You know a restaurant must have something about it when a couple who have never met choose it as their romantic rendezvous point for their blind date.
That’s what Molly and Jaime on the next table did at the Indian restaurant Flora Indica in London’s Old Brompton Road.
By the time their lamb and chicken tikka dishes turned up so had the conversation and animated laughter.
They looked a little awkward at a corner table, but sipping the signature Flora Indica amber beer while nibbling on snacks of crispy Kurmure Okra and cassava chill pappad seemed to break the ice.
By the time the small plates arrived – paneer crab and Jerusalem artichoke – smiles and eye contact had begun. By the time their lamb and chicken tikka dishes turned up so had the conversation and animated laughter.
No doubt there was chemistry yet I am sure the lovely environment must have helped. The dark facade and tinted glass doors open up into a stylish room. Calming olive green walls, with rich teak wood that forms the backdrop for the seating complemented with Scottish heritage Harris tweed fabric.
And there’s more. the ceiling and parts of the wall are adorned with their floral insignia and Steampunk items in zinc and copper with Victorian period scientific curiosities decorating walls and shelves. And a very curious dark blue old-style phone booth. The ground floor can cater for 30 covers – the “engine” room downstairs is not yet open.
Molly and Jaime set the upbeat tone. Ready to tuck in we chose four not-so-small “small plates” including the venison, chicken wings, salmon and the Jerusalem Artichoke Papdi Chaat with tamarind and pomegranate.
The venison came kofta style, juicy but heavily spiced. Delicious it was, yet it hid the normally gamey flavour associated with this meat.
The salmon had an appealing softness on the palate and frankly, the chicken wings looked extraordinary – the soft chicken meat comes covered in vermicelli making it look like a hedgehog on a stick.
The Jerusalem artichoke was the belle of the small plates ball and was quite simply ablaze with flavours. Crispy thins of artichoke in a meld of tamarind, yoghurt and gems of pomegranate.
To be honest these small plates were generous and on another day we would have been happy to stop there.
Of course, we didn’t. The duck leg on the bone was slow-cooked to perfection with the spices and coconut sauce playing together as best friends.
And the chicken tikka Biryani served with first-grade basmati rice was exceptional. There was no room to death the chill nan and garlic bread and we just gave a nod to the kale.
We finished off with beetroot halva which is an interesting mix of nearly sweet flavours with rough textures.
There’s a fine collection of 26 gins at the bar and plenty of choice cocktails too. However, we ordered a bottle (or two) of the house beer and what a lovely surprise this amber ale is. Brewed locally at the Portobello brewery. It is served thoughtfully in ice-cold glasses this heady 4.3% ABV drink turned out to be an ideal thirst-quenching accompaniment for our feast.
The fantastic food, convivial atmosphere, quirky decor and subdued lighting make this restaurant a perfect match for a really enjoyable night out and even romance. I really hope Molly and Jaime thought so too.
Check out the Flora Indica website
You can check out the full menu here