SUGAR, DARLING?

BY NANCY WHITTINGTON-COATES

LILU LEICESTER REVIEW - INDIAN FINE DINING


Well guys, this is an imge heavy one! You'll see why straight away though as these are some seriously beautiful plates coming out of Lilu in Leicester's kitchen. Lilu is an Indian fine dining restaurant situated very conveniently on Highcross Street right in the middle of town. From the outside it isn't particularly preposessing, but once your first dish is placed in front of you you'll know you're somewhere special.

I was recently very lucky to be asked along to a bit of a tasting evening to try out the best that Lilu's menu has to offer and boy did I come away impressed. Knowing who the head chef is however this should not have come as a surprise. The kitchen is headed by Amardeep Singh Anand who won the coveted Asian Chef of the Year title in 2012 as well as the award for innovation in food at the same event and also made it to the quarter finals of Masterchef the Professionals. Yes, there really is some talent in that kitchen!


We were welcomed to our table with a little pre-starter of crisply fried potato cakes and poppadums with a really interesting selection of chutneys. Amongst the usual and always delicious mango chutney, minted yoghurt and onion salad was a sweetly sour tamarind sauce, a silverskin onion chutney with a lovely vinegary bite and my personal favourite of a pineapple chutney which had a very welcome and unusual addition of fennel seeds that added not only a lovely anise flavour but a very enjoyable light crunch. 

Then came the array of starters...


Now there were some serious game changers in here, namely the most tender, creamy, perfectly cooked and marinated Paneer Shaslik that you could ever dream of and the Salmon Dillwala - chunks of moist, rich, succulent salmon in a luscious and delicately spiced yoghurt and dill marinade. Both of these dishes had the absolute perfect amount of char from the grill but remained perfectly tender and delectible. Genuine stars and some of the best starters I have ever eaten, in an Indian restaurant or any other.

Another seafood starter star was the Chettinaad Jheenga - lovely big tiger prawns charred to perfection and with a nice kick of heat that was tempered by a really interesting almost dry coconut and coriander chutney that added a balancing sweetness and lovely textural juxtaposition to the tender prawns.

Finally we tried one of the signature dishes of the house, the Punjabi Masaledaar Champein. These beautiful lamb chops were a meat lovers dream! So so succulent and spiced to perfection in a way that still let the quality and flavour of the lamb shine through.


As we sat still getting over the majesty of those starters our table was gradually filled to groaning level with incredible looking main dishes and accompaniments. I'll go in picture order to make this a little easier!

First to grace my tastebuds was the delightful King Prawn Moilee. Now I have a real deep seated love for anything that involves ginger and coconut milk and so this was righ up my alley. The very flavourful king prawns were smothered in this lovely coconutty sauce that was spiked with ginger, a little bay, mild chilli and mustard seed and a good sprinkling of chopped coriander. Wonderfully complex yet balanced. I could easily wolf down a great big bowl of these babies, but then some might consider that rude.

Next up was a Beef Jalfrezi with a difference, featuring strips of rib eye steak and vegetables coated in a lovely medium hot sauze and topped with potato strings which added fabulous crunch. I really loved this one, it was the perfect heat level for me and it was even more of a pleasure to eat as the ingredients were all cut pretty uniformly in size and shape - a cheffy trick that is easy but always pays off in my opinion.

Our next dish was a Goan inspired chicken treat called Frangho Vinha de Alhos which featured a perfectly fried breast of chicken atop a mound of crisply roasted baby potatoes and finished with a vindaloo style tomato sauce. I have to admit I was a bit scared of this as my youthful love of Red Dwarf had led me to believe this stuff would blast my socks off with chilli, but another wonderful thing about Lilu is that many of the dishes are served with the sauce on the side so you can give it a test before smothering your plate. Don't get me wrong, it was hot but not to the point of being unenjoyable and stopping you from tasting the rest of your meal. The potatoes starchiness also helped to temper the heat again showing the chef's talent for balancing flavours to create the perfect dish.

Now for the one that blew me away and another signature dish of the house, the King Richard III Hiran Ki Kadhi. Venison from Leicestershire's very own Bradgate Park was grilled to absolute tender perfection and balanced atop slow cooked potatoes and onions in a tomato sauce, served with a jug of creamy but not overpowering Punjabi style yoghurt sauce. This one was truly magical. Everything worked together, everything was cooked impeccably and it just worked. A true example of the inginuity and creativity that you will experience at Lilu - true Indian fine dining.

On the side we were treated to a real symphony of carbs! Perfect pilau rice, majestic Dal Makhni that was too creamy and delightful for words and three of the very best naan I have ever tried including two newcomers to my palette - a multiseed naan studded and a truly incredible idea, the Red Leicester cheese naan of which I could easily eat three. Or more. Just give me more!


To complete this decadent dinner we were given a chef's selection of desserts. Rich ice cream, divine chocolate and pistachio mousses atop a chocolate cup with a drizzle of house made berry compote and a warm piece of Halwa. For those unfamiliar this is a traditional dessert of aromaticly spiced carrot pudding wrapped in crisp filo - sounds odd, but it just works.

All in all, this was a truly spectacular meal. Many may claim to serve Indian fine dining and fusion but I have never seen it executed so creatively and with such passion. As you can see this is not just a collection of slow cooked richness but a showcase of a master chef's skill and love for his craft.

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*This meal was kindly supplied by the restaurant in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. 
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