Situated in a former grammar school, just a stone’s throw from the shiny new Tower Bridge development, you’ll find Baluchi at The LaLiT London.
This rather beautiful gated building may be the first LaLiT in London, but over in India it’s a well-respected chain of luxury hotels. We weren’t spending the night, so headed straight to the vast dining room for one of the warmest welcomes we’ve ever received. Executive Chef Santosh Shah himself greeted us and talked us through the menu he’s clearly so proud of. It’s pretty lengthy so we went with his recommendations on the whole, which catered to both myself and my veggie friend L. Before that however we started with tiki cocktails and poppadoms served in a trusty toast rack with spicy jam and chutney.
There are tasting menus available, but otherwise the a la carte menu is split into school ‘terms’. Term 1 (starters to you and me), began with the bloody excellent tandoori celeriac. This root vegetable isn’t normally one that gets us excited, but when cooked on the tandoor and assembled with mint chutney, burnt apple gel and coconut foam, it turns into a real stunner. The sharing ‘subzkathal’ plate is a good place to start if you want to try a bit of everything. You’ll find roasted cauliflower bites, golden paneer and little stuffed mushrooms and there’s a meat-eating equivalent as well. Three plump juicy scallops jiggle about in one shell with buckthorn puree, gin foam (you’ll find a lot of foam here), kale powder and pickled grapes. A juicy lamb chop served with decorative watermelon radish rounded off our delectable starters.
Every Indian restaurant makes their black dahl in their own unique way – at Baluchi that’s with a whole heap of double cream, slow-cooked overnight. A must order, if only to make good use of the dedicated ‘Naan’ery’ where they make all their own freshly baked Indian breads. We loved the king prawns in fish curry sauce and the saffron infused tandoori pineapple with cardamom ice cream we shared for dessert. In fact there wasn’t a dish we could fault.
However Baluchi is competing with plenty of super slick, well-oiled upmarket Indian restaurants in London, and whilst the service couldn’t have been warmer, and the room impressive, it’s currently lacking that all important ‘vibe’. We think that’s in part because the cavernous room is hard to fill, but we also found the branding just a little…off. We really hope that doesn’t detract from what is really very delicious food – we’d hate it to get in the way of the Michelin star Santosh told us he’s going for this year.
As hotel restaurants go, it’s a goody and we look forward to seeing Santosh put his stamp on the place.