La Porte des Indes – French Colonial Indian Food in London:
It’s always great to discover something a little different. Until now completely unaware of the presence of French colonies in India, I was fascinated by the idea that the regional food from areas like Pondichery, Chandaernargor and Yanoon would have a French touch and curious to find out what the result would be. And, although La Porte des Indes has been in London for eighteen years, I’d never visited until a recent invitation to review.
The restaurant itself has a charmingly colonial feel, with a lot of greenery, beautiful Indian artefacts and brightly coloured touches on the table linen. Very classy without feeling in any way oppressive.
There are charming semi-private areas with carved wooden arches and subtle lighting like the one below – a fabulous area for a family gathering or small party.
Browsing through the menu I was pleased that my lunch companion on this occasion was friend and fellow blogger Manjiri who comes from Mumbai. A little help with some of the dishes was likely to be necessary. She was clearly excited by the diverse and comprehensive menu and started picking out dishes that we needed to try. And you can read her review on her blog here.
Meanwhile, we ordered drinks. A Tamarind Martini for Manjiri, who thought it would be a challenging drink to get right. I was impressed – visually stunning with a slice of star fruit or carambola as a garnish, she told me that it was perfectly balanced and quite delicious. Trying my best to behave, I skipped the cocktails and ordered a glass of wine and some water.
Struggling to pick dishes, we both gave up on trying to choose and decided to take the restaurant up on their kind offer to select a whole range of dishes to showcase their menu.
A tiny amuse bouche of peppers on rice cake and what was described as a mango shot were both delicious. We’d exercised some caution with the rice-cake expecting a hit of chilli, but it was actually mild and delicately seasoned.
A whole assortment of starters arrived including these beautiful scallops in a delicate saffron cream. Rather charmingly these are ‘Demoiselles de Pondichery’ on the menu.
My particular favourites were the Parsee Fish – white fish with a green coriander paste, wrapped in banana skins and steamed. Apparently this is a very popular dish in India, Patrani Macchi, the beautifully spicy Roasted Chilli Seekh Kebab and the Chicken Malai. But, everything was delicious and I was cautious about eating too much of the Naan, however appealing it looked, because I knew we had more to come.
When our main courses arrived, my caution was confirmed. There was a veritable feast of tasting dishes, starting with a fusion dish of black cod wrapped in banana leaves. This is marinated in a range of seasonings, including fennel, chilli, honey and tamarind before being wrapped and flame grilled.
Mind you, everything put in front of us was quite delicious. I particularly liked the prawns, which came in a rich coconut and spiced sauce and even enjoyed the goat, Kari de Mouton, which is listed on the menu as being Madame David Annuswamey’s cherished family recipe.
And, I also loved the little tender lamb cutlets, though I was told a longer marinade might have improved the dish.
Meanwhile executive chef Mehernosh Mody came out to meet us. We learnt that he had spent months with his wife Sherin in Pondichery researching the French Creole recipes that make La Porte des Indes unique in London. His cooking is varied and inspired, mixing old recipes with new ingredients to create a menu that offers diners a whole range of opportunities from traditional to fusion dishes. And, what we tasted of his kitchen was excellent.
I needed to leave before dessert so after I’d taken a few photos it was packed up for me to take away. Not that I actually needed any more food by this stage!
Back home, later that evening I feasted on the Belgian chocolate mousse and the walnut and chocolate samosa. And regretted not having been able to take away the rose and pistachio kulfi…all I had was a lasting memory of the fragrance.
Restaurants that survive eighteen years in the competitive London dining scene tend to have something special. La Porte des Indes is unique and well worth a visit.
With many thanks for the invitation to review:
La Porte des Indes
32 Bryanston Street