Already I can tell you’re intrigued by the sound of an Indian French fusion of flavours and you’d be right to be!
Nestled behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street is an unassuming doorway, which I have actually walked past a few times… Had I known what was inside, that wouldn’t have been the case…
You’ll find La Porte des Indes on Bryanston Street in Central London, but also in Brussels and in Dubai. They’re part of the Blue Elephant Group which have a fantastic reputation and yet it still felt like a best kept secret (and selfishly one I’d quite liked to have kept to myself, had I not been writing a review!)
I don’t mind admitting that I’m super boring when it comes to Indian food. I find everything a little too spicy for my taste buds, so I tend to stick to Chicken Korma, Chicken Masala and a garlic naan… you know the score. However, if you have the pleasure to visit this fantastic restaurant, take my advice and disregard all your preconceptions about the Indian foods you’ve never tasted, and go with it. All I can say is that you’re in for an unforgettable experience.
Housed in a former Edwardian ballroom and spanning two floors, you’ll be blown away by the sweeping white marble staircase, the grand décor, exotic plants and 40ft waterfall – the space is just stunning. There’s also private dining rooms, which are all themed and perfect for an intimate work event or family dinner, and they also offer a full takeaway menu, so you can indulge in their cuisine in the comfort of your own home.
For me, I’d choose the restaurant every time! I’ve rarely sat in such lavish surroundings in the middle of the capital. You’ll most certainly forget that you’re a stone’s throw from one of the busiest streets in London and find yourself transported through ‘The Gateway to India’, which is the translation of ‘La Porte des Indes’ – quite fitting I thought…
Having been promised a culinary journey I’d never forget, I decided I’d throw caution to the wind and try as many dishes as I possibly could from the menu, in the hope I’d find some new and exciting dishes. We began with a coconut and yoghurt amuse bouche – mild, yet sweet and just enough to get the taste buds going. I also remember thinking this was probably the mildest of the dishes to come… Starters included Demoiselle de Pondichery, which were huge king scallops, cooked with a hint of garlic and saffron served on an oyster shell and the Rubiyan Jhinga, which were big juicy wild tiger prawns marinated in garlic, star anise and coriander and smoked in the tandoor. I avoided the fiery fresh red chilli sauce which accompanied it. However, if you’re a fan of spicy foods, then I can definitely recommend the Roasted Chilli Seekh Lamb Kebabs, which were plentiful and smoked with chilli, sun dried tomatoes and herbs, but while I could appreciate the flavours and the quality of the meat, these were simply too hot for my taste buds.
For the main course, I decided to sample some of the infamous Indian French infused style dishes on the menu – many of the secret recipes were brought back from the former Indian French colonies by the chefs that have worked here and I was intrigued as to how they would taste. I wasn’t disappointed. A far cry from my usual Chicken Korma, was the Poulet Rouge – shredded and grilled chicken, marinated in yoghurt and spices in a creamy sauce. My new favourite. Surprisingly, I also enjoyed the Kari de Mouton goat curry, laced with punch packing spices and balanced with coconut milk. Another favourite was the Magret de Carnard Pulivaar – tender duck breast fillets served with a pink spicy tamarind sauce which outside of London, you’d only find in the Creole community of Pondicherry. And if fish is your thing, then the Roast Black Cod will not disappoint – it comes marinated in fennel, chili, mustard and honey and is flame grilled and served in banana leaves.
Accompanying these beautiful dishes were the slightly spicy lime rice, an organic steamed red rice and a three cheese naan, which was perfectly puffy and amply filled. From the wine list, I selected a Mandala Sauvignon Blanc – an aromatic combination of passion fruit, lemon grass and green peppers which worked well with the dishes I’d selected and at £36, was a decent price.
Normally, I wouldn’t order dessert in an Indian restaurant, but the list was so varied, and I’d been so impressed so far, that I decided to indulge in the warm valrhona dark chocolate fondant with a rich soft centre, served with Madagascan bourbon vanilla bean ice cream. Exceptionally presented and as indulgent in taste as it sounded, I felt it was the perfect end to a beautiful meal.
I’d recommend La Porte des Indes for a special occasion, a romantic dinner or a lavish works event. There’s also a lovely bar area downstairs called the Jungle Bar, where you can kick back and admire the palm trees and tiger skin rugs in an intimate and truly stunning setting.
You may never order a Chicken Korma again….