Pondicherry: a former French colony in India and a unique cultural, architectural amalgam of these two seemingly disparate motherlands. As well as being incredibly interesting and beautiful, the region also holds the plus of being that, most important of things, delicious. Its only downside is its sad distance from us here in London. So, you can imagine my pleasure in discovering a place here in my native town possessing all of its virtues.
La Porte des Indes is a classical Indo-French restaurant near Marble Arch, inspired by the food of Pondicherry. Set in a former Edwardian ballroom, this beautiful marble-clad space displays a grand selection of Indian artefacts and a 40 ft. waterfall, ringed with palms, which plunges to a basement level, complete with colonial themed jungle bar. Exotic plants and flowers droop from every wall and surface and walking through this impressive space feels almost like a stroll into 19th century India.
The food is as fine as its surroundings. Intricate and well-crafted dishes fill the pages of its menu; all Gallic inspired and offering an interesting, not-often-seen perspective on Indian cuisine. The menu maison is an apt way to fully explore the menu’s offerings, giving you a sample of everything. We were delighted with an opener of seared scallops with saffron sauce and curry leaf, next to a perfect steamed parcel of sole with fragrant coriander.
Murgh malai kebab of juicy chicken, grilled in a tandoor, was flavoursome and even better when dipped in a sauce of green herbs. A highlight of the evening came with the mains; poulet rouge, butter chicken cooked with yoghurt and a refined blend of spices that danced (ever so delicately) in the mouth and ended creamily. La Porte des Indes take on saag paneer was also excellent; it’s only of my staples in India and I judge establishments tremendously on it. Never was this place’s fusion more evident than in a final dish of French trimmed lamb chops, marinated in garam masala and served pink. Fine, indeed.
I even managed to enjoy the desserts; a rare thing for me in an Indian restaurant. Commonly I find them hideously sweet but Chef Mehernosh Mody managed to produce three tasting desserts; 2 of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The entire experience was underpinned by professional service and quaffable wine. We tried their Blue Elephant Cuvee Royale Thaie, a Riesling-esque white made especially for La Porte des Indes in Alsace.
For a dining experience a far cry away from your average vindaloo or even your average French bistro, I recommend this place. La Porte des Indes: wonderful food, exquisite surroundings and true colonial spirit.