For my sins, I found myself trawling up and down Oxford Street one recent Sunday. To clarify I had a friend from overseas in town who was - for reasons best known to herself - hell bent on seeing this crowded, crazy and chaotic shopping street. Oxford Street might have been an ordeal but happily, when hunger pangs struck, I found heaven just around the corner at Roti Chai - a new Indian restaurant on London’s ever increasing culinary block.
Created by Rohit Chugh - an ex Goldman Sachs man turned managing director of The Cinnamon Club - this Indian Street Kitchen, tucked away behind the main drag in Portman Mews, provides a peaceful respite from the consumerist frenzy of Oxford Street.
With its fun, kitschy adverts - akin to the kind you find in railway canteens all over India - it’s an appealing place in which to take a seat around a refectory style table and rest up for an hour or two over a (not so) light bite. In fact the spot and staff are so warm and welcoming, that you’ll be tempted to linger much longer than planned.
Food is fabulous: feast on a selection of street style treats that the subcontinent does so well. Standouts include the bhel puri (puffed rice with chopped onions and a tangy tamarind sauce) and the Hakka Chilli paneer. Full of flavour, the latter is notably good, and something you wouldn’t try at home, but not for the faint hearted: the spicing goes through the roof.
My dining companion had no complaints with her pulusu chicken - aka andhra prasesh chicken curry - and I can vouch for the papri chaat (crunchy wheat crisps, potato, chickpeas, yoghurt and hot and sweet chutney) which were so sensational as to make scraping the plate a necessity. Top marks also for the salt and pepper banana chips, wonderfully fluffy rice and piping hot roti (bread) – all of which work well when washed down with a moreish Lychee Martini. If you’ve got room (be warned: it’s a challenge to leave here hungry) close your Roti Chai experience by opting for their satisfyingly sweet almond and saffron phirini milk pudding or chocolate and cardamom tart - addiction on a plate.
The heavenly cooking is complemented by competitive prices and excellent service – there’s a fine line between attentiveness and intrusion, which the waiters balance well. Don’t forget to factor in a browse around the front desk, where there’s an array of tasty treats available to purchase, on your way out.