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Small is beautiful at Lokhandwala – if you judge the quantity right

This Charlotte Street self-styled 'Indian Tapas' restaurant serves colourful and seriously delicious dishes, but remember that small-plate prices quickly add up

19 October, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

The lamb chops at Lokhandwala are a deserved bestseller

LOVE it or loathe it, the trend for “small plates” is now firmly embedded on the restaurant scene. At its best, this style of eating is a winner. You can sample and share a wide variety of dishes – and never get bored. At its worst, you return home still hungry. And with a hefty bill scorching a hole in your pocket.

Lokhandwala, a new place in Charlotte Street, serves what they describe as “Indian Tapas”. (My inner curmudgeon flinches at the two words together.)

It’s an attractive space, painted in distressed greens and bronze, the walls decorated with ornate mirrors and framed black and white photos evoking the life story of Lady Charlotte, a Victorian aristocrat who fell for a scoundrel in the Lokhandwala district of Mumbai.

This address – 93 Charlotte Street – is rumoured to be where this character lived out the rest of her life, among echoes of her colonial past.
I sat it in the back room, under cascades of trailing plants around the skylight and across from the cocktail bar.

The first small-plate problem is that of quantity. How many dishes should you order? I started with four. The first was simple and wonderfully addictive: a mix of warm mini pappadoms, shards of root crisps, puffed grains and the like. I happily dug around in this metal bucket throughout the meal, discovering new titbits to plunge into three vivid dips.

The colour of the food is a highlight. My beetroot and yoghurt dip was a ravishing pink; roast pineapple and chilli chutney a startling yellow – and seriously delicious.

A vegetarian medley, the Indi Mezze Platter, was more hit and miss. The spiced mashed aubergine was heavenly – rich in subtle spices; the deep fried okra, on the other hand, came out strangely bland and chewy.

The lamb chops are a bestseller – and rightly so. You get two magnificent cuts, marinated for 24 hours and served with a minty sauce. I hoovered the tender flesh from the bone then licked my fingers clean. They also do kebabs, a quail dish, a coconut chicken curry and a lamb keema served in a classic Yorkshire pudding. I wouldn’t bother with the lentil and pulse chaat, which was cold and stodgy.

Pudding was a “Gajar Halwa” tart, served with cardamom-infused crème anglaise. You can pour in the custard into the pastry cases, then wolf them down in one go.

The verdict? Not all the dishes are sizzling, but when they work you will enjoy the fireworks.

Lokhandwala is not cheap, though. Small-plate prices quickly add up. The pair of lamb chops was £14, which works out at a couple of quid per bite. The pudding cost £9 – £3 for each one-mouthful tartlet. I was hungry so ordered six small plates for lunch at a cost of more than £50.
Better value is their weekend brunch – eight courses for £45 with unlimited fizz or their “Star of India” cocktails.

Lokhandwala
93 Charlotte Street, W1T
020 7637 7599
www.lokhandwala.co.uk

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