Indian Restaurants in London: The Capital’s Best ChaatsBy Uma Nayer
Let’s chit chaat! Chaat was originally an Indian and Pakistani roadside fast food dish, like an exotic version of a Happy Meal. So adored by Indians and Pakistanis that it’s eaten at every possible occasion from shopping to weddings. The varieties are endless: samosa chaat, fruit chaat, papadi chaat and bhel. The key ingredients that define a chaat are the sweet yet sour tamarind ‘imblee’ chutney and chaat masala spices. Every mouthful is sensational, due to its mix of textures and amazing aromas. Today, chaat is available all over London. Here are the best places to enjoy a chat and a chaat in the city:
Why: Gunpowder London reminds me of the 80’s old school dhabas (roadside restaurants) my family and I would head to when we craved a street food feast. Dimly lit, intimate and authentic. Where Gunpowder London differs from the old school dhabas, is the incredible quality of their ingredients. Organic, locally sourced with a menu that’s nutritionally balanced. There are no carby sides or heavily ghee-ed up sauces in sight. The Gunpowder Aloo Chaat (and warm welcome) was well worth the trek to East London. Roasted gunpowder spiced potatoes with nutty black chickpeas (much more nutritious than regular chickpeas dontcha know?), sweet yoghurt, all drizzled with the most incredible home style imblee /tamarind chutney. The crunch factor is a healthy (albeit fried) sprinkling of lotus root. Don’t stop at the chaat, go and eat everything on the menu, especially Maa’s Kashmiri lamb chops. They are the best tandoori chops I’ve had in London since… the 80’s. Seriously. Wow.
Where: 11 White’s Row, London, E1 7NF
What: Aloo Papri Chaat (£4.50)
Why: Madhu’s is a stalwart of the Asian food scene. Their chaat is straight outta Punjab – a traditional style chaat perfect to eat in hot weather. Madhu’s chaat consists of room temperature boiled potatoes, layered with white chickpeas, crunchy wafers of Papri (fried dough) and topped off with a winning duo of cool yoghurt and tangy tamarind chuntey. This chaat is a taste of home and is exactly like the chaat my lovely Mum (also called Madhu) serves up at our house. Whilst at Madhu’s (the restaurant, not my mum’s house), be sure to get stuck into the Mogo Jeera, an East African Asian delicacy, best described as cassava chunky chips. Once you’ve tried a Mogo butty you will never eat regular chips again.
Where: 39 South Rd, Southall, Middlesex UB1 1SW
What: Papadi Chaat (£8.50)
Why: I’ve searched all over London for the perfect fruit chaat – fruits spiced with chaat masala and lemon juice. I couldn’t find it anywhere! However, Michelin star restaurant Tamarind’s Papdi chaat, provided me with that sweet and sour taste sensation I was looking for. Head chef Peter Joseph’s recipe includes all the traditional Punjabi papdi chaat ingredients, plus the most delicious twist – the addition of blueberries. Fruit chaat meets Papdi chaat. Mind blown.
Where: 20 Queen St, London W1J 5PR
What: Bhel (£4.10)
Why: Most chaat dishes contain yoghurt but there is a chaat that vegans can get involved with, and it’s just as moreish as papdi chaat. Gugalee’s street food favourite, Bhel, hails from Mumbai. It’s a light and spicy dish, packed full of puffed rice along with delicately chopped vegetables, caressed in Gugalee’s lovingly prepared tamarind chutney. Carry on the street food vibes with Gugalee’s Pani Puri, round crunchy wheat shells filled with fiery mint water (pani) and tamarind chutney. They are so addictive, once you’ve popped one of these spicy bad boys, you won’t be able to stop.
Where: Locations here
What: Haryali Spiced Potato and Date Samosa Chaat (£4.50)
Why: Talking to the founder and executive chef of Darbaar, Abdul Yaseen, it’s clear that he takes chaat seriously. According to Chef Abdul, the key to a good chaat is all in the preparation. His stunning new restaurant Darbaar, has the perfect atmosphere for a special occasion and the Hariyali Date and Samosa chaat is guaranteed to woo. The sweetness of the dates and the zesty green coriander chutney, makes this a stand out dish. Also, try the ingeniously named Nanza, naans covered with Indian toppings cooked in a wood fired oven. Watch out pizza, you’ve got some serious competition.
Where: 1 Snowden St, Broadgate West, London EC2A 2DQ