*Please note that this was written before I turned vegan*
If this is Indian street food, get me on the first flight to India.
Quite simply, this is some of the best Indian food I’ve tasted. Looking to shake up your dining? You MUST add this venue to your list.
What can you expect? Indian tapas with a totally terrific twist.
If you like Dishoom, you’re in for a treat.
With three venues currently dotted around the outskirts of London, I will be very surprised if Chai Naasto doesn’t expand rapidly and successfully throughout the whole of London over the next few years. It’s got something for everyone: Traditional dishes for those who live for a curry, flavour fusions for those of you who want to get a bit spicy and, most importantly, veggies of London can rejoice because the team at Chai pride themselves on their vegetarian dishes.
Chris and I were seated in the outdoor marquee which was perfect for the time we visited but I can imagine that during peak hours, it may feel slightly too cosy for comfort! The indoor area is a little more spacious and offers more light, but there is something about dining outside in London in any month other than July/August, which leaves you feeling quite smug.
Now, let’s get down to business. I can’t be the only person who loves it when restaurants go the extra mile with their presentation. So, when the Bombay Bhel Puri rocked up on a little cart, with a section for each dip, I was pretty damned happy. Bombay Bhel Puri is a traditional Mumbai street food which, for me, tasted like a fresh, crispy poppadom.
The idea is that you break a hole in the Puri and stuff it full of flavours and textures such as mango chutney, pomegranate & diced onions, tamarind and chickpeas. These are super tasty and a great little way to kick off a meal! I mean, you can’t go to an Indian restaurant without having a crispy snack to start and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise.
It’s a well known fact that Indian dishes carry a strong reputation for packing some serious flavour and Chai Naasto is certainly no exception. Cue the Thepla Tacos, aka the highlight of the meal for me. These little handfuls of deliciousness were an absolute explosion of flavour and I would happily eat them every day, for the rest of my life to be honest. They are made using fenugreek flatbread and then stuffed with chana masala, red onion salad & mint chutney. They’re saucy, spicy and totally messy, but totally worth it.
After the tacos, came my second favourite dish of the evening: The Paneer Mirch. Diced paneer tossed in a garlic chilli sauce with fresh spring onions & peppers. This was the most insane veggie option. It had a sticky BBQ flavour and an almost meaty texture. The paneer itself was more dense than other, silky types I have tried before but it worked perfectly. It had a really satisfying bite to it and this was the one dish I just kept going back to, despite being totally stuffed by the end of the meal.
The fun didn’t stop there – Far from it! Next to arrive was the Chandni Chowk Crispy Kale Chaat or, in more familiar terms, battered kale, roasted sweet potato and pomegranate dressed with yoghurt & tamarind chutney. Now, this was also a delightful dish but it wasn’t my favourite. However, Chris couldn’t get enough and chose this as his dish of the night. It was crunchy, creamy, smooth and flavoursome all in one little package. The pomegranate was a winning addition.
To satisfy our rice cravings, we tucked into the Vegetable Pilau Biryani, served with a traditional burani raita and we paired it with the creamy lentil daal dish which had a black bean kind of taste. Both as delightful and delicious as you would expect them to be.
Now, I can safely say that it’s the first time I’ve been to an Indian restaurant and ordered fondue (see far right of picture). This place is full of little quirks and fun dishes, which I love.
The Sardar’s Pav Bhaji Fondue is a spicy mixed vegetable curry served with Gruyère cheese & brioche (bottom right of photo). This was super tasty. I would describe the curry as similar to a korma. Eating this dish felt like a more exotic version of a classic winter warmer, soup and bread – comforting and satisfying. The inclusion of cheese in the curry was an absolute win. Although, I would argue that cheese improves almost everything and anything, so perhaps I’m slightly biased there.
You may have also noticed a casual pornstar martini creeping into the photo there too. The restaurant has a pretty impressive drinks menu include a nice little array of cocktails. Cute touch.
All in all, I think the Chai Naasto team are onto a winner. The food alone is worth a visit. I left feeling completely mesmerised by the flavours but I do think this restaurant deserves a slightly bigger venue (watch this space). The staff are attentive, the atmosphere is relaxed and I’m obviously not the first person to figure this out because you’ll need to book ahead. A cute little find and certainly worth hopping on the tube and heading out of Central London for.
The Little London Foodie recommends:
– Thepla Tacos
– Paneer Mirch
– Pav Bhaji Fondue