Earlier this month on Mother’s Day weekend we made a trip to an old family haunt of ours in Marylebone. Originally we had plans to have lunch somewhere not worth much of a mention locally but like out of a dream this place sprung from the depths of my memory. Memories of long languorous family brunches in the 90’s and taking visiting relatives there for home cooked food and familiar ambiance – and with a little family of my own – I wanted us to feel the same warmth and charm of my childhood.
Established in 1996 La Porte des Indes, literally translated, means Gateway to India. Housed in a former Edwardian ballroom off the busy main drag of Marble Arch the innocuous looking restaurant has been described as Narnia-like by some.
Entering trough a small door and into an entrance decorated with a terracotta bust of Queen Victoria and enormous brass vessels of floating lilies on the floor – the thrum of London drops away. Diners are led into a tropical two-storied space with a dreamy Victorian domed ceiling, sky-high palms, a white marble staircase and a 40ft Moghul waterfall! There’s even a Jungle themed colonial bar with intricately painted nature scenes on walls, green leaf shaped cane furniture and tiger print rugs. It’s a complete, delicious aesthetic overload and harks back to the celebrated Indian hotels of yester-year.
The food is French influenced Indian food representative of Pondicherry, a former French colony in India. You can order a-la-cart but the place is famous for its Sunday Jazz Buffet. With one floor dedicated to the most mouth watering Indian street food, one floor to delicious and delicate seafood, lamb, chicken and soulful vegetarian dishes and then the prettiest and plentiful desserts.
I just love the maximalist feel of it all – fresh marigolds and palm leaves decorate the buffet with melon boats overflowing with exotic fruits. The staff and the ambiance too are always warm, relaxed and family friendly – on that day there was free face painting, a sugar artist hand moulding colourful animals in the jungle room and most importantly an atmosphere where many many dads felt comfortable enough to fall asleep under piles of coats in the bar!
La Porte Des Indes
32 Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EG
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org