‘Flora Indica is inspired by and pays homage to the intrepid Scottish botanists who travelled throughout India during the Victorian period. This exploration lead to the discovery of thousands of species of exotic plants, previously unknown to Britain. As a result of these endeavours, the book which contains this epic catalogue of botanical species, entitled Flora Indica was published in London in 1855. The creative décor pays tribute via an eclectic mix of splendid Scottish heritage Harris tweed fabric, Victorian steampunk in zinc, copper and brass and warm rich teak wood with Victorian period scientific curiosities decorating walls and shelves. The stunningly atmospheric Flora Indica lounge can seat up to 70 and has its own bar. The ground floor space seating up to 30. Located on the historic and splendid, Old Brompton Road, our stylish venue is perfect for private dining, corporate events, group bookings, and birthday celebrations.
The menu has been specially created to feature modern and innovative takes on beloved Indian flavours and fine British ingredients. Our menu of sharing plates takes guests on a voyage of discovery through thoughtful spicing and beautiful local ingredients. The talented Flora Indica team will guide you through our curated botanical craft and premium gin collection housed in our elegant bar. The house Flora Indica Amber Ale is brewed locally at Portobello Brewery and our creative cocktails celebrate the flavours and botanics that inspire us.’
My husband Andy and I have reviewed Flora Indica before, in April 2017 – when it had been open for only six weeks – so were keen to see if the delivery menu four years later lived up to the promise of the original. The restaurant’s prime location on Old Brompton Road gives no option for outside seating, so in one of the lockdown lottery’s random blows, Flora Indica will continue to rely on delivery and takeaway revenue until May 17th.
As we wait for our delivery we recall the restaurant’s interior: Victorian copper pipes and gauges, pith helmets, shooting sticks and other Colonial paraphernalia, a vintage blue long-distance telephone box standing sentinel in one corner. Remembering that fabulous evening, a heady dream of potent cocktails strewn with edible flowers, sweet, informal service, delicious wafting smells and even more delectable food, we set the table properly, with a cloth and candles, even turning the telly off. Respect where it’s due.
‘More South Ken than Earl’s Court,’ I wrote in my earlier review, which was perhaps a little glib; accurate the night we visited though, its clientele comprising a sizeable French contingent, soigné and voluble, some hooray banker types and a smattering of well-dressed Indians. No stereotypes there then. Word has spread in the four years that have since passed, and now the restaurant attracts, in additional to its loyal local fanbase, an international foodie crowd, eager to taste the fabled goodies.
Still, I am happy to report, fantastic. From the minute we open the first cardboard container we know we’re in a different league, Indian takeaway-wise – and we happen to have an extremely good curry house next door.
Jerusalem artichoke papdi chaat, tamarind and yoghurt (£6.50) is a great opener, an explosion of flavours and textures: sweet, earthy root offset by crisp crunch, smooth creamy dairy and quasi-citrus tang Just wow. Paneer cheese and spinach bon bon with heritage tomato chutney (£8.50) is equally good, delicately spiced mouthfuls of sheer meat-free deliciousness.
To follow, we revisit a couple of old favourites (in every sense of both words) to see if they’ve stood the test of time. Andy’s slow-braised Suffolk lamb shoulder rogan josh (£19.95) certainly has, fork-tender chunks of meat falling easily into strands, each blanketed voluptuously in rich, piquant sauce. It’s so good I pinch probably more than my fair share.
My corn-fed bergamot lemon chicken tikka & makhani sauce (£15.50) is the only slightly off note, but that says more about my unrefined palate that the skill of the chefs. I loved it the first time round, little chunks of breast meat in a creamy sauce that, again, took cleverness of spicing and flavour balance to a whole new level. The difference now? The breast meat has been replaced by thigh, and while I know it’s meant to be superior in terms of flavour, texture and – oh pretty much everything for a poultry connoisseur – my babyish preference for the former slightly (only slightly, mind you) impinged on my enjoyment of the dish as a whole. That wasn’t a problem for Andy, who gobbled up the leg meat as greedily as I devoured the rice and sauce.
As we were eating at home, plonk I’m afraid, but marginally better plonk than usual (we felt it apt to treat ourselves). At the restaurant you’re spoilt for choice with the cocktail list, which encompasses Guru Bellini (white peach purée, homemade rose syrup, topped up with Prosecco, £8), Bombay Blossom (Tanqueray Rangpur gin, rhubarb liqueur, lychee, apple juice, Earl Grey syrup, rose water, £11) and Gandhi’s Gimlet (Tanqueray, kaffir lime leaves & lime, citrus juice, cucumber bitters, £10) and was an integral part of our first visit: deceptively innocent-looking, fruity-tasting, flower-bedecked concoctions making their way with ever more unseemly haste in our direction. Make no doubt, as soon as we’re able, we’ll be back. In the meantime, I do urge you to order a takeaway – the food, if I haven’t emphasised it enough, is sublime, and not diminished at all for being delivered.