London

La Porte des Indes Review

The Upcoming 11 Feb 2014

The dated exterior of La Porte des Indes (meaning “Gateway to India”) offers no sign of the fantastical world hidden within. The interior is a lavish landscape of strange artifacts, precious antiques, colourful furnishings and tropical plants. A 40ft waterfall adds to the splendour, alongside a marble staircase and ceiling fabrics. The staff, dressed in red and gold, gracefully greet and serve diners with regal elegance. The combined effect is nothing short of spectacular: a visual explosion of exotic, unforgettable wonder.

The restaurant has been enthralling diners since 1996 and is now one of three global outposts. Showcasing French-influenced cuisine from the days of colonisation, the menu’s Gallic touches are evident: seared scallops, creole sauces and even cassoulet. Indeed, most of the dishes we sampled were subtly spiced, providing a refined take on Indian favourites.

Sadly, this approach didn’t quite work for our starters. Demoiselles de Pondichéry (scallops in a saffron sauce) looked stunning but the mild sauce was undetectable over the char of the scallop. Soft shell Pepper Crabs were coated in a crisp, under-seasoned batter and the accompanying green mango and ginger dip was bland.

For mains, we opted for tasting platters from the set lunch menu: Curry and Tandoor and Tandoori Mixed Grill. Both included Paneer Tikkaand a Barra Lamb Chop, plus portions of saffron-flavoured rice and warm naan bread. The tangy cheese wedges didn’t disappoint – although we couldn’t detect the mint stuffing listed on the menu – and the meat was flavoursome but overcooked. This was a recurring problem with the tandoor-roasted dishes: Tandoori Jhinga, a King Prawn marinated with whole spices; Achari Macchi, a spiced salmon steak; and Tandoori Murgh, a fragrant chicken thigh.

la-porte-img-11

Punjabi Chole (stewed chickpeas and potatoes with tamarind and garam masala) was sweet and smoky, cutting through the heat of a tasty Dhaba Murgh (a tomato and chilli chicken curry) and Mumbai Aloo (commonly known as “Bombay Potato”).

The wow-factor missing from our mains was over-delivered in an awesome, heart-in-mouth display of coffee pyrotechnics. Intrigued by the Flambé Coffee section of the dessert menu, we opted for a Café Du Pondicherry, made at our table with Grand Marnier, orange peel, brown sugar and coffee. Our waiter deftly created soaring flames, topping a foot in height. The spectacle lasted for five minutes and resulted in a delicious concoction served in a sugar-encrusted glass.

Desserts added to our pleasure: a Goan cake (Bebinca) and a French Chocolate Fondant. La Portes Des Indes restaurant in MArbel Arch-12The cake looked and tasted like layered crêpes, flavoured with a nutmeg and sugar rub, and the scrumptious Fondant was wickedly gooey in the center. A creamy Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream complemented both treats.

La Porte des Indes promised to transport us to another world and it dutifully delivered. Leaving the venue without having a passport stamped seemed incredibly odd and anyone searching for a glimpse of a mystical Shangri La before they die would be wise to stop here. The food may be far from divine, but the overall experience was incredible.