Hidden behind an unassuming door, the Porte des Indes, translated as the Gateway to India, is a restaurant with a very sumptuous décor. We were welcomed by staff, dressed in brightly coloured traditional costume, and led downstairs through their jungle bar.
The food is influenced by dishes from Pondichéry in Southern India. A jazz brunch takes place every Sunday, which is a relaxing, take as long as you like, affair. The restaurant prides itself on its selection of exotic cocktails including ones that are alcohol-free.
Despite it being a help-yourself buffet, waiters were on hand to cater to our every need. The occasion is quite theatrical with chefs preparing tasty starters at street food stalls – rice and lentil pancakes filled with potato, served with fresh coconut chutney; piri piri fish cakes, made from fresh water fish minced with chilli, garlic and coriander, and deep fried in bread crumbs; delicately spiced florets of cauliflower in crispy batter, served with a tamarind sauce.
As well as a choice of between eight to nine starters which varies from week to week, there is a choice of curries made from chicken, lamb and fish for the main course as well as several vegetarian options. A table is reserved for desserts, all served in small portions so that you don’t look greedy trying a few. Particularly delicious is one made with clotted cream, crushed basmati rice, and chopped pistachio nuts. An international wine list includes several from India.
A feature of the decor is its water wall. The eating area is on the ground floor, and although covering quite a large space, is cleverly separated so we didn’t feel as if we were in a large room. I always think it is a good sign in an ethnic restaurant when the majority of the eaters come from the country in question. This was certainly noticeable at La Porte des Indes.
For £30.00 a head you can eat as much as you like. The main problem is that there is so much choice. Each dish is cooked with different spices so after a few mouthfuls I found myself overwhelmed by the various tastes.
Sunday is a day to come with friends and family, and enjoy the jazz and food rather than experience a gastronomic blow-out. Face painting is on offer to keep younger members of the family amused, and is included in the price.
La Porte des Indes is located at 32 Bryanston Street 32, London W1H 7EG.
Tel: 020 7224 0055
£25 – £35 per person