Fitzrovia may seem like a discreet spot in London where back-alley banks hide their trade, but it's pretty full on when it comes to restaurants, packing 'em in like sardines in a can. With that, there's no hiding a diversity of dining options. Brought to London by the team behind India's booming Grub Fest, Lokhandwala is tucked in amongst this jumble of spaces, throwing about traditional spices, flavours and combinations from all over the country into a tapas menu that I was geared up to try.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Almost metallic, slightly rustic and definitely romantic, Lokhandwala is up there with one of Fitzrovia's most desirable looking restaurants. Cut up between main restaurant and a speakeasy inspired bar in the back, it's a space where subtle mirrors, birdcages and chandeliers add an amorous mode to the night. Sure, the colonial nods are there and it's on the smaller scale when it comes to the amount of bums on seats, but it's illuminated by the front windows and doesn't scrimp on the lovey-dovey and the luxury at that. It was pretty quiet on our visit come an early Friday evening, and while an often lack of music meant that the clinking of knives came as a form of entertainment, I don't think it took away too much from the meal we found ourselves enjoying.
The Food and Drink
Flitting between provinces and ancient Indian ingredients, Lokhandwala is an assortment of flavours that promises a regional medley rather than a simple tapas menu, which is something we loved from the off. Sharing plates between us throughout the night, it's an all-in kind of affair here, where plates are brought when ready rather than as an order of service.
Between us we settled on the Vepudu Taco with Radish and Cauliflower at £6, the Mish Mash Bun at £7 (a Mumbai street food) and the Indian Cottage Cheese & Tomato Cashew Sauce Pie at £11 from the Punjab Province in North India, while I sneaked in a little fish in the shape of the Masaledar Fish & Chips (£14) of masala marinated sea bass fish, batter fried and salli wafers.
I normally find a stand out dish when trying out restaurants, one that promises a little more affection from the kitchen than the rest, but I genuinely think credit goes to all of the dishes we tried at Lokhandwala. While the vepudo taco had crunch and just enough spices to tickle rather than tear down tastebuds, the mish mash bun was simple, hands on and offered a dip that upped the savoury experience. For those that also don't think 4 dishes would be enough over tapas, they seemingly are at Lokhandwala down to the size of the Masaledar fish and chips alone. More main plate than tapas bite, the chips were standard, but the fish was light, fragrant and delicate to the touch. Our closing attempts at the Indian cottage cheese pie felt perfect. Rich, overt with Punjab prowess and decked with cheesy bite under a perfectly flaked crust (points for also not skipping a base), this was one of the most unusual Indian dishes i've ever had, but also one of the best.
While a dip in music and often quiet atmosphere led to a few awkward moments at Lokhandwala, they're (in my opinion) faultless when it comes to their food. Bringing together flavours from any and all Indian regions that they care or love to, Lokhandwala are clearly ceaseless when it comes to presentation, substance and giving diners a true homage to the taste of India in tapas form. Indian cuisine is also my sanctuary when it comes to vegetarian food, and Lokhandwala didn't fail there either.