There’s an oasis in Central London where time stands still, that is full of vivid colours and wonderful aromas, a place where you can just forget about the outside world, your troubles, politics, and just release.
The oasis is The LaLit London – a very unique and luxurious Hotel.
Situated right between Tower Bridge and City Hall, The Lalit also has an amazing restaurant – Baluchi – a Pan Asian food lovers delight which serves a contemporary take on Indian Dishes – food that is inspirational, divine, delicious and colourful. But more on this later.
The LaLit is one of the leading privately-owned domestic hotel brands in India, with 12 luxury hotels, palaces and resorts. The hotels are in Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur, New Delhi, Eastern Kolkata and Chandigarh; palaces in Udaipur and Srinigar; and the resorts in Goa (Golf & Spa Resort), Kerala (Resort & Spa Bekal), Khajuraho (Mangar and Temple View). It’s sole London location is the LaLit Group’s first venture outside India, and it’s one amazing place.
Opening in 2017 – The LaLit London was formerly the St. Olave’s Grammar School (from 1855-1967), a stately red brick building that, from the outside, in its neo-Baroque style, still has this appearance. (Lambeth College occupied the premises from 1968 until 2003). And inside, the rooms have not been tampered with architecturally so the former gym, offices and classrooms are still intact. And in keeping with the Grammar School theme, the rooms are named as such including the Headmasters room which is an annexed seating room next to the bar – which is called the Teacher’s Room (presumably where the teachers hung out back in the day), to the hotel rooms which are called ‘Classrooms’, and The Naanery (Baluchi) where the menu is entirely dedicated to naan bread, which was the Assembly Room back in the day. The school theme is throughout the hotel in keeping with its history.
And the rooms come in all shapes and sizes, with high ceilings. Suites large and small, from the Lalit Legacy Experience with three rooms, to The LaLit and Lambeth Suites, to the Thames River View Suite (with of course is a panoramic view of the river), and to the Tower Suite, which is part of the original tower of the building. Smaller rooms, called Classrooms, will more than match your budget.
All rooms are cosy, intimate and offer an elegant stay. And the rooms come with the usual hotel amenities but also a high tech toilet, heated bathroom floor, safe, Kronokare bath products including lotions, shampoo, conditioner and bath gel that have an amber fragrance that will take you to the forgotten ancient times of Rajasthan while the sweet and spicy tones of vanilla and spices will pamper your senses. Rooms also include Flat Screen televisions (I had a hard time getting mine to work – the remote control was temperamental), a collection of travel books, and in the bathroom more amenities including shoe polisher, comb, dental kit, shave kit, vanity and sewing kits, robes and slippers, and a scale. The beds are super comfortable, and the pillows even more so. It’s these extra little touches that make a stay here very enjoyable and memorable. But it’s the ambience, and atmosphere, the smells, and the colours that will make your stay an amazing one.
The LaLit is a very relaxing place, from the earth tone colours of the interiors of the hotel to the star pendant light fixtures throughout that give the place an Indian glow. The hotel is smoke-free and includes a 24-hour fitness centre and spa in the basement for all your pampering needs. A 24-hour desk is also available, and the views of Tower Bridge, City Hall and the amazing environs of this very unique part of London is right at your doorstep.
And then there is Baluchi restaurant – a destination all on its own. Their menu takes inspiration from the major food regions of India to carefully craft an elegant cuisine, which is made from the finest organic ingredients. And the room, the Naanery, is one of the most stunning dining rooms in London. A blue hue coloured ceiling gives the room a soothing glow, with wood-panelled walls for that very extra special and unique touch. And the food is divine. It was my second visit to this restaurant and the food was just as good this time as it was last time. The menu, continuing with the school theme, include a Beginning Term 1 (starters), Mid Term (mains), and Term Break-School Holidays (dessert) sections.
I can’t recommend enough, and am still thinking about it days later, the Kaffir Lime Chicken (starter) – it was perhaps the best taste of chicken I have ever had. Three pieces of tandoor roasted free-range chicken were perfectly cooked – nice and brown on the outside and perfectly white on the inside – and delicately placed cashew crumble along the side – made this a dish to die for, and it’s only £9.50. Also very good, and a good deal at £21.50 – was my Lamb Shank Gushtaba. Cooked with fennel, cashews and saffron, the shank was not spicy at all and was a very large portion, coupled with masala mash to make the dish a meal in itself, with the lamb amazingly tender and chunky. My dining companion had the Bharwan Zucchini (£9) as a starter – one small dumpling-like courgette with masala soya sauce, curried coconut curd and pickled garlic. It was good but not great value for the money – unlike the chicken. His main was the Aubergine Steak – three large aubergines with coconut sukka and spiced tofu mince placed on top, and cooked with Malabar sauce. It’s a nice vegan dish, with a bit of a kick – but a bit pricey at £16.50. The mango and coconut Naan was to die for – two large pieces at only £4.00 with the flavours just the right combination. And on to the desserts, the Saffron Infused Tandoori Pineapple was nothing special, with slices of tandoori cooked pineapple on the bottom of a chunk of cardamom ice cream (which was good) – at £7.50. The Raspberry and Chocolate Tart – expensive at £12.00 – was a large chunk of chocolate with pistachio sprinkles with sorbet – and was heavy. Other dessert choices that might tickle your fancy include Chocolate Mousse or the Ginger and Mint Cake.
We had a couple of drinks – mine was the Kheera Khazana – at £10 a glass it was fresh cucumber, lemonade, elderflower syrup, and fresh lime and was sweet and refreshing while my friend had a martini which was served to him accidentally incorrectly – but he drank it all. The staff at the restaurant, and including the hotel, are all nice and professional and go out of their way to make your dining experience, and stay, perfect. This included the next day at breakfast where they brought me anything I wanted, and also pointed me in the direction of the buffet. The English breakfast was very very good, and so were the pancakes (yes, I ate all of this), and the buffet had just the right amount of food from cold cuts to fruit to plenty of juices and pastries. There is also an Indian Breakfast if this tickles your fancy – including Indian style scrambled eggs, a Bombay Masala Omelette and Masala Dosa (a type of pancake made from fermented batter with potato filling) to Medu Wada – a deep-fried Latin dumpling served with sambar and coconut chutney. And if you live locally you get %15 off – however, leave the dog at home. Also, the restaurant and bar can also be hired for weddings and ceremonies.
The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group promotes inclusivity and welcomes all with open arms. The Group launched the Elphie books with the Drag Queen Story Hour – to share Elphie’s journey through understanding and embracing self to empowering others. And in their hotel magazine, The LaLit Insight, LGBT issues and articles are included, and in London, they regularly hold gay-friendly events including their NYE party which was hosted by a slew of drag acts. A great time was had by all. The Group not only advocates inclusive policies, but also adapts them as well for their 100 or so LGBT+ employees.
They also have India’s first Inclusive Loyalty program for same-sex and different-sex couples. And for Valentine’s Day The LaLit London offers a romantic five-star dinner accompanied by the sophisticated ambience of the Matthew van Kan Jazz Trio, where Chef Jomon has created a special Valentine 5 course meal. Expect to be treated with the perfect amalgamation between European and Indian cuisine. Guests will enjoy stylish dishes to share with their partners as well as individual plates for the perfect harmony. Tickets are £80 each.
The LaLit and Baluchi experience are perfect for the traveller and foodie. They both capture the essence of sophistication – they are an oasis, and what an oasis they are.
To find out more about LaLit, click here
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.