It’s a bitter cold evening and I’m walking from London Bridge station to the LaLit which conveniently for me is located just ten minutes away. As I walk towards the hotel, all I can see is towering red brick illuminated by bright colours of the rainbow. I step through the courtyard and am immediately welcomed with a “Namaskara” from the gentleman by the door.
I’m told that the LaLiT used to be St Olaves School and was occupied from the mid-1800s until the late 1960s. This certainly explains the majestic, palatial red-brick exterior, and the courtyard paired with the towering building exudes an overwhelming feeling of privilege. When you step through the doors, you no longer feel like you’re just round the corner from one of London’s greatest landmarks, The Shard. You’re made to feel like you’re in India (something I feel a lot of restaurants try to do but don’t quite achieve). This is accentuated by the mellow background music of a slow sitar strumming, and the smell of incense drifting through reception. We are taken to the Baluchi restaurant which is the former assembly hall of the school. The high ceilings are now decorated with sparkling blue chandeliers and the walls are panelled with dark oak wood. The transformed assembly room, although huge, feels intimate, and the atmosphere is warm.
The menu incorporates little touches to remind you that fifty years ago, school boys would have been sitting there listening to their headmaster speak. Starters come under ‘the beginning –Term One’ and side dishes are labelled the ‘Founder Chairman’s Favourites.’ It reminds you that there is history there and an exciting one at that: a school full of memories. Now guests are invited to make their own memories, however this time surrounding a delicious spread of innovative Indian cuisine. I decide to go for the three course menu including the Andoori octopus and colocasia which is beautifully presented.
With the sumptuous Octopus comes clay oven roasted baby potato, a swirl of labneh which is decorated with puffed quinoa and topped with some coriander chutney. After three mouthfuls, I decide this is some of the best Indian food I have tried in London. For mains we have the tandoori lobster which packs a real punch and is an explosion of spice and fireworks all at once. For desserts, a selection of guava tart, saffron infused tandoori pineapple and kulfi is presented to us.
The menu is full of surprises – at first glance your instant reaction to some dishes is ‘will this work?’ I can confirm that the answer to this is yes, very much so.
A meal at Baluchi starts from £50 per person (including a starter and a main course).