REVIEW: Lilu, #NotJustACurry
They say it’s #notjustacurry, and they’re not wrong writes Dluxe’s new dining correspondent, Lisa Delahoy, as she samples the delights of Lilu on Highcross Street.
I booked the table for two a few Tuesdays ago and upon arrival we were guided past groups of friends celebrating, couples enjoying a night out and even a local chef on a bus man’s holiday. We took our seats, scanned
the drinks list and ordered two Empress ales with the strapline “locally brewed craft ale pairs perfectly with spicy food” it was, as we discovered later, completely correct of course.
Lilu is set in a deep narrow building with a fresh contemporary interior, dressed with crisp white linen and gleaming silverware.A feature wall takes centre stage displaying a monochrome mix of happy memories, a
photographic homage to the owner’s mother, his childhood and family.
Five years ago Lilu’s owner, Pratik, introduced his mother’s treasured recipes to a few trained chefs and the amalgamation of the rich creaminess of Punjabi cuisine with simple Guajarati vegetable recipes resulted in some truly memorable dishes.
As we studied the unusually brief, yet well thought out menu, our host came and sat with us to offer advice on the best combination to choose from. His intimate approach felt comfortable and informative.
There are two main routes to choose from, either the set menu of two or three courses, or the new and extremely successful mid-week ThaLi-Lu.
Following our one to one consultation we made our selection and sat back to wait. Not for long it turned out. Our first pre-starter arrived; a pile of poppadoms and a selection of homemade chutneys and salads. The waitress ran through the pots of colour; a spiced pickle ketchup, mango chutney, pineapple and chilli chutney, mango yoghurt and onion salads. Flavour bursts to kick start the very promising evening.
No sooner had these been cleared then a wooden tray appeared with decorative pebbles, herbs and a couple of aloo puri sitting on top. These are crisp fried flourbased shells piled with chopped potato and mild spices so they’re delicately flavoured and full of crunch.
Pratik appeared again. “Do you serve these little dishes to everyone?” I asked. “Yes, thing is I’m impatient and don’t like to wait for my food so I fill the space waiting for food…. with food”. Well that certainly makes sense to me.
Cue the espresso cup of spiced tomato shorba and fennel naan. Palate cleansed we were ready for the main event.
My husband had the paneer. Slices of crispyfried cheese interspersed with earthy beetroot and tangy peppers all served with a Greek yoghurt dip. I had the signature soft shell crab in a crunchy batter served on a bed of leaves and apple sticks, mango and mint sauce and a good chunk of zesty lemon.
After an agreed intermission I heard drums roll and trumpets sound (in my head at least) and here it was… a large dish of tender Tandoori roasted British lamb cutlets, braised lamb and cumin mashed potatoes sitting on a madras lamb jus puddle with a Compton Bassett stilton naan which was scrumptious and meltingly hot. A perfect match.
When hubby’s vegetarian platter appeared it was a feast for the eyes. Piles of assorted breads, pots of chutneys, creamy dahl and a stuffed baby pepper swimming in a saucy sea, crunchy salad, a chunk of marinated paneer, a fabulous mini biryani and even a mouthful of creamy pud. Sweet, salt, bitter, sour and umami all ticked.
Flavours were intense, spices were used intelligently and the food fresh with none of that heaviness you often feel after overindulging.
Just the smallest of spaces left to fill, we ordered two desserts. One, chocolate ganache, mouthfuls of smooth creamy chocolate on a crispy chocolate base with exotic rose flavoured ice cream. The other, Gajjar Halwa, sticky sweet tangy carrot enriched with nuts and vanilla ice cream. What a couple of ‘wows’.
We were happily full, completely relaxed and ready for our carriage. I can confirm LiLu offers #notjustacurry.