It’s 30th December, and it’s our new tradition to dine at a classy restaurant on this date (then stay in and eat home-made food on new year’s eve). After last year’s visit to the excellent Gordon Ramsay’s Maze we had wondered where to treat ourselves this year, when LardButty received an invitation to "go try out Lotus in Covent Garden” with a voucher issued on behalf of Chef & Manager, Bhaskar Banerjee, a ‘seasoned’ chef (doh!) who trained with award winning premium brands in India before creating an “inspired collection of signature dishes” in the UK.
• opened just over three months ago in August 2015 and already ranks #36 of 18,000+ London restaurants on TripAdvisor
• is named after India’s national flower (a water lilly representing beauty and non-attachment, reputed to smell of myrrh, that – importantly – lends its shape to India’s mother temple in New Delhi)
• sits in the Indian fine dining category alongside the likes of Benares, Cafe Spice Namaste and Cinnamon Club restaurants.
We arrived early for our 6.30pm reservation, following a visit to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House and shopping at Selfridges, full of the joys of the Christmas holidays.
Fine dining Indian restaurant between Leicester Square and Covent Garden
Arriving early this evening (with the intention of enjoying a leisurely cocktail at the bar if our table’s not ready) we are greeted and seated promptly. We not only order a cocktail each – a Nai Dilli Darbar for K: Indian whiskey, lemonade, black salt + lychee @ £9.75 and a Sames Margarita for me: tequila and cointreau @ £9.75 – but our waitress brings us complimentary proseccos as an aperitif too (really lovely prosecco served in impractically shaped, top-heavy flutes… we’ll say no more about that though).
Bar area at Lotus
Cocktails – Nai Dilli Darbar (Indian whiskey, lemonade, black salt + lychee) and Sames Margarita (tequila and cointreau)
While we’re leisurely reading the menu, our waitress (who seems very knowledgeable about the menu and specialities despite having worked here for only a few weeks) brings us Corn Chaat Golgappa – corn puffs filled with sweetcorn and herbs, normally @ £3.75. She tells us to pour the fresh jaljeera and tamarind ‘chutney’ (a runny green sauce) in to the corn shells, and – when it becomes fluffy – to eat straight away (in one mouthful! too messy otherwise).
We are also served rice, potato and finger millet poppadoms with fruity chutneys (mango and apricot, mint, red chilli and green tomato) – normally @ £2.75.
Amuse-bouche/bite-sized hors d’œuvres: complimentary corn chaat golgappa with jaljeera + tamarind sauce and poppadoms + chutneys
The starter menu has some inspired offerings ranging from tandoori partridge and rabbit kheema to pigeon masala dosa and chicken wing tulips.
To share, we choose cod cheeks, bream and tuna coated with semolina, curry and coriander dip @ £8.75 and butternut squash + chilli samosey with red beans, dates and tamarind chutney @ £6.75.
I love all of the ingredients of the samosa – particularly tamarind, and while the pastry initially looks quite dense, it really isn’t (it’s perfectly crumbly). While I thoroughly enjoy the samosa, the flavours are denser and much less subtle than those of the cod cheeks starter which are more delicate, lighter, and simply divine.
Starter recommendation: cod cheeks
Cod cheeks, bream + tuna starter
Cod cheeks, bream + tuna starter
Squash + chilli samosey with red beans, dates + tamarind chutney
After all of the aperitifs, amuse-bouches and starters we have a breather before the main course and enjoy sipping gruner veltliner, one of my favourite dry white wines from Austria @ £31.75 a bottle (this one is a perfect accompaniment to spicy food).
Bhaskar Banerjee pops over to introduce himself, see how we’re doing, and talk a bit about the influences and style behind the unique dishes he’s created. It’s a nice touch (and something that I really like about my favourite restaurant, Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak where Nancy always does the rounds and talks to her customers, giving it her personal touch. Done well, it goes a long way).
For main course, K orders 23 karat gold lamb shanks khorma (neither of us are convinced that the gold leaf – which, we are told “aids digestion” – is necessary – but the lamb is amazing, slow cooked and falling off the bone with gorgeous spicy flavours) served with roast potato mash, papaya pickle, spices, green cardamom and cashew @ £21.75.
I order red snapper kebab with mustard essence, crisp Bengal gram and dill yoghurt @ £13.75 and a raita cucumber, rose petals + pomegranate @ £1.75 (gorgeous!).
And we share some sides:
• palak pudhina paneer: spinach, coriander, fennel + mint scented sauce @ £6.75
• dal maa dumpukth: black lentils simmered overnight with garlic, tomato, butter and cream) @ £5.7
• saffron and green peas rice @ £4.75
• house bread basket: variety of Indian flatbreads @ £3.75.
Main course recommendations: lamb shanks khorma and red snapper kebab
23 karat gold lamb shanks khorma with roast potato mash, papaya pickle, spices, green cardamom + cashew
Red snapper kebab with mustard essence, crisp Bengal gram + dill yoghurt
Saffron + green peas rice
Dal maa dumpukth – slow simmered black lentils + raita with pomegranates (right)
Palak pudhina paneer – spinach + cheese
It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that we’re too full for a dessert… but in the interests of reviewing every course (!) we sample a raspberry and cranberry shrikhand with dumroot halwa @ £6.75 with two spoons (lovely, deep fruity flavours). Oh, and then there’s a complimentary sweet pastry to squeeze in (really nice).
Raspberry and cranberry shrikhand
And, as if that’s not enough, there’s just one more amuse bouche taster-stylie-dessert:
A final, complimentary taster sweet-pastry course
This meal for two would have been £184.00 including service so roughly £90.00 per person for a shed load of absolutely gorgeous, tasty (and taster) dishes and drinks.
The verdict: Great, classy Indian food with a difference. Good choice of drinks (without being overly extensive) and wine pairing recommendations. Really good service. Our table (table #16) was on the edge of the bar thoroughfare and server-station/till area where serving staff inevitably wait and can be quite busy, so – if booking a table, I’d recommend requesting a table in the rear area (where there are some booths and less people-traffic).
The memory of that lamb shank and red snapper will stay with me. I left feeling very full but wanting to return and try more of the menu. I’ll definitely be back…
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 17 Charing Cross Road, London
~ Postcode: WC2H 0EP
~ Nearest station: Leicester Square
~ Website + menus: Lotus website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Lotus food
~ Location: Lotus map
Filed under: Indian, LardButty food / restaurant reviews | Tagged: 17 Charing Cross Road, 4 / 5, 4/5, Charing Cross Road, fine dining, Indian, Indian cuisine, Indian fine dining, Lardbutty, LardButty London, Leicester Square, London, Lotus, Lotus restaurant, WC2H 0EP, West End, Westminster, Westminster borough, Zomato | Leave a comment »