The Naanery at the LaLit London
Thanks to a random post I stumbled across on an online travel board mere weeks before I left for London, I discovered the Naanery. And I’m so glad I did because it truly ended up being one of my favorite experiences in England, if not the best culinary one. As is my custom now, no matter where I am traveling to in the world, I always do copious amounts of research to ensure that on the final night of my trip I have a truly wonderful meal. And the Naanery delivered just that. Because what could possibly be more unique or memorable than a wait for it…wait for it…a naan tasting menu.
If you’re reading this and don’t have the faintest idea of what naan is, it’s what the baguette is to France, what the tortilla is to Mexico. It’s the bread that is found at just about every Indian meal. More specifically, it’s a leavened, oven-baked flatbread found in the cuisines mainly of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia. Although I enjoy just about all foods that comprise Indian cuisine, I’m not going to lie when I say that naan and paratha (another type of flatbread) are my two favorite things. So yes, a tasting menu of four different naans? I was game.
The Naanery is located at the LaLit London which I would learn is a high-end Indian hotel chain. The LaLit London is the company’s first presence in the European market. It’s situated in the Tower Bridge neighborhood which for me was funny since earlier that day I had been almost right there during my visit to the HMS Belfast. But being the LaLit, I went back to my hotel to change and “gussy up.” When the taxi let me out, I was taken aback by the beautiful building it’s in. I thought perhaps it had been a private residence from Victorian times but later on would learn after asking it had at one time been a private school which made sense with the extremely high ceilings in the dining room.
Upon entering from the outside, I was greeted by a gentleman dressed in traditional Indian court attire (i.e. fancy dress from a bygone era) with “namaste” which is a Hindi form of greeting. I didn’t realize this but if you do the Naanery experience, you’ll sit at the bar as opposed to a table. This ended up being super cool since it allowed for extended periods of time talking with the chef.
The Naanery experience includes four different naan breads, all of which are paired with an accompanying wine, as well as a traditional tiffin (a type of Indian lunchbox) which features a choice of either butter chicken curry or aubergine curry, as well as soft pilau rice, and a carrot halwa for dessert. But first the breads, all of which came with an accompanying sauce or jam for dipping.
1st-Porcini and Truffle Naan which was paired with a MS Fratelli White
I’m generally not the biggest fan of any type of mushrooms, but honestly, this might have been my favorite of the four naans. But then again I think a type of hot flatbread coated in butter would taste appealing to just about anyone.
2nd-Fig and Cheese Kulucha which was paired with a Pommery Brut Silver
This was the perfect testament that sweet can definitely mix well with salty. Although this course wasn’t the “dessert” naan, it was still sweet but I dug it. But then I would gladly dig anything that featured melted cheese.
3rd-Blue Cheese Naan which was paired with MS Fratelli Red
if I had to choose my least favorite of the four naan courses, this would be it even though it was still quite tasty. I’m just not a live all die all person about blue cheese like some are.
4th-Coconut and Mango Naan which was paired with Muscat de Beaumes Devenise
I wasn’t sure how a dessert style naan would be, but this was sublime. It wasn’t anything overly sweet or rich on a dessert level since you’re still eating bread, but the mango and coconut offered the perfect amount of sweet overtones.
Even though I didn’t think four naans would fill me up, they did, but then there was still the matter of the contents of the tiffin to consume (or at least attempt to). The butter chicken was delicious but that’s always been one of my Indian food perennial favorites (I adore the sauce). I was also happy because I finally got to try carrot halwa, a dessert I had always heard about but never sampled.
I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of unique dining experiences over the last 10 years, but few could possibly top the sheer uniqueness of a naan bar. Everyone at the LaLit dining room that night was so fantastic and kind-especially when the chef takes you behind the bar to show you how naans are baked (totally comical when you see the naan dough balls affixed to the walls on the inside of the tandoori oven).
I know there’s no shortage of amazing places to dine at in London. But few (if any) would top the LaLit’s Naanery experience.
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