Nestled on a corner of a side road near Marble Arch, behind the crowded hub of Oxford Street, stands La Porte des Indes. Its exterior is pleasant and welcoming enough, but quite unassuming in comparison to what awaits inside.
The restaurant is spread over two floors of a former Edwardian ballroom, and entering it feels like being on the set of a Merchant Ivory film; opulent, light and highly transportive. Patrons are invited to dine amid features such as a waterfall, a dramatic marble staircase and a glass dome while surrounded by exotic plants and Indian objets d’art, which all add to the dining experience.
When La Porte des Indes first opened in 1996, its unique South Indian fusion cuisine proved to be an instant hit, as it still is today. The main core of the menu is influenced by the French-Creole and Tamil cooking found in Pondicherry with recipes that were carefully researched and tested by executive chef Mehernosh Mody and his wife, Sherin. With the beautiful design and atmosphere of La Porte des Indes being so prominent, one might be forgiven for thinking that the food may play second fiddle to the décor; thankfully this isn’t the case as it transpires that both food and setting are in absolute union.
The sample menu offers delights such as the fragrant Demoiselles de Pondicherry (juicy king scallops in a mild saffron sauce) and Murgh Malai kebab (chicken tikkas marinated with cream, mace and fresh green peppercorns) for starters. For the main course, the divine Poulet Rouge (shredded chicken marinated in yoghurt and red spices) and a wonderfully intense Rougail d’aubergine (smoked, crushed aubergine with chilli, ginger and lime) are standout dishes, each of them with a lovingly prepared combination of spices that reveal themselves with each mouthful. For dessert, L’assiette du Chef is a must-have, the chef selects his favourite desserts that include a chocolate and honey mousse and rose and cardamom rasmallai, a treat so skilfully prepared that it is fragrant enough to linger beautifully, without being overbearing.
What La Porte des Indes has to offer is indeed an unforgettable dining experience rather than just a meal, and if one were so inclined to, they offer an Indian cooking class with chef Mody every last Friday of the month. The day includes a fun and engaging cookery demonstration, a tour of the kitchens, food tasting and wine pairing and a three-course lunch, all for £60 per person. Let yourself be transported.