Even though the British have embraced Indian cuisine over that of any other country, we are fairly conservative when it comes to what we sample from the range of Indian cooking. When visiting a curry house, we know exactly what we will be ordering and our sense of adventure only extends to a temporary switch from chicken to lamb. And it’s not like there are a number of places in London that offer something a little more sophisticated than chicken vindaloo washed down with Cobra beer. There are Benares, Tamarind and the Cinnamon Club, to name but three. Added to this number is Lotus, a venue discreetly tucked away on Charing Cross Road.
On the restaurant’s website, it states that its aim is to “create an epicurean traditional Indian gourmet which elevates the emotional and physical well-being of its patrons by its cuisine.” My innate cynicism was immediately raised at this bold gambit as it was tending a little towards self-help language that makes me shudder like nothing else. This was despite a sneaking admiration for the use of the word epicurean. But that is because I’m a snob like that.
However, from the moment the meal started, I was proven wrong over and over again. The effort that went into the dishes went beyond professional and showcased exactly how fine dining can truly elevate food. Our starters were corn chaat golgappa, which came with jaljeera and tamarind chutney, rabbit kheema with green pepper corns and missi roti, and pigeon masala dosa together with coconut chutney. My companion and I picked these out to share but they were all so delightfully put together that it quickly became clear that both of our intentions was to do anything but. Even the pigeon, which might have drawn some feelings of trepidation, was exquisite.
For main course, my companion went for lobster tails in a ginger, curry leaf and coconut curry, whilst I ventured for the venison rogan josh which came in a gravy of onion, tomato, spices and herbs. Both of these dishes were superb, and shared the same quality of having something that looked exceedingly simple slowly reveal its true complexity. The application of the rogan josh spices chimed perfectly with the succulence of the venison, and it dawned on me how apt the restaurant’s description had been of offering an emotional elevation through its dishes.
For dessert, I chose the orange rasgulla, which is dumplings cooked in syrup, coming with kulfi and pineapple chutney. My companion went for angoori rasmalai, which is similar to cottage cheese and served in syrup. Both were charming and a fantastic way to end a marvellous meal.
For the quality on offer at the restaurant, the prices are exceptionally reasonable and offer a new vista onto Indian food. Given its central location and the excellence of its dishes, there is really no excuse for making do with what you always have for an Indian.
17 Charing Cross