The Charing Cross Road near Leicester Square Underground Station has not been famed for quality Indian restaurants. I confess I had never heard of Lotus but I arrived with high expectations as I had done my homework.
This is a neat 65-cover contemporary restaurant in sophisticated grey tones. It’s in the heart of the West End’s Theatreland, with superb transport links, and it’s an area which is more famed for Chinese food than Indian fine dining. Lotus is a split-level dining space which allows for intimate corners. Tables are black with crisp linen runners and serviettes. Each table sports a lotus-shaped tealight. The restaurant is, in fact, named after this national flower of India, with all its associations of purity.
Bhaskar Banerjee, Chef and Manager of Lotus, has a noteworthy culinary pedigree. He comes from one of the most celebrated hospitality establishments, ITC Welcomgroup. They are famed in India for such restaurants as Bukhara, Dumpukth and Dakshin but they have produced award-winning chefs who now ply their trade around the entire world. Chef Banerjee has worked with international hotel chains such as the Intercontinental Hotels Group, Luxury Collection Hotels, Marriott, Sheraton, Le Meridien and The Taj Group of Hotels.
Lotus offers a melange of traditional and contemporary, with quality being the keynote here. We began with what could have been a banal assortment of poppadums with chutneys, but here they were a little different. Small rice, potato, and finger millet poppadums rather than the ubiquitous large round efforts made from gram flour. Finger millet is high in starch and is considered superior to wheat and a thoughtful addition. The condiments were vibrant and made in-house.
There is a good selection of wines by the glass and we enjoyed ours while waiting for starters. Masala Prawn, Duck Eggs and Green Lentil Wrap was my choice. In fact the wrap was more like a folded crepe that one might find in northern France. Mild and delicious flavours from a truly original dish. Potato Chaat with Chickpea, Sev and Yoghurt is traditional and a mix of sweet, spicy and tangy, crisp and creamy. But here it is served with a degree of refinement, on individual plates.
My guest, a man of discerning palate, ordered a kebab of Red Snapper flavoured with mustard essence and served with what one might assume to be a very un-Indian dill and yogurt sauce. This was a triumph of perfectly prepared and flavourful fish with its cooling and herby accompaniment. Don’t miss this one.
Muntjac Lal Maas was our main dish and this was very much more refined than other similar dishes I have tried, usually made with lamb. Yes, the meat obviously made a difference but it was the sauce that was the star. It was silky and aromatic with much better balance than others which have been overpoweringly hot. One could enjoy the flavour of the deer and the subtle yet evident spices.
There is another dish here that should be highly commended. It’s Baghare Baigan Bharta, a side dish of roasted aubergine, tomato, spices, peanuts and herbs. I would have this for a light lunch along with some bread, and would be content. This is comfort food in every way. Delicious!
I am impressed. Lotus stands to cultivate a great and long-lasting reputation. Its location helps but it’s the quality of food that will ensure a loyal following. The talented chef and his team have made a creditable start and I wish them luck.
17 Charing Cross Road
Reservations +44 (0) 20 7839 8797
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018