When I received an invite to luxury boutique hotel, The LaLiT London, a few weeks back for dinner, I couldn’t refuse. The LaLiT London is the first outpost of this luxury hotel chain outside of India and when Indian food gets fancy in a fine dining establishment, I’m always intrigued and nervous in equal measures. That’s not to say it can’t be good but often it’s no better than the more simple, authentic spots in North West London (the rather grubby but delicious Regency Club in Queensbury being one of my favourites). The LaLiT hotel is unique though, and has been on my radar for quite a while now. We considered their New Delhi hotel for our India trip last December and visited the LaLiT London for the Sipsmith Gin Garden Party earlier this summer. There’s just something majestic and old school that I love about it.
But first to start, together with six other food bloggers, I settled into “The Teachers Room”, the LaLiT’s more modern, casual bar, to try their Indian-inspired cocktails.
I absolutely fell for the “Kashmir valley of flowers” a smooth concoction of Earl Grey Tea infused with gin, egg white, lime and homemade lavender syrup. It was perfect; light, fragrant, juicy and dangerously drinkable. The frothy top reminded me of my favourite cocktail, the Pisco Sour and the bold flavour of sweet tea was well balanced with the lavender.
Between us, we tried the “Kesariya Martini” a concoction of saffron, honey, fresh coriander and gin. This was tasty and pretty with an intense aroma and just a tiny touch of bitterness.
Kiran went for the “CMD”, a cocktail infusing Earl Grey Tea, Vodka, Tulsi Basil, lime, passionfruit, pomegranate and basil tonic water which was refreshing and fruity with a subtle tea flavour.
The LaLiT hotel, which opened in January 2017, resides in a 180-year-old building, once the home to St Olave’s Grammar school. It’s charming restoration offers a unique blend of Victorian architecture, Indian hospitality and a luxury boutique feel, differentiating it from the many London luxury hotels. St Olave’s Assembly Hall has been replaced with a formal dining room, which is home to the Pan-Indian restaurant, Baluchi. But we weren’t here for school dinners. Far from it! The LaLiT prides itself on Indian fine dining in a truly majestic setting within the Great Hall.
After introductions, cocktails, and photos, we moved into Baluchi restaurant in the Great Hall. Between six bloggers, four courses and these delicious cocktails, it was inevitable that tonight would be a great one! It was time for us to put the food to the test.
Our entrance to Baluchi was timed with the unique sound of live Sitar and Tabla music, both celebratory and calming. There was a definite buzz in the air due to it being a special meal to celebrate seventy years of Indian independence. We took our seats under one of the many vibrant and one-of-a-kind blue chandeliers, hand-blown by master craftsmen in India – they were very opulent and unusual and I found myself staring at them often throughout the night! The low lighting was atmospheric (albeit difficult to photograph in). The decor generally is very much in keeping with the old school – efforts have been made to modernise but truly how good looking can a school assembly hall look? It’s distinctive to say the least!
Quickly, we were presented with our amuse bouche – steaming cups of Rassam, a spicy South Indian soup of tomato and spices, traditionally made with fresh tamarind. It reminded me of the Rassam my mum makes, and was truly authentic and warming! With heat, fragrance and warmth, I just loved this as an amuse bouche. I’ve not seen Rassam on a menu before in any fine dining Indian restaurant so it really was a pleasant surprise. It was one of the things I liked best about Baluchi – the chefs just aren’t afraid of showcasing regional specialities that you may not yet be familiar with, as well as the home-cooked classics that are adored for good reason! I loved it!
For starters, there was a choice of Gucchi Aur Mushroom ki Galauti (Morels and wild mushroom duxelle, plum and red cabbage chutney), Zafrani Malai Murg (Tandoori Corn-fed chicken, toasted with saffron, tarragon and cashews), or, the one I picked, which you need to try – the incredible Monkfish Tikka.
This Monkfish was absolutely exquisite – a modern fusion combination of tender monkfish, almost meaty in texture, on a pea puree with a smooth emulsion of kasundi mustard. This was, for me, the resounding star dish. I wanted to savour every bite – it was perfection! I could happily eat this all the time and only wish my local Indian restaurant served exceptional fish like this! Monkfish is one of my favourite types of fish but I had been nervous that it could be overpowered by lots of spices and the two sauces. The tangy kasundi mustard sauce married perfectly and there was a slight sweetness from the pea puree too – seriously good. Baluchi really nailed this starter and I truly thought the spices did it justice.
For mains, I was torn as I had tried and really enjoyed the Old Delhi style Butter Chicken on my previous visit, but there was also a choice of Dal Baluchi (Signature black lentil daal prepared overnight until it’s rich, creamy and sumptuous) or Amritsari Mullet fish served with spicy potatoes, carom seeds, and a kachumber salad of cucumber and capers. The fish sounded epic to me but I went for the Butter Chicken main, given that I had fish for starters. It didn’t disappoint! It was delicious and rich, and compared to other Indian fine dining restaurants in London it truly shone. With butter chicken, I find that fine dining Indian restaurants often make it well but not necessarily better than some of the cheaper, more authentic spots in North West London. The chicken was perfectly cooked, soft and delicate. It’s unashamedly creamy and delicious with butter and cream in the sauce. Fatophobes look away! And together with hot buttery fluffy naan from the LaLiT “Naanery” and steamed basmati rice, we mopped it up!
We ended our meal with a dessert of Gulab Jamun Cheesecake which was beautifully presented, served with homemade masala chai ice cream and redcurrants. Gulab Jamun are typically soft melt-in-the-mouth sweet dumplings, soaked in spiced syrup. I loved the idea of having it in a cheesecake but unfortunately the execution didn’t quite live up to the fantasy for me. The cheesecake was a bit too sweet for my liking. However, the masala chai ice cream was sensational. It was fragrant, spiced and super creamy! I’d love two scoops of that ANY day!
All in all, I love the direction the chefs at The LaLiT have taken, they haven’t just stuck to the classics and the attempt to take each dish to the next level is apparent. I really enjoyed my evening very much and would recommend it for anyone looking to spice up their next fine dining experience. The service was faultless throughout and the hotel itself is very beautiful.
I look forward to returning soon and recommend it highly if you’re after a fine dining Indian spot which is a little different from the norm! Make sure you try the Monkfish and let me know what you think!
Which hotel restaurants do you love? Have you been to The LaLiT London? What did you think?
The LaLiT London can be found at 181 Tooley Street, London, London SE1 2JR, for bookings and more information click here.
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We were guests of the LaLiT London.