**READ TIME: 5 MINUTES**
At the time of writing this review, it is that awkward time in between Christmas and New Year, where it is difficult to discern exactly what day it is. As myriad questions pepper your mind (Is it Tuesday? Is it really wrong to still be in PJs at 2pm? Will that brie from the Christmas cheeseboard still be legit four days after opening?), stop, breathe and take a well-deserved timeout.
As days and hours melt into each other, and the spectre of work looms on the horizon, it is highly recommended that you take stock and enjoy every moment. Where to go, to take said stock, dine, and “just be”?
I asked myself this very question a few days ago, and found that I was headed towards Lotus Indian Kitchen which is a short 10minute drive from home.
Its prestigious address on The Piazza, Mercia Marina enables copious gazing out over the marina whilst you address life’s more pressing questions. Both drink and food menus are compact yet diverse, the menu split into two main sections of grills with street-food, and main curries.
Having opened over the summer, the restaurant boasts a menu of “street-food, grills and curries, just like you’d get in India.” They’re big on sharing too, as their website proudly proclaims that dishes are designed to be shared by everyone around the table.
Now, here’s the thing.
I’m not mad keen on sharing. You know that Friends episode where Joey DOESN’T SHARE FOOD? I feel at one Mr. Tribbiani there. However, I am all about the compromise these days, and although I would never, ever share my rice (that’s where I draw the line), I am just about wrapping my head around sharing everything else.
I have an odd relationship with street-food places, because I am a regimented soul and I like order in my life. With any normal restaurant, I would order the usual two courses (main and dessert), and be off on my merry way. There is something exceedingly heartening about knowing what you’re getting, whereas with a street-food place, you’re not quite sure. Do I order two smaller dishes? Four? Will the wait-staff think I’m greedy if four? Should I order, say three of the smaller street-food dishes, and a main? But wouldn’t that be too much, because in a regular restaurant, you’d only have a small starter?
Now you understand my dilemma, because I abhor that whole “not being sure,” and with street-food places, I feel as if I am somehow playing Russian Roulette, which is never good especially when those hunger pangs start to strike.
In the end, we wound up ordering four street-food dishes between us, with a view to ordering mains later.
Tandoori King Prawns were succulent morsels bathed in an emerald green sauce. It is refreshing to see this traditional tandoor dish given a contemporary twist, the basil imparting a sweet fragrance to the tender flesh of the prawns.
Tawa keema was another dish with a twist; think of a Mediterranean flat-bread given the Indian treatment with a spicy topping. The keema was perfectly spiced, whilst the vibrant ceres vinegared onions – not out of place in Andy Warhol artwork – provided a pop of colour to the dish.
Pani puri shots laced with vodka arrived with a flourish. I haven’t done shots since heady Patron XO Café days, and I definitely felt a little jaunty as I did the customary down-the-hatch-in-one-gulp. It is a fun dish to order, although be warned; it can be very spicy on the swallow with a mildly bitter aftertaste.
I love chaat. I wish there was more chaat in the world. If done right, it can be heavenly and Lotus Indian Kitchen chaat did not disappoint. Wafer thin crispy puffs chock-full of a creamy, slightly unctuous filling with a Tom Thumb tamarind kick was sublime. I always wait a minimum of 24 hours before writing my reviews, just so I can reflect upon the dishes, my notes and think back to any standout moments for me. The Bombay Chaat was my afternoon’s, nay, week’s highlight. I could happily scarf a plate-full of those beauties and have no shame in ordering seconds.
It turns out two street-food dishes plus one main is a good equation for dining at Lotus Indian Kitchen. My main of Tariwala chicken was a good traditional curry with a good hit of ginger, cinnamon and garlic. Don’t be fooled by the small-ish looking bowls, because they have hidden depth and accommodate a decent amount of curry.
Roomali means handkerchief in Hindi. Lighter than any naan or roti, and significantly larger than my head, the Roomali roti was a joy to eat. I found one was just enough to eat with one bowl of curry. If you are hungrier and order two Roomali rotis, I recommend you ordering them as you finish the Roomali roti. They are best eaten as fresh as possible, with the swipe of barely-there butter still glistening as it kisses the surface of the wonderfully light surface.
Dining partner’s lamb Beliram was tasty, hints of warming cinnamon and the addictive bite of garlic coming through after a few seconds. Chef Beliram was the head chef to eighteenth century Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whose celebrated lamb dish transcended time. I wonder what Chef Beliram would have thought if he knew his recipe was still being used today? I think he would have a smile on his face, as it has been recreated with TLC by Lotus Indian Kitchen.
Dessert of carrot halwa cake was delicious, the lightly spiced cardamom-infused sponge fragrant on the palate. I thought the light as air whipped buttercream especially good, and knowing that the cake was sourced from a local baker rendered enjoyment all the more pleasurable.
Here are some beer and wine tasting notes with the dishes we ate, should you wish to pair it with a particular drink.
Beer flight: Lukas Helles Lager
Wine flight: Syrah (La Cour des Dames)
Tandoori King Prawns
Beer flight: Jaipur
Wine flight: Sauvignon blanc (Waka Taua)
Beer flight: Salvation
Wine flight: Sauvignon blanc (Lawson’s dry hills)
Beer flight: Cobra
Wine flight: Zinfandel (Pink Orchid)
Beer flight: Dead Pony Club Session IPA
Wine flight: Chardonnay (Murphy’s big river)
Carrot halwa cake – paired with a steaming hot cappuccino
Dining at Lotus Indian Kitchen is a joy. It is lovely and warm, the bathroom is nicely kitted out (those temperature-controlled taps are brilliant), and artwork sourced directly from India adorning the walls gives the space an added layer of theatre.
The expansive pass allows more interaction between chefs and diners; it is normal for diners to bid chefs goodbye on their way out. Scandi vibes flow with ease throughout the open plan area (hat-tip to the architect) and it is a great space to be in.
Service was impeccable, with the affable Anup making you feel immediately at ease with his genuinely warm smile. Lotus Indian Kitchen is all about good times and good food with plenty of soul. Dishes are inspired, and above all, it is a place you will seek out not long after leaving.
Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)
Restaurant name: Lotus Indian Kitchen
Owners: Sunny Chandhoke and Sanj Kumar
Open since: July 2018
Address: The Piazza, Mercia Marina, Findern Lane, Willington, Derbyshire DE65 6DW
Opening times: 11:30am – 10:30pm
Wheelchair friendly: Yes
Caters for dietary requirements: Yes; the menu is versatile and chefs will try their best to accommodate (i.e. veganise dishes, by removing non-vegan ingredients).
Quietest table: Table 2
How to make reservation: Telephone or via website. Walk-in’s welcome.
Telephone: 01332 300525
Head Chef: Prakash Rawat
General Manager: Anup Goyal
How to get there: 20 minute drive from central Derby; parking is available on-site.
Whilst in the area: take a stroll around Mercia Marina. Pick up a beautiful brooch at Merchant Jewellers, a lovely piece of framed artwork at Bluebird Fine Art, or a fabulous frock at Bluewater Clothing.