As many of you may know, I am Indian by origin. What few of you might know, is that I have a Masterchef-finalist-wannabe of a mother who excels at everything from Chaats (aka Indian street food) to Biryanis at home, and they are absolutely delicious! On tasting my mum's home cooked delicacies my friends often remark how I can like Indian restaurants in Britain?! My simple explanation is the human need for variety. Plus I have a super foodie of a little sister who lives, breathes and Instagram’s food with passion. So after years of trying various Indian restaurants, here I am putting down some honest thoughts for those constant 'best Indian restaurants in London' googler's, straight from a native Indian foodie.
Most visited Indian restaurant – Roti Chai
Roti (Flat bread) and Chai (Tea) are two most commonly known Indian words in this curry loving nation. And what Roti Chai has done is accumulated cult Indian favourite dishes from various states around the country and re-packaged them as authentically as possible for the Brits.
The restaurant is split into 2 levels; the top floor i.e. Canteen, which serves street food and the bottom floor is the Dining Room, which serves proper sit down meals for those craving luxurious butter naans with curries. The menu is limited but consistent in taste and can be viewed online. The price is pretty standard especially for a restaurant in such close proximity to Selfridges.
What brings us again and again to this little gem is a mixture of the environment and consistency of their food/service. The canteen décor is reminiscent of a cosy upmarket Irani café. Truck signs like ‘Horn Ok Please’, 'Frooti' and 'Kurkure' are on display, bringing back thousands of memories from trips to India.
Service is always on mark with smiley waiters and I have never had to wait or queue for a table. We always get the table adjacent to the street and gaze outside at the street view. The Food – hmm... the best way to describe it is authentic and consistent. This is exactly how food tasted back home at street stalls and roadside cafes. Do not expect out of this world Michelin take on Indian food, because that is not what this restaurant is about.
I have tried the downstairs dining room once! It is dimly lit, cosy and beautifully decorated. I remember trying the butter chicken which was creamy with sweet undertones and the butter naans were equally soft and scrumptious. The malai methi paneer was equally creamy and the paneer had the right tenderness. The overall dish had a subtle 'methi' undertone which tied it up nicely. The curries come in big portions suitable to feed 2-3 people. We personally prefer the upstairs street food canteen because of the smaller size of the dishes. We usually end up ordering most of the menu and share amongst us.
For the street food canteen - Come here empty stomach and order an array of affordable chaats – Bhel Puri, Pani-puri and Papri chaat (my fave!) and of course don’t forget the Masala Chai which comes in authentic small tea glasses, just like the tea stalls! After building the appetite on Chaats, order the Road & Rail Curries (never understood the Road & Rail association!? We never carried curries in trains in India). All the curries are subtle and tasteful and come with either soft home-style roti’s or rice. There’s lamb, chicken, fish, idli and even a vegetarian curry. Menus are often switched up so you may come across new choices.
End the meal with a classic kulfi (mango of course). If this little gem doesn’t remind you of India, then I don’t know what will! Plus it’s Halal for all you Halal foodies out there.
Overall, I rate this Indian regular 7 stars out of 10. Good vibes, mouth-watering and consistent.