useful, but a bit ordinary.

Colony Bar and Grill, 7-9 Paddington Street, London W1 (020-7935 3353)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 3 stars

£50 a head before service, including wine

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing