London Bridge was coated in vibrancy, unassuming concrete slab buildings juxtaposed with bright street fronts crawling with hungry customers. In the urban jungle lay buildings old and new, co-existing in mutual harmony, the chitter chatter of pedestrians crossing the street. We were one of those people who were weaving in and out of a world conditioned by old meets new, in search of gorgeous fine dining at Baluchi Lalit, where grilled tofu caressed coconut sukha and tandoori roasted cauliflower danced with paneer. Tall cocktails would toy with our tongues in a mating dance, as we drip fed rum into our thirsty mouths, later plied with chilled rose that liquefied our insides. But who could carelessly forget the Grade II listed former St. Olave’s Grammar School’s Assembly Hall, hand blown, cut and polished cobalt blue Hyderabadi chandeliers swaying overhead? We walked into Baluchi welcomed into the warm, escorted into the ‘Teachers Room’, cocktails awaited our well timed arrival. liquids mixed in steel shakers, we poured over the menu, snapshotting interiors with aesthetic delight. Modern drinks with an Indian twist, what would we choose? Would mystery prevail? Your eye roved dreamily over drinks galore, would Kama Sutra, a bittersweet orange brandy with pineapple and date tickle your fancy? And how delightful did the basil enhanced Delhi Daiquiri look, liquid swilling in thirsted mouths? It would be Baluchi’s take on a rum classic, infused with pineapple and cherries delight that would steal your heart,a hybrid drink that would tease your senses.
Heads tilted back in raucous laughter, you both sipped your drinks in heady appreciation, munching on the medium spiced popcorn perched whimsically in a Margarita glass for your satisfaction. And when there was but ice left to munch on, popcorn residue left behind, we adjourned into Baluchi Lalit for a three course fine dining meal featuring a contemporary take on impeccably executed Indian dishes. You step into a paradise of royal blue, woven with handmade silk tapestries and paintings that watch over you thoughtfully as you take your seat gracefully. With handcrafted furniture that was shipped over from India, interior design is as much a part of your Baluchi experience as the food is, entranced by the large courtyard outside, adorned with stone sculptures by Parisian landscape artist Olivier Vecchierini, greenery and topiary. You gaze thoughtfully at the prosaic artwork, tales of historical figures past while you ponder the menu with hunger in your eyes. It would be an altered version of the Subzkathal, Tandoori roasted cauliflower doused in gun powder, paneer dancing on a bed of Sabudana papad, yellows and greens waltzing together in perfect synchronization. You took a bite, fork poised, extra paneer to replace the stuffed mushrooms you were allergic to, it slid into your mouth with tendered ease. Each mouthful was a holistic ritual, each taste was manna, each swallow a ceremony of tasty disbelief. Would Marie feel the same about her Salmon Chatpati?
Home cured salmon, avocado and mustard oil puree slid into meat radish, she mentioned the chatpati’s masterful taste, it was heavenly she decreed. Soft but not soggy her mouth was overcome with taste sensations, and she smiled as the rose wine arrived without further ado. It was a Folonari 2015 Pinot Grigio Rose Wine chilling in a bucket of melting ice, clear pale salmon pink liquid flooding into medium sized glasses. We tasted vivacious strawberry and rhubarb flavours on the tip of our tongue, light apple, pear, floral and tropical fruit aromas wafting underneath our noses. Crisp and light bodied, the wine was off-dry, a refreshing apertif to starters gobbled ravenously, procuring the menus for mains that would take centre stage. Elegant, sophisticated and vibrant, Baluchi’s salacious menu crafted three main courses made from the finest organic ingredients, taking inspiration from the major food regions of India to send our taste buds into overdrive. We laughed and shared stories of weeks past, as we settled on our mains, grilled tofu layered atop Coconut sukka, for me while Marie’s choice could only be Awadhi Dum Biryani, free range corn-fed chicken and basmati rice cooked on “Dum” in. Spiced tofu mince embraced open arms to spinach decorated with superseeds, while Marie’s chicken was swallowed up by fluffy rice.
You preferred the starter to the main that much was clear, but nevertheless the spiced tofu was well seasoned with tasty delight, spinach wrapped delightfully around tofu mince. In hindsight the Paneer capsicum bhurji engulfed in makhani sauce with masala rice pancake and cashew crumble might have been more to your taste, a fan of ‘sauce based Indian dishes’ but the tofu still two stepped across your plate and into your mouth with endless ease. It paired beautifully with the rose wine, half a bottle swallowed up by thirsty bellies, Marie’s Awadhi Dum Biryani elegantly spiced, offsetting strawberry wine tones. With the addition of Kulcha drizzled in chutneys and layered with cheese, the bread mopped up our sauces with perfect ease, crisp crunch, crunch in our eager mouths.
Our mains were all but a distant memory as we waited in eager anticipation for dessert, crying out for something sweet to whet our appetite. Would something traditional like Bhapa Doi be the one to make our heart beat faster or would we steer away from convention and try something new? We decided to let the chef gift us with his mini desserts platter, where the sweets all shimmied and sparkled their way to the forefront of our vision, clamoring for our attention once more. There would be Saffron Infused Tandoori Pineapple laced with Cardamom ice cream with pink peppercorn tuille, while Ginger and Mint Cake saw Dark chocolate crumble interlinked with berry sorbet and honeycomb in dark chaotic beauty. A sliver of homemade vanilla ice cream melted lovingly into a white puddle on our plates, mopped up by Bhapa Doi in its dearest miniature form. The Doi wore honey steamed yoghurt nonchalantly, gulab jamun atop a lemon cake with forest fruit compote, but it was the tandoori pineapple that oddly tasted the best, simple in its minimalism but nevertheless offset by the cardamom ice cream. And lest we forget our tongues slurping on vanilla ice cream longingly, liquid dripping down our chins, we licked it off.
Our bellies were sated by a three course meal of splendor, vegetarian and meat eater alike placated adorably by Baluchi’s offering, stomachs pooching with satisfaction. The night grew dark outside, at last we must bid our final adieus, we waved the staff goodbye and fled into the midnight black darkness. The skies were littered with cerebral stars that crept into viability and the street lamps glowed in amber auras. But when the time had come to lay down our sleepy heads, the vegetarian dreamed of Baluchi once more, sipping wine in her mind, swilling cauliflower lolled around her greedy mouth. And what a beautiful vision it was.
What Are Your Thoughts On Baluchi Lalit?
Please note we were invited as complimentary guests of Baluchi, but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.