There is a definite Narnia effect when you step inside this restaurant. From the street, La Porte des Indes looks as unassuming as the rest of the street, and you expect to walk into a typical Indian eatery of average size. Average it isn’t. As we follow the waiter along polished wooden floors to the restaurant itself, we’re greeted by a huge expanse of space, that transports you back to the tastes of colonial India. The ceilings reach supremely high, crowned by a dome-shaped glass roof. Palm trees and ferns add a lush swathe of foliage to this enormous space, which is packed out with wicker seating, plush cushions and decorative bursts of orange, purple and red linen. It’s not what you expect for a minute, and as we slip into our extraordinarily comfortable seats, we agree on how pleasant it is to be surprised.
We cast an eye over the lunchtime menu, which offers up four healthy ways to dine: Beauty on a Plate (£25.00), Lunch with a Difference (£8.50 for any course, dessert £5.50), Lunch on 600 calories (£18.00) and Express Lunch Thali (£11.90). My health-conscious dining partner opted for the 600 calorie menu, choosing the tandori grilled broccoli to start, followed by the salmon in mustard, fennel and aniseed. I opted meanwhile for Lunch with a Difference, and decided on yellow lentil cakes to start, with the slow-cooked belly of pork vindaloo to follow.
Before we tucked into any food, a few liquid refreshments promised to prepare us for the fire of our main meal. A mango lassi was among the best I’ve tasted, not overly sweet and laden with creamy yoghurt. My health-conscious partner in crime went for a non-alcoholic cocktail (saving on calories), in the shape of Jealousy – an emerald green glassful of cooling kiwi, lime, grape and white cranberry.
Before we’d long been sipping our drinks, our starters arrived. The lentil cakes (topped with tamarind sauce) were light, sweet and strangely moreish, whilst the grilled broccoli set taste buds on fire, with its lime and yoghurt marinade offering some kind of respite from the chilli burn it wielded. Portion sizes at La Porte des Indes are well thought out, and instead of balking at a huge main meal, we were greeted with quite manageable platefuls of our salmon and pork belly. The salmon was mild, and a welcome relief after the fire of the broccoli, and the pork belly vindaloo was wonderfully sour and savoury, cooked in garlic and malt vinegar and a great dish for those craving something a little unusual.
Our desserts of pomegranate sorbet and apple fritters, rounded things off with a sweet note. The fritters came covered with a smattering of silver leaf, which looked a little bit like forgotten tin foil, but apparently does wonders for your immune system. There was also a scoop of salty caramel ice cream, which worked brilliantly with the apple fritters. As we continued to admire our surroundings, our last few mouthfuls of pudding left us feeling satisfied but thankfully not bursting at the seams. My dining partner revelled in the knowledge that she had stuck to a 600 calorie lunch - it seems that sometimes, you can have your cake and eat it.
32, Bryanston St, London, W1H 7EG.
Tel: 020 7224 0055
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar