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Flora Indica is an Indian restaurant in London’s Earl’s Court, which has a penchant for aromatics. Our male readers may know the Earl’s Court area for the nearby Clonezone store, but should consider visiting the area for an altogether different occasion: to eat at Flora Indica. The restaurant kindly invited us for a Thursday evening dinner.
The name Flora Indica pays homage to the book of the same name published in 1855 cataloguing thousands of plants (new to Britain) by Scottish botanists travelling through India during the Victorian period.
On arrival at the restaurant guests will first notice the navy blue phone box surrounded by the steampunk, industrial, steam-powered aesthetic of items in zinc, copper and brass, including the odd mouse ornaments wearing gas masks that you may be forgiven for briefly considering as a connection to the aforementioned Clonezone store nearby. Having set the scene of curiosities ahead, the restaurant then opens out to simpler lines of furniture (though still with a slight steampunk nod) through to the bar at the far end, which is finished in teak wood, metallic tiling and ornate Victorian ceiling plaster casts.
This ground floor space has capacity for 30 covers, with a further, larger dining space downstairs, meaning the restaurant does not appear too overwhelming, even on a busy night.
The Flora Indica theme permeates the food and drinks menus, where dishes forge Indian flavours and British ingredients, some of which seem a little curious at first, and delicious when arriving at the table.
We started with the Malwani prawns (£11.50) served with yellow tomato chutney and black mooli, and a Paneer cheese and spinach Bon Bon (£8.50) served with heritage tomato chutney. The delicate flavours, clean presentation and innovation of the Bon Bon, demonstrating the same level of detail of that of the interior décor.
For mains we opted for the Monkfish with Bengali Malai Curry sauce (£24.95), and the Tandoori chicken Biryani (£17.95) with Basmati rice, crispy onions and fresh mint. Both rich flavours, and the meaty Monkfish was perfectly cooked. What really took centre stage though was the side Poppy seed and red Leicester cheese naan (£5.50) – we cannot stress this enough, whatever you order, include this side. The poppy seed and red Leicester cheese naan is guilty pleasure heaven. To add to more colours to the rainbow on the table, we also opted for a side of spiced creamed spinach with dill and cherry (£6.50)
Desserts (all £7) are a mixed affair. The Brioche Tukda with Tandoor Pineapple flecked with Pistachios and saffron milk cream may have the best presentation, but it is the warm candy beetroot Halwa Amarkhand that warmed to us the most. Set aside any prejudgements about beetroot being a savoury root vegetable, and enjoy its rich sweetness, which is put centre stage in this dessert item.
Given the botanical theme, it is no surprise to see 2 pages of the drinks menu dedicated to gins, hailing from anywhere from Caorunn (Scotland) to Gin Mare (Spain) to Hapsua Himalayan Dry Gin (India). Similarly the cocktails invoke same sense of botanicals and spices. For example Gandhi’s Gimlet (£10) (pictured below), which is both an innuendo waiting to happen and a fine example of Flora Indica ingenuity, using Kaffir Lime Leaves as an additional hit to the citrus flavours.
The service was excellent, waiters were friendly without being over the top, though we did notice that once the venue reached capacity, service was thin on the ground – having one more member of wait staff may solve this issue.
The menu at Flora Indica, demonstrated a creative streak that was both elevated and simultaneously down-to-earth. Take time to appreciate and enjoy the aromatic flavours in both food and drinks menus. And don’t forget the Poppy seed and red Leicester cheese naan, which is an absolute must-order.
The cost for our three courses plus drinks would be about £55 per person, which is a good value price-point for the food and service received.
We arrived at 7pm, the venue was all but deserted, it was apparent this time is early for dining in Earl’s Court, with the restaurant filling up by about 8:30pm. Do bear in mind if you dine slightly later, a reservation may be required.
Location: 242 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5 0DE
Flora Indica also operate a local delivery service (handy for those late night Poppy seed and red Leicester cheese naan). For more information and to book, visit flora-indica.com.