There’s a new rooftop bar in town. A secret wee nugget of a place in Fitzrovia that even has its own unmarked front door. Set above Lokhandwala Indian tapas bar on Charlotte Street, Vijay’s Bar & Lounge has a moody, speakeasy feel.
It’s named after Vijay Kapur, the bounder who broke Lady Charlotte Fitzrovia’s heart, and the rich decor reflects the tastes of this legendary Eastern outlaw. His illicit drinking hole back in the day is where he ran his money laundering empire and Vijay’s has kept that slightly cloak and dagger vibe – even down to the fact you have to ask downstairs to be taken up.
The terrace is cosy and sheltered and for those with a strong stomach, there’s a glass floor that looks down to the restaurant below. After a cocktail or two, it’s easier to brave.
We sampled the Star of India – a refreshing gin-based long drink with orange and mango marmalade, crème de cassis and a dash of tonic to keep it summery. The Like A Bird kept with the seasonal gin theme, a healthy kick of Hendricks with orange and peach and just a dash of tart white wine. Our obliging cocktail maker also made a Vesper Martini on request: yet more gin, vodka and Kina Lillet. It’s a potent and macho drink and we recommend having some snacks on hand for soakage if it’s your chosen tipple of the evening.
Charlotte Street is one the top cocktail spots in London but Vijay’s Lounge still feels like a secret and is, so far, free from queues and crowds and the “one in, one out” nonsense that’s the curse of the London rooftop bar scene.
Then it was back downstairs for supper. Indian tapas is not a brand new concept but Lokhandwala does it with a bit of extra pizazz. Style wise, the space is luxurious and hushed with lots of greenery – like a grand colonial dining room.
We visited on a quiet night so had the full attention of the manager and to start he recommended fried quail eggs wrapped in minced lamb, Seekh Gilafi (minced rabbit cooked in Tandoor), stuffed Portobello mushrooms with feta cheese and the Amritsali fried cod with fries. These were ideal for sharing, with the mushrooms being our favourite. Meaty and moist and perfectly complimented by the tangy feta. The quail eggs were also a favourite – like an Indian-inspired Scotch egg!
We decided to share again for the main course. Lobster Alleppey Curry was a daring choice. The richness of both the shellfish and mango and coconut could have been overpowering but was just right – though we recommend splitting it between a few so there’s room for other treats. The Chicken Chettinad is cooked in 18 different spices – tender with a little kick – and the slow cooked lamb in tomato and ginger was juicy with a bit more of an authentic, earthy fire.
To fully appreciate the flavours we stuck to plain rice and a Tandooor roti so we could properly taste the combination of spices.
This was all accompanied by a 2015 Malbec: just fruity enough to compliment the heat. Instead of pudding we went for a slow, after dinner drink. A balloon of honey-coloured Remy Martin cognac – superb for cleansing your palate.
Prices are standard for an up-market central London eatery. Expect to spend about £120 for two including wine and a pre-dinner cocktail. The curry is of an exceptionally high standard and the staff know their stuff. There’s plenty of dishes on offer that are a far cry from your typical Brick Lane curry joint, like rabbit, lobster, cottage cheese and okra. But if you’re a play-it-safe curry fan the standard Biryani and garlic Naan are available too.
The real treat is Vijay’s though. Harking back to the days of the Mumbai mobster scene it’s easy to imagine the gin-soaked debauchery that took place here. And now you can create a bit of your own – but remember, just don’t tell Lady Charlotte.
Vijay’s Bar & Lounge
93 Charlotte Street