It’s National Curry Week this week, and to celebrate, we went to La Porte des Indes in London’s Mayfair. For many people, going out for a curry means eating ridiculously hot dishes which have so many chillies that you can’t taste the food at all. Forget about that, for La Porte des Indes is from the Indian region of Pondicherry, where spicy gives way to fragrant, delicate flavours.
The restaurant looks weeny from the outside, but once inside, you descend into its cavernous interior, complete with palm trees and a waterfall beneath a large domed skylight.
For National Curry Week, the restaurant’s offering a three course meal consisting of a little of everything, which we always love – it makes choosing what to have so much easier – along with beer, wine or a soft drink, for £24. Sadly, that offer wasn’t running when we visited, but the friendly and helpful waiter offered to put together a platter for us to share.
We started with a table full of food: soul in a mint and coriander chutney, with a delicious, meaty texture, was a winning fish dish. It was served alongside perfectly cooked king scallops served in their shells with a mild saffron sauce; and chard pakoras – crunchy, slightly spiced vegetables deep fried in a light batter.
They normally serve delicious sounding cocktails straight from a coconut shell – but sadly, they didn’t have any coconuts in when we visited. Instead, we got a bubble teas and a Cobra beer (which, it turns out, is not Indian at all – it’s a British beer first brewed in 1989 by a Cambridge University law graduate).
Main courses consisted of lamb chops, chicken in a delicious yoghurty sauce with a mix of unidentifiable spices, prawns in a mild coconut curry sauce, with just enough turmeric to give it a little tingle, saag paneer (a cottage cheese sauce with spinach), fantastic aubergine dip, and little Bombay chaats – small meat patties with a couple of chutneys.
All of this came with pomegranate raita – a yoghurt dip with crunchy pomegranate seeds – basmati rice and a couple of different types of bread: a tandoori naan and a coronary-inducing cheesy naan.
Although all the food was great, there were one or two standout dishes which for us made the meal a great dining experience: the soul which we had as part of our starter, which, with its slightly minty sauce, was interestingly different; and the moist, tender chicken pieces were amazing, especially with their mild sauce, which worked so well we would have been happy with a bowl of that to pour over our rice.
A trio of interesting sounding desserts was of mixed success… something with pistachio, something with mango, and something else we couldn’t quite put our finger on. Tasty, but the first two courses were the winners for us.
Service was quick and friendly, and they also sell little packets of food to take home with you – we went away with a massaman curry sauce (with a recipe in Dutch on the back – that’ll make an interesting challenge for us) and a bag of dried mango – 40% sugar, we read on the back later. That’ll be another 10 hours at the gym, then!