Lotus (Indian Fine Dining) – Leicester Square
THIS RESTAURANT HAS SINCE CLOSED DOWN!
With not one, but two placards proudly informing us and passersby of Lotus’ achievement in winning the Lux 2016 Hospitality Award for “Best Indian Restaurant in London”, you can imagine our high pre-review expectations.
Located on Charing Cross Road, this fine dining eatery has Bhaskar Banerjee at the helm as manager, a chef with over 20 years’ experience at some leading Indian restaurant brands and international hotel chains, as well as Head Chef, Mohammed Naseem Qureshi, who “hails from a family of third generation of [sic] Master Chefs in India” and who boasts “25 years of exceptional culinary expertise” .
You’ll, therefore, understand if we tell you that we were anticipating nothing, but the best.
And first impressions certainly did count. With a chic, ultra-smart, brown and greige interior comprising of wall mirrors and cushioned tiles with classical Indian-oriented patterns, this restaurant certainly has a sense of class about it.
Despite the tables spaciously placed, Lotus is, with a seating capacity of around 60, relatively small. As such, the alcohol bar situated nearer the far end may appear to some as being a little too close for comfort. Contrariwise, however, the cosy seating arrangement located at the back does offer some degree of extra privacy.
Finally, there’s also the nice touch of the lotus flower – the national flower of India which signifies purity, spiritual awakening and grace – as a decoration piece located on every table.
What if we told you that the Coconut Water, Fennel and Pineapple lassi is THE BEST LASSI we’ve ever had the pleasure of, it was that good. This milky concoction was vis-a-vis sweetness so perfectly balanced and so soothingly creamy, with the fennel’s familiar taste of aniseed running through the background, that we wished it wouldn’t come to an end. You’ll be sorry to pass this over!
The Mango and Pistachio, the thickest of three, was a peculiarly surprising one given its trio of layers. What we had here was a layer of mango sandwiched between two layers of passionfruit. With mango being the dominant flavour, this was extremely refreshing and good.
As for the tersely titled Orange Juice, Honey, Basil and Vanilla Ice, then it was incredibly unique with the sweet vanilla and tangy-orange combo being well tempered by the subtle strength of the honey and hint of basil. Seriously deserves a try, if only the once. Superb!
A soberingly disappointing Soda Chai.
A tad too subtle, with little, if any, of the honey coming through.
The watermelon’s gentle sweet taste is the only thing that we picked up in the Colaba Talkies.
While the Masala in the Adyar was certainly missing, its creamy texture coupled with its deeply sweet, almost citrusy hit, made this a comforting beverage.
As for the classic Mojito, then we all appreciated its presentation with a large sprig of mint dusted in sugar. Taste-wise, this fizzy concoction was eye-squintingly sour – appreciated by one Lion, but not the other.
SHUBHARAMBH & TASTE TINKERS
Be prepared for one hell of a masala kick with the first sip of this extremely strong Rasam taster.
Despite things mellowing out somewhat following some more tentative sips, the spicy strength of this tomato broth was such that it continued to linger at the back of the throat.
Having said though, it’s certain to prepare you for any spicy dishes that follow.
A superb assortment of in-house papadums and sauces with the former having their own unique and respective textures.
The rice papadums, for instance, were delicately crispy with a melt-in-the-mouth quality to them, while the Finger Millets far crunchier.
As for the sauces, then the garlic came through nicely in the masala-tasting Red Chilli & Green Tomato sauce. The Mango and Apricot was extremely potent and, thus, overpowered everything within the vicinity. In contrast, the Mint was so subtle that it didn’t matter how much you added to your respective papadums.
A simple, yet effective little teaser to the main events, with the sweetness followed shortly after by the freshness of the peas.
The textural contrasts had in this dish make this an enjoyable one.
The idea behind a golgappa, if you don’t know, is to pour the chutney inside those crispy, hollow balls before downing them in one.
What you end up with is a mouthful of a strong, minty, chilli, masala morsal that positively tantalises your taste buds leaving you wanting to down a second one almost immediately thereafter.
WARNING: Extremely addictive concept!
The textural nuances at play in this impressive plate of Spiced Venison, Liver and Lamb Brain was quite something.
While the spices were delicately balanced, gently lingering as they did, the real pleasure was experiencing how the soft, almost glutinous, nature of the lamb brain married with the firmer slithers of the earthy liver meat and the gamey, richness of the venison.
Had with the crispy, flaky parotta bread, with its touch of butteriness, really made this a memorable dish to eat.
Conceptually, an intriguing dish this.
We loved the contrast between the extremely crunchy exterior of the so-called chop, and its smooth and creamy thick interior which, despite its spicy-chilli base, allowed the sweetness of the beetroot along with a hint of tang to come through.
This samosa-shaped wrap turned out to be soft on the outside, with the duck egg being overpowered by the dominancy of the salmon.
A squeeze of the lime, however, helped cut through its richness thereby providing a sour note that helped enhance the taste of the fish.
If only these duck kebabs weren’t so tiny (that’s fine dining for you), because they really were a pleasure to eat when had with the pickled onions and the chilli dip.
Despite these tandoor-cooked kebabs being fairly dense, they were, nevertheless, beautifully soft and fragrant with a garlicy hint to them. Of course, duck and orange are a match made in heaven; thus, while the chilli orange sauce worked its magic, what we really appreciated was how something as simple as a pickled onion can add that extra level of flavour while countering the sweetness of the orange.
These smartly presented partridge legs, resting above a mince patty and oyster mushroom Shikampur shami kebab, was another devastatingly tasty little dish.
Unless you have super tastebuds, you’ll be hard-pressed to guess there’s oyster there. You will, however, certainly pick up on the taste of anassed in the kheema followed by a blast of heat that’s neutralised by the sharp, pickly tanginess of the partridge’s marination.
The bird itself is beautifully cooked with a delicious masala-char and an intense smoky tandoor flavour.
While these were perfectly cooked – tender and succulent – we felt that the accompanying chutney, though well balanced, was too powerful for something as delicate and lightly spiced as these Soft Shell Crabs.
In any case, an interesting dish, though one we’d personally pass by, especially at £20.75, for something else.
And one which essentially revolved around that luxuriously rich and buttery golden-coloured sauce.
The khorma was fantastically meaty, with a lightly spiced and creamy sweet coconut base.
As for the lamb, then it was, as one would expect of lamb slow cooked for six hours, soft and tender with all the fatty goodness of a succulent shank that practically fell off the bone.
Cooked within a dehusked coconut, not only did the soft prawns have that slight springiness we always look for, but the watery coconut sauce’s chilli makeup was such that it succeeded in delivering layers of heat which, while lingering, remained comfortingly consistent without being too intense.
The accompanying rice was fragrant and well cooked.
With the lobster tail being effectively reused to hang attractively over the side of the plate, the dish was certainly an eye-catching one.
But, it was the textural interplay between the slightly firmer and springier lobster chunks sitting alongside softer scallops that made this an addictive eat.
As for its divine coconut sauce, then it had a beautifully subtle curry flavour – lightly spiced, rich and buttery – which succeeded in bringing the entire dish together as a coherent whole.
Very impressive and one that’s certainly worth a punt.
A lightly spiced cauliflower dish which was a little too plain in our humble estimation.
Not a bad Palak Paneer this.
Overall, it’s a gooey, gloopy mixture of spinach and buttery soft cheese, with the latter successfully cutting through the natural sweetness and earthiness of the creamy spinach.
It’s a delicately spiced dish offset by the light taste of the mint. Not bad at all!
Poriyal is the Tamil word for a fried, or sometimes sauteed, vegetable dish.
In this case, the crunchy beans, along with the sweet hint of the peas, was rather underwhelming.
Despite its creamy velvety consistency, this lentil dish was rather mild in taste and so, consequently, lacked any real oomph.
A good assortment of well cooked naans – some more crispier than others – that’s well worth ordering with any of the curries.
A very clever and well executed dessert this Raj Bhog, Clementine and Basil Doi.
Starting with the Raj Bhog, then this extraordinary orange-coloured ball, while being similar in texture to that of the more familiar Rasgulla, though perhaps slightly more spongier, was positively saturated with a light and extremely refreshing citrus liquid-infusion.
On the other hand, the far stronger Clementine and Basil Doi was akin to the texture of a well made, though slightly less dense, version of an Indian barfi.
Hence, while the taste buds were tantalised by the sharp, tanginess of the Doi, the sweet watery Bhog was sufficient in cleansing the palate enough for the next round.
Very original and an extrememly refreshing dessert particularly after a spice-high.
Quite honestly, it was difficult to separate between this Sandalwood, Rose Srikhand with Dumroot Halwa, and the above.
Despite one Lion not being a great lover of rosewater desserts, the smooth creamy consistency of this sweet dish won him over completely.
And though the rosewater was quite potent, it certainly wasn’t in a sickly manner.
The Dumroot Halwa was firmly textured with a nutty cum cocoa taste to it.
And the evening was concluded with complimentary Chocolate Balls filled with a fruit-flavoured filling that varies from day to day.
- YES/ NO
There were a number of dishes here that were, quite frankly, unbelievable!
Not only did Lotus, thus, match and exceed our expectations, but also indicated to us why a prominent global lifestyle publication like Lux would recognise and award them London's best Indian restaurant 2016.
With dishes evidently originating from and inspired by a number of regions across India, we were surprised by how authentic these dishes were, until we learned later that Lotus had diligently employed specialist regional chefs to achieve this level of authenticity.
We also have it on good authority that Lotus has tentative plans of opening a second branch by the end of this year, so stay tuned for that.
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