Indian restaurants tend to follow a theme. A bunch of dishes we are familiar with by name, made up with your choice of meat. Their traditional names differ per region with pilau becoming pulao depending on where you are; however it’s essentially the same thing, rice. There are the traditional, pile ‘em on the plate venues, versus the more contemporary stylistic serving of pretty pictures on a place. I love them both. Indian food continues to be a favourite of mine and I always order way too much. When I get to try a new Indian restaurant, I know it is more likely than not I will enjoy my experience. The influential factors of my overall opinion would be the surroundings, service and cost – but Indian cuisine tends to hit the mark most of the time.
Enter, Lotus, located just off Leicester Square. You would be forgiven for thinking that most restaurants in this area do not show their food love as they have a fresh onslaught of passing tourist trade and theatre goers who they will likey not see again. They don’t need to get it right as they are not building relationships or repetitive custom. Some places do make an effor and Lotus is one of them. People use the term ‘hidden gem’ a lot. For this I would say, it is potentially a ‘miss-placed gem’. From my excellent dining experience here, I could see this in Mayfair, Chelsea, Primrose Hill, essentially all the places where high net worth individuals with high standards of cuisine frequent. I have minimal experience with Michelin star restaurants, but if I was to decide what constitutes a place worthy of such an accolade, I would say Lotus.
Firstly, the service was great. A special mention needs to be made of their Sommelier, Debbie Henriques. One would not think it is needed, as beer is normally seen as the go-to partner for Indian food. Not here at Lotus. A well curated wine list compliments the food, per course. There are recommendations for each main dish and they work perfectly, even for the untrained palette. Moving on to the food, untraditionally, the menu taps into seasonality with interesting game taking the place of the more mundane to create an inspiring and exciting menu. Lotus is a pleasant surprise.
Our experimental journey began with an amuse bouche of spicy tomato soup, followed by corn chat golgappa with a jaljeera and tamarind chutney. For our starters we had a seafood extravaganza of prawns, cod cheeks, white bait, crab meat and calamari coated with semolina. This was served with a curry and coriander dip. For the first of our wine pairings, we had a glass of Force Majeur, Chenin Blanc. My guest had spiced venison, liver and lamb brains with a glass of Portal Del Monsant from Spain. Both were gorgeous. For our main course, it was suggested that we had a grilled kebab to share and then a main course each. Sticking to the theme of game, we opted for a Partridge kebab with radish pickle, kheema and oyster mushroom shikampur partnered with a Pinot Noir for each of us. The partridge was perfectly and delicately cooked.
As our main course continued, we were served a coconutty prawn narkel shorshe dish in an actual half coconut. We also returned to seasonality with a muntjac lal maas (deer). Both were served with their wine pairings which was suggested on the menu and should definitely be followed. A selection of sides contributed to our stomach busting experience with spinach and cheese, lentils and vegetables. All of food was delicious with the presentation fitting of a curtsy. Debbie (who is also the Manager), explained the wines in laymans turns. She also guided us through the menu, making suggestions, asking us what we liked and basically, choosing every dish that was perfect for us. The lovely Head Chef, Mohammed Naseem Qureshi, also popped out to say hello. Bravo for his fantastic cooking.
Lotus is a treat with star quality.
17 Charing Cross Road