I was recently invited to the award-winning La Porte des Indes; this unique restaurant is inspired by Indian, French and Creole cooking. The dishes’ authenticity derives from original recipes sourced from Pondicherry, a former French colony in India which dates back to the 19th century.
My ‘yummy mummy’ friend Natasha and I were booked in for Saturday lunch; it was a balmy afternoon due to London enjoying a late Indian summer, therefore the restaurants’ exotic interior was more than fitting. On arrival, we were greeted by Prita, who treated us to a mini tour before escorting us to our table.
The restaurant, a former Edwardian ballroom in Marble Arch, is a large impressive space which features, a white marble staircase and authentic Indian artefacts. I was not quite prepared for the sheer vastness; the restaurant seats 350 covers over two floors, there are also two private dining rooms which accommodate between 8 -10 guests. Most impressive, there is an indoor waterfall – the soothing sounds of the falling water made us instantly forget that we were in the heart of the West End.
Impressed by the surroundings our expectations for the food was understandably high, Prita suggested that we try platters; seafood for me, meat and fish for Natasha, this made perfect sense as it provided the opportunity to try a variety of dishes. To begin with we ordered cocktails; Natasha opted for coconut which, in keeping with the theme of exotica, was served in a coconut shell, while I ordered a Melon Martini – which was truly scrummy, as naff as it sounds it actually felt like a holiday as we sipped on our cocktails against the backdrop of the aforementioned indoor waterfall.
Before the arrival of our platters we were given Farsaan, a steamed yellow lentil cake with a tamarind topping, served with coconut and yogurt. I was not overly taken with this dish, the cake-like texture of the Farsaan, coupled with the sourness of the yogurt confused my taste buds which were expecting something more sweet, and also I am not too keen on tamarind. Natasha, found clarity after the initial confusion and subsequently developed a taste for her Farsaan.
Natasha also thoroughly enjoyed her main dish; a platter of moistly cooked, well-spiced meat and fish: Monkfish Curry, King Prawns, Tandoori Chicken and Lamb. Natasha’s overall verdict was, “Well cooked, not dry and well –balanced flavours.”
My platter which consisted of: Monk Fish, Queen Scallops, King Prawns, Crab Claws and Salmon. I enjoyed everything with exception to the salmon which I found a little too dry. The monk fish and scallops were the standout dishes; the monkfish was cooked extremely well; it was both succulent and moist which can sometimes prove tricky to achieve due to its firm, meaty texture. The scallops were delicately spiced and melted on my tongue.
Our platters included the Rougail d’ Aubergine: smoked crushed aubergine, chilli, ginger and fresh green lime from Pondicherry, this dish was scrumptious and perfectly represented the restaurants’ diverse, French, Creole and Indian flavours. In addition, we also had Kesaria Pillav Rice: saffron flavoured aromatic basmati rice and Multani Naan: buttered tandoori baked bread with onion seeds, melon seeds and sesame – this bread was particularly addictive and worth bloating for!
Although well nourished, we could not resist ordering dessert; Natasha ordered the Red Rice Crème Brulée and was not too keen on it as she was expecting a warm serving. I decided to go for a Goan speciality, the Nutmeg Spiced Layer Cake served with Madagascan Vanilla Ice cream, the texture was similar to that of bread pudding and I have a slight aversion to bread pudding, however once my tongue adjusted to the texture it was surprisingly good.
Price – £145.50 (excluding service).
Service – Good; attentive waiters and Prita’s impromptu tour was a nice touch.
Ambience – Good; the relaxed atmosphere coupled with the soothing sounds of the waterfall gave an overall impression of an oasis of calm.
Bathroom – ⅗; although the bathroom was clean, the taps were not working in one of the sinks, leaving only one working sink.