Sometimes things not working out the way you planned is a good thing. Haute Living hadn’t planned to eat in Lotus – named for the national flower in India – but we left happier for having done so.
Although it’s a newcomer to the London dining scene (having only opened six weeks ago), on our Tuesday evening visit the venue was already heaving with well heeled types – and for good reason. The decor – all gorgeous dark grey walls and mirrors – delights in an area that’s famed for its fast food joints.
Once seated by charming staff such as Debbie (who will cluck and fuss over you throughout), unfold a napkin half the size of Texas and prepare to peruse the menu, while nibbling on the complimentary amuse bouches – think mini cups of spicy broth, popadoms and corn chaat golgappa – that magically arrive on the table.
The brainchild of head chef and manager Bhaskar Banerjee – who has over two decades of culinary experience, working as Chef d’Hotel for exclusive venues such as Marriott, Sheraton, Le Meridian and The Taj Group – the menu (a collection of signature dishes which combine traditional cooking techniques with imported Indian spices and fresh locally-sourced meat, fish and game), reads brilliantly. So much so that you want to order it all….
A starter of Aubergine and courgette flowers with stuffed green chilli and coriander mint chutney sent shivers down the spine of the vegetarian in our dining party while the Masala prawn, duck egg and green lentil wraps and Rabbit kheema with green peppercorns and missi roti proved two alluring options for carnivores. We also shared an innovative skewer – minced jackfruit, raw banana and coconut – which can be enjoyed either as a starter or a main.
Speaking of the latter, the Palak pudhina paneer (Spinach, coriander, fennel and mint scented sauce) had us purring with pleasure. Other good tasting mains include the Baghare baigan bharta (Roasted aubergine, tomato, spices, peanut and herbs), comfortingly Dal Maa Dumpukth (Black lentils simmered overnight with garlic, tomato, clarified butter and cream) and Babycorn jalfrezi (Stir-fried with onion, bell pepper and tomato) – all of which work well when accompanied with proper parathas or naans. The standout dish though is the British lamb shanks in khorma sauce served with 23 karat edible gold leaf (traditionally served to royalty to give them vigour in battle) – a real ‘wow’ dish both in terms of presentation and ensuing taste explosion – if ever there was one.
For the wine list, head sommelier Debbie Henriques, who counts Hotel du Vin, Claridges Hotel and Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes in the Square among her 20 years of experience, has worked in conjunction with wine consultant Jimmy Smith AWE of The West London Wine School, to create a carefully matched set of fine wines, premium spirits and craft beers. There is also a unique cocktail menu (designed to not only be delicious but also have medicinal qualities) for cocktail aficionados.
Chances are you won’t have room for dessert (portions are big and complaints are rare) but try and save space for the moreish Mango shrikhand (Fruit salad, jaggery and coconut cream) – aka addiction on a plate. Alternatively end with a well made coffee served in elegant crockery.
Overall, Haute Living would definitely sing Lotus’ praises. The Indian fare here is far superior to its competitors in the capital, as is the service: staff have that spring in their step that is the hallmark of a well-run restaurant and service is friendly and efficient without being overbearing. Essentially this is a salubrious Charing Cross Road restaurant that really is too good to leave just to tourists and theatregoers.