Mr S and I were invited to celebrate the first anniversary of The LaLit London near Tower Bridge. It’s the luxury hotel’s first foray outside India and housed in a Grade II listed building, once home to St Olave’s Grammar school. The sympathetic and wonderful restoration of the 180 year old property charms and delights.
From the moment you arrive you’re showered immediately with Indian hospitality by the doorman dressed in a kurta and glorious turban, greeting you with a traditional namaskar.
We were here to enjoy the delights of the Pan Indian restaurant Baluchi, which makes wonderful use of the former assembly hall of the school. The fine dining menu a far cry from the school dinners once served under this roof.
It’s probably one of the most visually striking and mesmerising dining halls I’ve ever seen. The magnificent blue chandeliers are a sight to behold, casting a subdued light over the vast room resplendent with wood panelled walls and intricate fittings.
Our evening began with a glass of Pommery champagne and being serenaded by a tabla and sitar player. All diners on the evening were offered a complimentary half bottle of champagne to celebrate the hotel’s anniversary and India’s Republic Day. Well it would have been churlish to refuse!
We went à la carte but the restaurant serves a tasting menu and (the plant power posse will be happy to hear) a splendid vegetarian one too.
Our culinary journey began with poppadoms of course. I was overjoyed to see they were the traditional spicy papads found in most Indian households. Not the bog standard flavourless rice ones synonymous with your local curry house. Bonus points right there! They were accompanied with a tangy tomato chutney and a lip smackingly good berry number with the perfect chilli kick. It was so good in fact the waiter brought me an extra pot for my starter when it arrived.
My starter, the Subz ki Thal (£14.50) was suitable for sharing but I had no problem devouring it all by myself. The dish consisted of tandoori roasted romanesco, paneer, corn tikki and sabudana papad. I enjoyed most of the mini samples on the plate but wasn’t too keen on the paneer. Unusual for me as I love the Indian cheese. It was more the spices used in the coating which gave it a slightly bitter taste and just not to my liking.
Mr S ordered the Panch Pohran Mahi Tikka (£17), a dish made up of monkfish pieces and kasundi mustard and tomato emulsion and served with a green pea purée. The succulent pieces were flavoursome and certainly didn’t last long on what was also described suitable for sharing.
In classic Indian style dining Mr S and I decided to share our mains and accompaniments. The sound of Indian pasta was too irresistible and I added the Paneer Cannelloni into the mix.
Some might say brave considering I wasn’t enamoured with the paneer in my starter, but I’m always one for giving things a second chance. Filled with soya keema and girolles, it came topped with cashew crumble and fenugreek sauce. Being a spice fiend I would have preferred more of a chilli kick to this dish. Although the sauces really made this dish, in particular the moorish garlicky yoghurt. I couldn’t stop slathering it onto my plate.
We were recommended the signature Dal Baluchi (£11), a bowl of black lentils prepared overnight to a rich and creamy consistency. It didn’t disappoint and kept Mr S happy, he’s never one to refuse the allure of a steaming bowl of dal.
The fluffy fragrant Subzi Biryani (£15) with vegetables came with a floral twist with rose petals. They also do a chicken and lamb version. Baluchi has its own Naanery – look away now gluten dodgers! The selection of breads on offer are mouth-watering from flaky parathas to carrot and coriander roti, along with kulchas filled with fig and paneer or venison.
We ordered the potato, ceps and truffle (£4.50) version, soft and light all three ingredients permeated through each bite. They’ve certainly upped the bread ante with this one.
Rather full, Mr S and I still went on to order dessert, mainly intrigued by the descriptions. The first, Paan ki Kulfi (£8) was a joy.
The Indian ice cream is flavoured with betel leaves, nuts and muzaffar, creamy in texture the flavours totally transported me back to my childhood.
The Desi Cheesecake (£8) though was the real winner, with hidden soft juicy gulab jamuns in the mixture, boondi laddoo, forest fruits compote and rasmalai gel. Here is one dessert amalgamating the delights of three classic Indian sweets – genius! Surprisingly it was not too sweet and the flavours came together well without being too overpowering.
Baluchi’s menu takes inspiration from the major food regions of India with a light contemporary twist. It’s an interesting menu delivered with a warm and attentive service. If you’re looking to impress and fancy a fine dining curry experience in opulent surroundings I think I’ve found just the place for you!
Do you have a favourite Indian restaurant in London? Let me know in the comments box below.
Baluchi | 181, Tooley Street | London | SE1 2JR
Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary, however, all views, opinions and photos are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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