My blog contributor, Adrienne Fung, headed to Fitzrovia a few weeks ago to try Lokhandwala, a tapas style Indian restaurant and cocktail bar that opened earlier this year on Charlotte Street. Read more to find out what she thought about it.
The team behind Lokhandwala is best known for putting on The Grub Fest, the biggest food festival in India. With this impressive background and my penchant for Indian cuisine, I was really looking forward to this visit.
Being such a big fan of Indian food is a bit of a catch 22. Growing up in LA, a city that I’d argue has one of the most diverse ranges of gastronomy offerings in the world; I began exploring exotic cuisines with my parents at a very young age. As you might have guessed, my parents adore Indian food so there was no shortage of it in my diet.
Fast-forward 20 years when I was living in NYC with my best friend from college whose family is originally from New Delhi. Her family had taken me in as one of their own, welcoming me into their home on many weekends and holidays and generously feeding me comforting, home-cooked Indian meals. If you’ve never had a biryani stuffed tandoori turkey for Thanksgiving, I highly recommend you go pay the Paintal’s a visit in Long Island. Now you can imagine the sort of bar that’s been set for me when it comes to Indian fare.
I never turn down an opportunity to check out a new Indian restaurant, especially here in London, which is undoubtedly famous for Indian cuisine. While there is definitely no shortage of Indian restaurants here, good ones are few and far between. Many are trying to add their own special twist in order to stand out from the crowd and Lokhandwala is certainly no exception.
The first thing that struck me immediately was Lokhandwala’s impressive Victorian themed restaurant space. There is nothing about this space that says “Indian Restaurant” which is equally confusing as it is intriguing. The inspiration behind the space is based on an old tale of Lady Charlotte of Victorian British aristocracy that eloped with a street boss from Mumbai. Diners are able to have a read of this enchanting story inside Lokhandwala’s menu and immediately, the mysteriously captivating tone of the restaurant is set.
As I perused the menu, I noticed many Indian classics however all with a unique, Western twist. We were tempted to go for their 3 course weekday set lunch menu which also includes a glass of house wine (£18 pp). In the end, we opted for a la carte so that we could try a few more small plates that were piquing our interest.
Each dish was beautifully plated, filled with vibrant colours and artistic accents. We started out with the Tikki, kebabs made of almond, beetroot, goats cheese, potatoes and cauliflower chaat. These savoury vegetarian kebabs were lovely: gently fried to perfection and full of well-balanced spice and flavour.
A few other highlights from our meal include the marinated lamb skewers and the chicken chettinad. The lamb was wonderfully spiced with a red chilli paste, served alongside a cool and minty green chutney. The flavour was lovely, however the lamb meat could have been slightly more tender.
The winning dish of the day had to be the chicken chettinad, cooked with 18 different ingredients and served with rice poha. The chicken was incredibly tender and fragrant. The dish was a bit spicy from peppercorns and dried red chilli, a bit sweet from cinnamon and coconut, and extremely aromatic from everything else including curry leaf, garlic, and ginger. It was a flavour explosion and a must order at Lokhandwala.
Likewise, there were also a few misses for us that day. The steamed idli and pan seared scallops were both a bit bland and could have used an extra dash of seasoning. We also tried the chaat, which is typically one of my favourite dishes. Lokhandwala’s version is served deconstructed and ended up being quite dry.
We also tried the Blue Stilton naan with truffle oil. The blue cheese was quite powerful, masking any truffle flavour. This was one of those instances where I’d have been much happier with a classic plain or garlic naan although it’s worth a try for anyone looking for something a bit unusual.
All in all, our visit to Lokhandwala was very nice. While the lunchtime crowd is quiet, evenings here tend to be livelier. If you work in the area and want a quiet spot for a nice business lunch or an impromptu lunch catching up with a friend, Lokhandwala is a great spot and especially with their fantastic weekday lunch deal.
While there were hits and misses all across the menu, there are still a few more dishes I’m hoping to try on my next visit including their take on a British classic: fish and chips. Perhaps the best-kept secret of Lokhandwala is its beautiful cocktail bar in the back of the restaurant as well as their speakeasy bar that’s by reservation only.
The next time you’re in need of a drink around Fitzrovia, but looking for an alternative to the after work pub scene, head down to Lokhandwala and grab a Viceroy (Hennessy infused saffron, Apricot sweet & bitter, Anise syrup, Fresh lemon, Egg white, Cherry & vanilla bitters).
Disclaimer: Adrienne was a guest of the restaurant. All opinions are her own.