What? Lokhandwala is the newest in the wave of Indian openings in London, modelled after colonial British architecture, and serving Indian tapas.
New? Fairly – it opened on 23rd January.
Where? 93 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 4PY, www.lokhandwala.co.uk
On the Menu: Traditional Indian staples are given a contemporary twist in tapas form, from ceviche, gujju vaat chaat and Locknowi sliders made with oven baked Shammi kebabs, to the Vepudu taco made with potato skins and Andhra spices. With seven mains to choose from, Lokhandwala try and narrow it down for you, but instead make it harder to choose, with dishes from various regions. Featuring the Indian cottage cheese and tomato cashew cottage pie inspired by Punjab, Persian steamed fish, a version of Mumbai’s popular street food the Mish Mash Bun and chicken Chettinad as found in Tamil Nadu. Sides are too good to pass up, the standout being Blue Stilton Naans with truffle oil. Traditional Indian desserts are used as foundations, paired to make surprising combinations, from the chilli and chocolate naan with grilled marshmallows, baked ‘kheer’ brulee, and goji berries with toffee sauce Rabdi and Falooda.
First Impressions: We went early evening on a weeknight, and though it was partly full, by the time we had ordered our drinks all the tables were taken. I’d recommend getting there earlier, so you can pick one of the less crowded tables.
The Look: Beautiful bespoke furnishings reminiscent of a colonial past, in hues of grey, off-white and browns. Wooden chandeliers adorn the ceilings, although they are lit by filament blubs which I found odd next to spotlights, but made for romantic hazy light to dine by. We ate in the main dining room, but Lokhandwala also boasts a beautiful cocktail bar, ‘The Hot Room’, and a private terraced dining room, ‘Vijay’s Lounge’.
What We Ate: We started out the Indian tapas experience with Bakes, Poppadum and Relish, an assortment of crispy purple potatoes, sweet potato, fried sago, lentils and poppadum’s accompanied by a range of dips, including an avocado garam masala that bought a nice spice. Enjoyable with drinks, they are a nice change from a bread basket or bowl of olives to start. We went for the meatier tapas, with celery prawns, a modern take on chicken tikka and lamb chops. The chicken tikka was succulent and packed with flavour, but the ‘modern take’ as far as I could gather was the addition of a quesadilla; one folded roti filled with cheese. Although tasty, tapas is for sharing, and so I would have expected a little more. The celery prawns were marinated in yogurt, mint and coriander, and then lava grilled, giving them a satisfying texture. The flavours were well balanced and light, the prawns large and generously meaty. As lovers of lamb chops, we were obligated to order them, and we were definitely not disappointed. Tender, the lamb practically fell off the bone, with the slow marinated spices paired perfectly with distinctive taste from its cooking in the tandoor oven. A premium cut, the fat was considerately trimmed, the meat perfectly cooked, and the whole dish gorgeously fragrant.
Pav Bhaji, a popular Indian leftover dish, is imagined slightly differently in the Mish Mash Bun. It was exactly how it sounds; a veritable mush of seasonal veggies in homemade bap bowls. Aesthetically, not the most pleasing, but honestly, the taste was excellent. However, fair warning; if you can’t handle spice, this isn’t the one for you! I chose the Yorkshire pudding Lokhandwala style, as it had drawn my eye on the menu, and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. In no way stodgy, the Yorkshires were perfectly crisp and light, a contrast to the delicately spiced minced lamb. Together, they complimented each other well and, in conjunction with the creamy potato mash, was a dish I would definitely order again.
We were extremely excited about the choices of dessert, and settled on the salted chilli, chocolate and nut stuffed crispy naan with grilled marshmallows, and the ‘Gajar Halwa’ tart with cardamom scented crème Anglaise. Although presented well, the naan left us slightly underwhelmed, the waitress had warned us of the after-kick of chilli, but neither of us could taste it. The naan was slightly soft, and so the whole affect resembled a slightly heavier, sweet crepe, rather than the crisp we were hoping for. The Gajar Halwa Tart on the other hand, was sublime. This popular Indian dessert made with carrot, is given a twist with the addition of a baked shell. The thick pastry contrasted against the soft consistency of the Halwa and worked well against its sweetness, and in conjunction with the cardamom crème Anglaise was perfect dessert heaven. Presented in three bite sized portions, you and your guest will definitely argue over who gets the last one.
What We Drank: Drinks range from vedic vegan shots and smoothies including a turmeric almond milk latte to a selection of gin, tequila and vermouth. Whisky conquers the spirits section however, with a whole host of American, Scotch, Irish and even Japanese whiskies offered.
Being mid-week, and after endless deliberation, we decided to opt for a few cocktails created in-house by resident mixologist Bartosz Jakowiec. Being March, and close to the festival of Holi, I had to choose the eponymous drink, made with Don Julio Tequila, Cacao Vida Mezcal, Mozart white chocolate, fresh lime, cinnamon syrup and topped with the bright colours of the festival. Smooth and creamy, with the fresh lime lifting the heavy sweetness, I would have preferred to drink this at the bar rather than with my meal. However, the Herbalist’s ingredients of Tanqueray Gin, coriander, cucumber and rose lemonade was refreshing and proved a good accompaniment to our selection of tapas. Our second round was resultant of a recommendation by the waitress; Star of India, featuring Star of Bombay infused, mango and orange turmeric marmalade, as well as Lokhandwala’s crowning jewel, Like a Bird, served in a glass shaped like a bird (it even has a tiny beak), complete with a cushion to balance it on, and bought to the table in a cage. More of a novelty than actually the best-tasting cocktail on the menu, it is nevertheless a sight to behold, and well worth an order for the sheer ostentatiousness.
Go With: Someone you haven’t seen in a while. Lokhandwala’s tapas portions are generous for two and will having you chatting away for hours. Bonus: take a date, the beautiful interiors and sharing plates will guarantee a second, third and fourth date.
Final Word: Varied clientele, from dates, after-work dinners, occasion parties and even one woman with her small child, meant the atmosphere was high class, but was also warm and welcoming, perfect for long meals, preferably surrounded by all the tapas on the menu.