Cutting an unassuming exterior and tucked away from the bustle of Marble Arch stands veteran Indian restaurant La Porte Des Indes. Innocently painted a plain white and looking very inconspicuous, all former expectations of this being a cramped curry house were dropped as we walked into a huge Alladin's cave…complete with waterfall.
Having our coats taken at the door by polite staff, we were led to a table overlooking the water feature as we gazed open mouthed at the sheer size of the building. Once an Edwardian ballroom, La Porte des Indes is spread across two floors, with various themed rooms and bars separating the floor plan. Drawing inspiration from French colonial and Indian influences, the interior is crammed full of antiques and should your attention stray even for a second there is plenty to look at. Our only criticism here (if it is criticism at all), would be the slightly dated feel of the printed table cloths and painted wooden chairs but with the traditional yet modern feel that runs through the whole place, this could arguably be part of the charm.
With a menu based around Indian cuisine with a French twist we were unsure as to what to expect, but what followed was light, aromatic and flavour filled. Choosing the set three course menu we started with a tasty amuse-bouche of tomato soup and a small lentil cake, which was delicately spiced and definitely grabbed our interest. Next came a platter laden with tasty mouthfuls of Indian starters including fillets of sole encased in mint and coriander banana leaves, chicken tikka marinated with cream cheese and chard pakoras flavoured with tumeric, coriander and caraway seeds. The highlight of this course was probably the scallops that came large and juicy, flavoured with a light saffron sauce.
The second course came with a guided tour from one of the restaurant’s kind and helpful staff and we tucked into a huge sharing platter of the restaurant’s best loved dishes. These included a Rouge Poulet marinated in yoghurt and red spices, prawns simmered in a mild coconut curry, spinach with cottage cheese and a smokey aubergine curry flavoured with chilli and lime that divided the group (one of us loved it, the other hated it). Finally there were the Barra Lamb Chops flavoured with garam masala and accompanied by caramelized onions that demonstrated the Indian French fusion perfectly. Dessert was a petite trio of yoghurt, chocolate mousse and an unusual rose flavored rice pudding which was perfectly sized so we didn’t roll out onto Oxford Street at the end of the night.
A true sensory experience of light airy ceilings, sophisticated flavours and incredibly polite service, La Porte des Indes stands strong in the fiercely competitive London curry scene.
The set menu is priced between £32-£47 (depending on wine and extra courses)