Victorian botany and distilling inspire new restaurant and bar


flora indica graphic

A new lounge bar specialising in cocktails, gin and whisky is to open in London as part of a restaurant with an “unusual and eccentric take” on Indian dining.

The 30-seater bar will be on the ground floor of Flora Indica which is due to open on the former site of modern Indian restaurant Chingari in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, in October.

The drinks selection will include craft beers brewed specially for the bar by Portobello Brewery in west London as well as an extensive range of whiskies and a bar dedicated to small-batch gin and punch. It will offer a creative “tiffin box” menu of snacks and sharing dishes alongside the drinks.

The dining room with 70 covers will be on the lower ground floor, offering à la carte and tasting menus. There will also be two intimate booths under the vaults for private dining.

The restaurant, operated by A4 Trading and led by head chef Suresh Pillai, takes its name from the botanical term for books on Indian plants. It is inspired by the sprawling orchards and gardens of India and the period that brought us English mustard, gin and tonic, and piccalilli.

The food and drink menus will incorporate botanical flavours throughout, inspired by the thousands of plants that were labelled and studied in India and Great Britain during Georgian and Victorian times.

Suresh, who has worked at top Indian restaurants such as Veeraswamy and Gymkhana in London, has put together a menu of light and aromatic dishes. They include Isle of Mull hand-dived scallops pan-seared and poached in juniper-coconut milk, Tamworth pork vindaloo with purple garlic and palm vinegar, and Cornish mussels with ginger and tamarind broth and a coriander naan.

The interior is being created by Henry Chebaane of Blue Sky Hospitality, with an eclectic mix of an elegant Kensington home and elements from 19th-century brewing and distilling. Surfaces of warm English oak, leathers and Harris tweed upholstery will be offset by textured marbled surfaces and silver and pewter accents.

Features will include bespoke furniture, ceilings covered with dozens of Victorian plaster roses, botanical light wall sconces and half a mile of metal piping running from the bar and kitchen to and from a Steampunk-style botanical distilling installation.

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