Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 7189
Address: 69-73 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6EX
Cuisine Type: Indian
nearest tube station Leicester Square, Covent Garden

When most people say they are going for an Indian, the image that springs to mind is a cheap and cheerful venue, with predictable tandoori, korma and biriyani dishes dominating the menu, all washed down with Tiger or Cobra beer. Well, that stereotype is gradually being broken down by restaurants such as Tamarind and Zaika, the first Indian restaurants to be bestowed with one Michelin star each in 2001, and RV2 is one of the latest additions to the Indian fine dining scene.

The restaurant is ambitious in scale – with 160 covers – but is split between two levels, creating different environments to cater for all. The ground floor has a vibrant buzz to appeal to the post-work crowd, groups of friends meeting for dinner or those wanting to grab a bite before a night on the town; the basement is more relaxed and sophisticated, perfect for business diners and romantic couples.

The décor couldn’t be described as understated, but lit by blue lights, twinkling light features on the ceilings and a cascading wall of water drawing your eye to the bar as the focal point of the room, it is certainly striking and unique.

The food is described as “traditional Indian fused with modern European”, and the menu undoubtedly puts a new slant on conventional dishes. We started with the RV2 special (£25 for two), an ideal way to sample the contrasting range of tastes and cooking methods. Delicately spiced, shallow fried crab cakes packed with coconut, melt-in-the-mouth salmon tikka and marinated chicken, and piquant lamb sheek kebabs, baked in a traditional clay oven, made for a satisfying appetiser. We’ll be back to try the likes of mussels tossed in lemon and coconut milk, or rajsthani pasaliya, lamb chops marinated in spicy yoghurt and grilled until tender in the clay oven.

Our main courses were a real showcase for the kitchen’s talent. Lemon seared scallops (£18) were, to all appearances, simple – huge, incredibly sweet and fresh king scallops browned on both sides and served with a creamy saffron sauce – but to complicate seafood of such quality would have been a travesty. mirch meetha jhinga (£18), jumbo tiger prawns with chilli and mango essence, actually materialised as giant prawns (not the usual puny specimens that are described as “jumbo”). Refreshingly, they hadn’t been overcooked to the point they lose all texture and the tasty sauce they came in, whilst not discernibly flavoured with mango, was mopped up with our side orders of naan and phudina paratha (a crisp bread jam-packed with mint).

They obviously don’t stint on quality of ingredients here, and the chef’s innovative approach to using them makes other choices, such as lobster madeira (pan fried lobster tails in a garlic and white wine sauce), haash chutney (barbary duck seasoned with coriander seeds), haddock ka saalon (haddock fillets flavoured with mustard, coconut milk and lemon) and raspberry kofta (cottage cheese and potato stuffed with sweet cheese, raspberry and cashew nut sauce) sound so intriguing and appealing.

This approach is also reflected in the drinks list, with wines to suit all tastes (and pockets). Ranging from a Sauvignon Blanc, Montagne Noir 2002 for £15.50 or a rosé Grenache (£13.75) to the dizzy heights of Le Montrachet Grand Cru, Lucien Le Moine (£585) or a Louis Roederer Cristal 1985 champagne for £995, there is plenty in between to whet the appetite.

We ended on a sweet note, unable to resist the gajar halwa crepes (£4), warm carrot “fudge” wrapped in a pancake and served with vanilla ice cream, and the mango and papaya sorbet (£3.50), a refreshing, fruity finish to the meal. Linger over a coffee or tea infusion, or perk yourself up with an alcoholic digestif, but whatever you do, don’t walk past RV2 and assume this is just another Indian.

– Tracy Yam, 11/2003