When I hear about a promising Indian restaurant in London, my heart flutters thinking about all the great Gujarati food I was brought up with ranging from spicy biryani’s, soft fluffy dhokla, tart okra curry and of course the crunchy yet succulent savoury samosas. For me, there is no greater comfort.
Roti Chai is both a restaurant serving the usual curries but upstairs the dining area is reserved for the street food menu. Traditionally, having a large spread with various different dishes and sharing the joy of eating is what Indian cuisine is all about and leaving with a half-empty stomach is not an option. The excitement of doing so at Roti Chai was almost too much to bear.
On the day of dining the sun was beaming and we took a pleasant stroll through Hyde Park and found ourselves on the back-streets of Marylebone excited for something a little different.
The upstairs dining area is a casual, open restaurant with large wooden tables, an open kitchen and with dishes whizzing by and the smell of Indian food enveloping our senses, the restaurant couldn’t be any more inviting.
First to arrive was the hakka chilli paneer, a nice surprise with the crispy batter and the paneer was thankfully not overcooked but the problem lied with the amount of oil used. With 8 pieces of paneer scattered on top of the fried spring onions and chilli, the rest was left untouched.
When I see dhokla on any menu, I feel at home. It’s a dish I yearn for on a regular basis. Luckily I have some ready for me when I visit my parents because mother dearest knows how much I love the stuff.
That being said, Roti Chai’s version was nothing like it. The texture was on the drier side and dare I say, bland. The tamarind sauce was a nice touch but good dhokla doesn’t need it as the texture and taste speaks for itself. I’m still yet to find decent dhokla in London.
The worst dish of the evening was the Agni ‘Fire wings with an apparent lack of seasoning and flavour once bitten into the chicken. Don’t get me wrong, the hot sauce was good but the dish relied heavily on the after-thought of sauce rather than coating and marinating the meat beforehand.
Now I’ve never had Indian fried chicken before but I was expecting a lot more flavour from the parsi chicken farcha. Lack of spicing wasn’t the only issue as the chicken used was of a low quality, stringy and hard to eat.
It almost felt like any leftover fatty chicken from other dishes were coated in breadcrumbs and served to paying customers.
Chicken curry at most Indian restaurants are disappointingly westernised with a base sauce that is used for most curries and with a timid use of spicing. The pulusu chicken curry served at Roti Chai was a different story and resembled the curries at any Indian family gathering; spicy enough to be tasteful and yet still pungent from the spices without being hasty. The curry sauce was the perfect colour and exactly what is to be expected from homemade curries, with no vibrant tumuric or tandoori used (thankfully). My only complaint was the lack of chicken which was just as pleasant as the sauce, soft succulent with plenty of flavour.
Indian food is always one I’m hesitant to try in London as it’s never as good as the food I was brought-up with. Roti Chai didn’t live up to my expectations and fell short on too many dishes. If you’re wanting a similar experience I suggest you visit Dishoom which I’ve visited six times and I’ve never once left disappointed.
– Roti Chai, Marylebone