La Portes des Indes

At first glance, an Indian restaurant with a French name could only spell trouble, that is, until one recalls Indian history to bring up French presence in South India. A picturesque town called Pondicherry harks back to the days of the colonial French, with one of the official languages, till this date, being French. Under that light, a restaurant who’s name translates as ‘Gateway to India’, doesn’t seem that much of a bizarre notion. However, my initial reservations of what to expect in terms of its gastronomic offering still remained, and I remembered a chef once telling me that their food was actually true to its Indian roots, drawing primarily from the influences of the French region of Pondicherry and incorporating other dishes from across the continent through simple, yet comforting executions. 

The first reaction one has when entering the restaurant is of awe – it’s absolutely enormous, on two floors, and filled with palm trees and reminiscent of the coastal colonial estates, bungalows and restaurants of Pondicherry, on a comfortable and non-pretentious level. We decided to go in for a thali as having glanced over to other tables, it seemed just the thing we were in the mood for.

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 On this rather fine selection I had: Tandoori Chicken Drumstick and Barra Lamb Chop both of which were very earthy and moreish – was quite happy not to have been given their usual creamy rich counterparts. Lamb Rogan Josh, Monkfish with Coconut and Smoked Tamarind, Chicken Tikka Masala and Kadhai Vegetables, Saffron Rice. My personal favourite was the monkfish curry, rich and tangy. The lamb, whilst well cooked and spiced, was a little tame on the chilli front, but that’s more a personal view. The chicken, pleasant, but not eye-opening. The vegetables, however, sprang up from behind and were robustly spiced and tempered. We also had some chilli chutney and raita along with the thali, but they were mere subsidiaries. The portion you see there, was all for me, by the way! And it all got polished clean, with even the dishes being mopped by some naan!

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Mango Rasmalai
Rose Phirni
Rice Brulee

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The desserts, however, were rather less impressive. Mango Rasmalai was too firm for my liking with a sauce that was too thick and creamy and only hinted with mango. Rose Phirni tasted better than it looked and was one I enjoyed most out of the three – ground rice cooked in milk and rose syrup. Red Rice Brulee with Caramelised Jackfruit was far too shy on the rice, excessive on the jackfruit so that it took over the entire dish and was  more a creme caramel in texture than a brulee. Nevertheless, the novelty of this dish was getting to taste jackfruit after a very long time.

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We were surprised to see that in spite of the enormous restaurant space, most of the tables were taken. I wasn’t sure what to expect when coming here, but will most likely return to sample dishes off the a la carte. I think pleasantly surprised might be the reaction of the day!

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Overall experience: 7
Food: 7
Recommend you go: 7
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