Diwana Bhel Poori in Drummond Street opened in 1971, a short walk from Euston Station. It is one of a little cluster of Indian vegetarian restaurants on the same street but has always been my favourite. It may be the oldest South Indian restaurant in the country. As well as other restaurants such as Ravi Shankar, Chutneys and Masala King in the same street there are interesting shops such as Indian sweet shop Ambala, which has been operating since 1965.
The dining room at Diwana Bhel Poori is simple, with bare wooden tables, chairs and some quite cramped booths. There is no alcohol licence but you can bring your own at no charge and there is a small supermarket next door that stocks cold beer and basic wine. Over the decades I have tried most of the menu, and without a doubt, the snacks are the best way to go rather than the curries, though the dosas are quite good and the thali at £15.10 is substantial and pleasant. There was also a lunchtime buffet at £12.95.
I usually order the bhel poori and the aloo papri chaat, as well as the samosas. The bhel poori (£5.25) is very well judged in terms of sweetness, sourness and spice levels, and it is a real joy to eat. There is just enough tamarind chutney for sweetness, a nice mix of textures with the crisp sev, puffed rice, garlic relish, onion, potatoes and a well-controlled green chilli chutney (14/20). The aloo papri chaat (£5.25) is a cooling accompaniment, with plenty of yoghurt containing tender chickpeas and pieces of potatoes with flat pooris giving an extra texture. Again, there is a carefully controlled blend of sweet and sour and spice (13/20). Samosas use thin filo pastry so they have a lot of filling relative to the crisp casing. £5.50 buys you three samosas along with chutney and salad (13/20). Objectively not quite as good but still enjoyable are deep-fried pieces of bhajia (£5.50), mixed vegetables that are dipped in gram flour and deep-fried, served with a lightly spiced tomato chutney (12/20).
This amount of food is about as much as you need for two quite hungry people, though there are some desserts on offer, such as kulfi and rasmalai and shrikand, all at £4.90. With some lassi to drink our bill, including an extra takeaway order, came to £19 per head. If I remove the takeaway, it was £12.50 per person, plus 10% service, which was basic but friendly. Even if you ordered dessert your typical cost per person would be around £17 including service, assuming that you just drank water and perhaps brought your own beer. This seems to me absurdly cheap given the quality of the food. I have had far worse Indian food than this in far pricier restaurants, and eating here always fills me with joy. The great value formula is why Diwana continues to draw in diners 52 years after opening. Long may it continue.