Baluchi is a tucked away Pan-Indian gem south of The River. You have to know it’s here to be able to enjoy this wonderful Great Hall nestled in the recently opened (2017) The LaLiT London. The former St Olave’s Grammar School has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel with 70 rather unique and beautifully designed rooms bristling with character with its high ceilings and original windows.
We arrive half an hour early on what turned out to be one of the last few really hot days of this long summer we’ve enjoyed here in England this year – in October! The reason? So we could enjoy a cocktail in the aptly named “Teacher’s Room”, the Lalit’s contemporary bar, which is adjacent to the fabulous historic Grade II listed Great Hall. With so much of the original décor preserved, we tried imagining what this place would have been like with hordes of school children running around.
Gin cocktails over and ready for dinner, we are shown to our table in the centre of the restaurant by the extremely polite and attentive staff and given the menus to peruse. As well as the à la carte menu there is also a new seven course tasting menu created by Executive Chef Santosh Shah, who comes to Baluchi from the Cinnamon Kitchen & Club in Westminster and previously working with Raymond Blanc.
The menu continues with the school theme with starters labelled as “Term-One”. We choose the Salmon Chatpati with avocado, mustard oil purée and meat radish and Tandoori Octopus and Colacasia with clay oven roasted baby potato, labneh, coriander chutney and puffed quinoa. Both dishes are beautifully presented and tasted as good as they looked. The Hand Dived Orkney Scallops will be my choice next time, as I just also love scallops. One of Chef Santosh’s experimental signature dishes is the Tandoori Celeriac, which is made with mint chutney, burnt apple gel, masala seeds, gun powder and coconut foam. Other dishes include a Kaffir Lime Chicken Tikka and Iberico Pork Fillet. And if you like to share, then the Subzkathal is specifically designed for sharing and is ideal for vegetarians and is also gluten free.
Turning our attention to “Mid-term” or the main course, we opt for the Cannon of Lamb with corn bread, roasted root vegetables, a delicious garlic spinach mash and masala cashew crumble along with a fabulous Lamb Shank Gushtaba, which is a Kashmiri delicacy of slow-cooked shank accompanied with fennel, cashew and saffron and masala mash. And as if this wasn’t enough, Chef Santosh prepared a special treat for us of their fabulous large King Tandoori Prawns to try, which sit on a bed of samphire and sautéed spinach – wow! There’s also a nice selection of dishes suitable for sharing and a mention should be given to the Kathal Ke Kofte with jack fruit dumplings in Mughali-style creamy cashew sauce, as well as their Tandoori Lobster accompanied with masala shrimp khichdi, wild mushroom, homemade lime pickle and sabudana papad.
A Baluchi speciality is their freshly baked Indian Naan breads that are made in the dedicated Naan’ery at the back of the Great Hall. We ordered a selection of plain and Superseed, which is made with chia, flax, sunflower, hazelnut, mango and coconut.
Good wine plays an important role in any meal and I am pleased to say that Baluchi has a fine selection of international wines in their extensive wine list, many of which are reasonably priced. We select a 2017 Malbec from Argentina, which is rich and spicy and paired perfectly with our dishes. It’s available by the glass (£6.75) or by the bottle (£40).
So, after a short recess it was time for “Term break” or desserts. The Saffron Infused Tandoori Pineapple is highly recommended to us and has a somewhat smoky flavour to it. You of course may prefer the Guava Tart, served with poached guava, guava chat sorbet, pistachio and caramel popcorn or a decadent Chocolate Mousse with clove smoked lemon curd and mango crisp. Or if you’d prefer something not too heavy, then perhaps a sorbet or ice cream will hit the mark.
To celebrate National Curry Week at the end of October, Executive Chef Santosh Shah created a fabulous limited-edition curry tasting menu at Baluchi, drawing his inspiration from the best Indian cuisine and spices. The curry was presented in an authentic copper tiffin, which included Murgh Makhni, which is an Old Delhi-style roast chicken dish in a smooth tomato and fenugreek sauce, as well as a milk-fed goat curry with Southern Indian spices. Vegetarians were able to enjoy a Paneer Butter Masala, which is a Punjabi-style dish served with Indian cottage cheese, tomato, onion, spices and ginger. There was also Kathal Ke Kofte, which is a jack fruit dumpling with Mughlai style creamy cashew sauce.
Both tiffins included the restaurant’s signature Dal Baluchi which is rich and creamy black lentils prepared overnight, which we tried, along with a mixed winter vegetable curry in an onion and tomato sauce.
So, if you fancy a taste of traditional India in London, then I recommend venturing south of The River and paying a visit to Baluchi. However, if you happen to find yourself in India, then you can experience a similar level of hospitality in their restaurants in New Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Bangalore.
Baluchi at The Great Hall, The LaLiT London, 181 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2JR, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3765 0000
Baluchi is located inside The LaLiT London hotel, which opened in 2017 and is a short distance from London Bridge Mainline and Underground Station (about a 5-minute walk down Tooley Street). It is very close to HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge, set back from the main road. The restaurant is open seven days a week from midday to 10:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Pan-Indian Restaurant
Price Band: Medium to high with the seven-course menu starting at £80 per head.
Insider Tip: Pop along to one of their Naan Bread pairing evenings sitting at the dedicated Naan’ery situated at the back of the restaurant for a fun and rather unique experience. Baluchi also has a dedicated tasting menu available for vegetarian and vegan diners.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of Baluchi and by Simon Burrell