Baluchi at The Lalit, London – a Review
Nestled amongst modern glass structures sits the beautiful Grade II listed red brick building housing The Lalit, London. Acquired as part of an ambitious project by the Lalit Group, it is their first Hotel outside the Indian subcontinent.
I was invited to lunch at the Baluchi restaurant at The Lalit, London and so a few days ago, on a fabulously sunny Monday afternoon, my friend N and I, were welcomed by a warm Namaste at the grand front entrance. From thereon, every staff member who walked past greeted us with an equally warm traditional Indian greeting – Namaste – best way to make me feel instantly at home.
This stunning building, former home to the renowned grammar school St Olaves, has been painstakingly restored to retain most of its period features. This period building housing The Lalit, London, is a tribute to the late Mr. Lalit Suri, whose love for London city had always drawn him here and he had envisioned setting up a hotel in the city.
The central theme of marrying Indian Opulence to the grand features of a former school extends to the names of the hotel rooms,aptly called classrooms, the meeting rooms are ‘Laboratories’ and the bars have been named the ‘Teachers Room’ and the ‘Headmasters Room’. Many a former student, have been known to enjoy a drink or two in The Headmasters Room Bar, no doubt reminiscing about their school days.
Baluchi, the pan Indian restaurant, occupies the grand former assembly Great Hall. The spacious seating and larger than life blue chandeliers add a modern twist to old world charm. The delicate jaali woodwork around the beautiful bread bar called ‘The Naan’ery’ compliments the original parquet flooring. The gallery offers a bird’s eye view of the ‘Great Hall’ and enjoying a themed afternoon tea at the gallery, is probably the best way to relax and admire the beautiful view and marvel at the stunning interiors.
The vivid blue ceiling and the exquisite chandeliers are reminiscent of the grandeur of Indian palaces, while the timber-panelled walls ooze Victorian charm.
After welcoming us, Chef de Cuisine atBaluchi, Chef Jomon took us on a tour of the grounds. Chef Jomon Kuriakose has over a decade of experience in the kitchen and before coming to Baluchi, has worked at the Cinnamon Kitchen under the guidance of Vivek Singh.
A beautiful and very artistic, milky white stone statue of Lord Ganesha, looking onto a great view of the Shard, seems to be keeping watch over the red brick hotel building, silently, from its place in the outside terrace. The elephant-headed god also makes his presence felt in the hotel room decor, in the form of rustic stone structures.
While the Chef excused himself to the kitchen we continued on a grand tour of the building. The Lalit houses 70 luxurious bedroom some even with 30 foot high ceilings making this a very unique boutique hotel. The Lalit legacy suite connects three rooms and offers all modern day amenities including a grand tub and a heated seat Japanese toilet – ah the luxury! The timber panelled walls, embroidered Indian tapestry and framed photos of former school building vye for attention against stunning views of the Shard and the Thames.
This room definitely has my heart but I cannot explain the feeling of being inside the Prestige Classroom, this room was flooded with light, thanks to its high ceiling and the skylights letting in the warm sunlight. I can only imagine waking up in one of these suites and enjoying my morning cuppa while looking onto the Thames and seeing the city come alive with its daily buzz of activity.
Next stop was to admire the state-of-art spa called ‘Rejuve’ offering traditional Indian therapies. I would love to be pampered with a warm Indian hot oil head massage and indulge myself with one of the relaxing therapies sighhhhh….
After this grand tour, my friend N and I got to pick a table to be seated at and enjoyed some very refreshing cocktails. A cucumber flavoured vodka cocktail helped cool me down several degrees on that very warm summer afternoon. A perfect accompaniment to our cocktails were the crunchy papads served with a selection of chutneys.
First to arrive at our table was a beautifully presented platter of starters. Even the menu follows the central theme, with the starts titled ‘Term1’ – reminding us that we were seated in the majestic Great Hall, a former school assembly hall.
The plating was so artistic, almost too beautiful to eat! Top L-R in the photo above: A Gluten-Free monkfish tikka called Panch Phoran Mahi Tikka which was so delicate it simply melted in my mouth – pure joy! It was flavoured with Kasundi mustard and herbs and placed on a bed of tomato emulsion. Scattered around were some bits of a beetroot brittle – so moreish! Dotted along the side was a seabuckthorn gel – and because it sounded so exotic I just had to try it! I found that it had a very sharp, tart taste if consumed on its own and as a chutney used to mop the courgette fritter – yes that seemed to work unexpectedly!
In the centre of the plate was a stuffed courgette flower, coated in a light batter. The crisp fritter or Bharwan Zucchini was delicious and I would have loved a small platter of just these fritters with a tangy tamarind chutney – ummmm. The Kaafir lime chicken tikka was juicy, flavourful and tandoor-cooked to perfection and was topped with a lovely cashew crumble.
For our mains or ‘Mid Term’ we were served some of my favourites which also happen to be some of their most popular dishes, Tandoori Prawns, Butter chicken, Palak Paneer, Dal Baluchi and a mixed bread basket to mop it all up with. I love seafood and the prawns were brilliant, the spices were just right and they were not cooked to retain the plump and juicy texture – mouthwatering!
Black daal is cooked overnight giving it a thick, creamy and rich texture, making the Dal Baluchi a very comforting dish. Amongst the other breads, there was a very unusual mango flavoured bread stuffed with coconut – a fusion take on the regular Peshawari naan. It was delicious but probably not my favourite one amongst the selection, a very personal choice though because I much prefer a regular naan or chilli garlic naan to the Peshawari – a matter of personal choice, I guess. The palak paneer was very good, I love paneer and never pass up an opportunity to try a paneer dish. I am glad I opted for panner, I was not in the least bit disappointed and if I had to pick just one main with my naan it would probably be this humble spinach dish. The best part was the paneer was so soft and had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency – such a pleasure for my taste buds and the hint of kasoori methi and ginger flavour in the spinach base was very pleasing too. The butter chicken was delightful, the chicken had soaked up the marinade and spices and the buttery creamy sauce it was cooked in was very tasty.
And just when I thought that the start platter plating was so amazing that no other dish served that day could keep up, Chef Jomon decided to dial up the visual delight, a notch or two with two stunningly well-presented plates of dessert aptly titled ‘Term Break’. A very exotic sounding Paan Kulfi sat on a bed of sevai, the paan infused kulfi flavour was spot on and a great tribute to both the traditional kulfi and the meetha paan that many people love to chew after a meal. The texture was perfect, creamy and the lovely berry compotes dotting the plate were delicious too – we scooped them up with the fresh strawberries on the plate. Paan lovers – add this dessert to your list of not to be missed dishes!
The cardamom ice cream was my favourite though and the saffron infused pineapple it sat on was beautifully juicy, sweet and the flavour pairing worked so well together. My very tropical and Indian palate was very satiated with this dessert.
All these amazing dishes are a testament to Chef Jomon’s passion for creative flavours and innovative dining.
We spent a happy few hours exploring the opulent suites, devouring fabulous Indian food and experiencing the very warm hospitality of the team at The Lalit in London. Chef Jomon spoilt us with some really great food and the bright sunshine just made it a perfect afternoon out in London.
*With thanks to The Lalit, London for an invite to a truly memorable afternoon at the Baluchi. All opinions expressed are as always my own.