Lilu is an innovative Indian restaurant in the heart of Leicester. The pioneering fusion menu showcases ingredients as unusual as ostrich, guinea fowl and barramundi. It’s an approach that gets right to the heart of what makes Indian cuisine so admired, with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients, imaginative techniques and well-crafted dishes. 

“Our restaurant is as much about the experience as it is about the food,” says Pratik Masters, founder and director of Lilu. “We attempt to give our diners a journey through India with our pan-Indian cuisine. Our table d’hote menu is synonymous with our desire to do things very differently to other Indian restaurants. Our food is all about passion with professional expertise and a focus on excellence.”

Pratik grew up in Leicester, in a household where freshly-cooked chapatis straight off the tawa were a daily treat. He quickly developed an appreciation for freshly-prepared traditional Indian food such as bhinda, kadhi and daal rotlis.

This traditional fare was soon augmented by the wider culinary experiences Leicester has to offer. The adaptation of Indian cuisine to appeal to the British palate provided a first taste of ‘fusion’ gastronomy, and led to a longing to educate people about authentic Indian food in all its rich, vibrant, flavoursome glory.

“Lilu was inspired by a desire to show that Indian food is not just a curry,” Pratik explains. “Five years ago, my mother passed away and that led to a re-evaluation of my life and a desire to open a restaurant as we’d said we’d do that when she retired. Our food and service ethos is a homage to Mum as she always wanted to please the guests that visited us.”

Founded in 2015, the small but perfectly formed restaurant on Highcross Street would have made Mum proud from the outset. Friendly and welcoming staff create an informal atmosphere while demonstrating knowledge and passion for the food they serve. Food that’s inspired by gastronomic experiences as diverse as street food, impromptu pop-up kitchens and Michelin star restaurants.

The experience of savouring familiar Indian flavours in a fine-dining context, with all its theatrical presentation and subtle combinations of taste and texture, is an eye-opening one.

“Indian food has always had a close relationship with a night out,” says Pratik, “however this is normally related to a pint and curry! We’re trying to erase that myth by giving a traditional Indian meal some elegant flair by also using some more obscure ingredients such as soft-shell crab and locally shot partridge.”

A meal at Lilu is an exploration of the tastes and textures of India. It’s a journey packed with intense blends of spices, unexpected flavour combinations and recipes that have been handed down through generations. You leave with an understanding that Indian food is more than one single cuisine. It’s a broad and diverse medley of cultural influences, flavours and techniques, richly nuanced and full of complexity and potential.

You’ll never think of Indian food in the same way again.

Find Lilu at 76 Highcross Street. 

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Ruth is a communications professional and freelance writer. Her writing reflects her adventures as a foodie, travel addict and arts festival aficionado. She’s traversed Leicestershire and Rutland reviewing restaurants for Food & Drink Guides and writes uber-local blog Clarendon Spark.

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