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The term ‘Tardis’ springs to mind – alongside fantastical, exuberant & OTT – when describing this 300-cover Indian pleasure dome just off Oxford Street. Customers enter through a relatively
small ground-floor lobby, & a member of staff in flowing gear leads everyone past carved screens & water features to a double-height dining room crammed with greenery & artefacts. A
celebration of the culinary styles that grew out of French colonisation, the menu is big on specialities from Pondicherry, such as a spiced seafood cassoulet or Creole duck breast with a spiced
tamarind sauce. But there is also plenty to satisfy those who would rather stay in the more familiar world of tandoori grills, biryanis & chicken tikka masala. Staff are willing, &
fixed-prices lunches are an attractive proposition. ‘An absolute treat.’
So on matters Gallic and spice we arrive neatly at the kitschly splendid palace of La Porte des Indes, a restaurant of quite Titanic proportions in a tardis fashion, nestled in a Mayfair warren. Quite why I’d never heard of this sumptuous Southern Indian French Creole culinary Mecca (and, breathe) is a mystery, although from the outside you wouldn’t guess at what lies beyond the doors. It’s bold, overstated, colourful and tropical all at once; a sort of Keralan equivalent of a tiki bar if you like, although draws it’s influence from Pondicherry, a former French trading quarter. Think Quaglino’s meets Mahiki. I know, sounds wild and frankly it is...
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The comparatively understated exterior gives you no indication as to what lies within and you walk through a small entrance straight into a two-storey, domed, palm-strewn extravaganza. I wasn’t expecting to find this oversized conservatory behind Marble Arch and it was a surprise. Apparently, it was converted from an old Edwardian ballroom. According to its website, it boasts lots of antique artefacts and a 40ft waterfall. Perhaps I was too engrossed in conversation (it has been known), but I didn’t actually notice the waterfall. No matter, there was plenty to occupy me on the menu...
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