London

Indian food with a little je ne sais quio

Chronicle 14 May 2014

There are not many places you can sit above a cascading 40ft water feature while tucking into Indian food with a twist – but then La Porte des Indes is not your ordinary curry house.

This unique restaurant has sat proudly in its location a stone’s throw from Marble Arch for the last 18 years serving diners Indian cuisine with a distinctly French flavour in the elegant surroundings of a former Edwardian ballroom.

You can’t fail to be taken aback by the splendour of the place as you first enter – it is like taking a step back in time with its resplendent design. Exotic plants, Indian artefacts, the 40ft Mogul waterfall and a white marble staircase fill the huge high-ceilinged restaurant, which also boasts a mighty impressive dome feature. Dining is on several areas with classic white wicker chairs housing comfortable cushions and tables with crisp white tablecloths which are broken up by flashes of rich red, one of the vibrant colours that add to the warmth and ambience of this fine building.

Gallic influenced dishes are the mainstay of an exciting menu, sourced by executive chef Mehernosh Mody and his wife Sherin in Pondicherry, a former French colony dating back to the 19th century. The food is regally presented by highly attentive and professional staff, mainly dressed in traditional costume, while there is a gentle hush about the place with just the gentle trickle of water in the background to break the silence as diners enjoy their food.

Both our shared starters did not disappoint. Two large juicy king scallops (£12) served in their shells were sophisticated and perfectly complimented by a flavoursome mild saffron sauce while chicken tikkahs with cream cheese, mace and green peppers were beautifully moist and tender and a great combination of tastes.

We followed this with a cracking Kerala meen monkfish curry (£22) with a rich and creamy well seasoned and spiced sauce of coconut, coriander, roasted spices and smoked tamarind which in no way overpowered the well cooked fleshy fish.

The Margret du Canard Puhvaar (£20) was a star with thin slithers of succulent Barbary duck breast (cooked pink) which melted in the mouth with an authentic smoky tamarind sauce which filled the air with a rich aroma and left a lovely warm, spicy tingle on the tongue. My only complaint was, please give me more duck for my buck, the portion size was on the small size.

A decent Saag Paneer (£8) of spinach and cottage cheese with chillies and ginger and perfect aromatic Pillav rice (£4.50) infused with saffron were satisfying accompaniments and thin slices of naan were perfect for mopping up the fish curry sauce, which was too good to waste.

Deserts are not always a strong point at Indian establishments but I could not resist the chocolate fondant (£9) which delivered a pot of lovely soft, rich gooey dark chocolate well balanced by luxurious tasting madagascar bourbon vanilla bean ice cream.

Fiona was less adventurous but equally happy with her refreshing passion fruit sorbet (£6.50) which she declared perfect and just right after the heat and spice of the previous dishes.

There is no getting away from the fact that the food at La Porte des Indes does not come cheap but the experience of eating there certainly makes up for that, and in terms of quality Indian food with a twist it is a real jewel in the crown of eating establishments in this part of the capital.