KoolCha, a riff on the name of the Punjabi bread “kulcha”, is in the Boxpark Wembley development, and opened in February 2019. Not far from the football stadium, and in a distinctly desolate setting that has the feel of an industrial park, Boxpark is essentially a large food court. Along both main walls are a couple of dozen restaurant vendors, and in the centre is a set of communal dining tables. The idea is that customers pick and choose the food they fancy and then eat it in the barn-like communal setting. Koolcha, established by Rohit Ghai of Kutir, takes a somewhat different approach from most of the other vendors. Rather than just renting a single building unit on the site and housing a kitchen, Koolcha is spread over three units in the corner near the north entrance to Boxpark, and has its own dedicated dining room, seating up to 60 people. It feels much more like a regular restaurant than a street vendor supplying the communal seating.
The menu is fairly conventional, with a range of starters as well as a series of biryanis and some side dishes. There are several set meals on offer, including some Indian “sandwiches” to keep in the casual spirit. Rohit Ghai is currently overseeing the kitchen, with two chefs who he has worked with before carrying out the day to day cooking. Prices are modest, with starter around £5-£8 and the biryanis were £14. There was a short drinks menu, with Cobra beer and basic unnamed white and red wine by the glass, as well as soft drinks.
Samosa chaat combined a traditional samosa, a pastry with vegetable filling, with chaat, the Indian street food that has many variants but usually has some diced potato, a crisp element such as puffed rice or fried Indian bread, chickpeas, yoghurt and chutney. This worked well, the samosa having nice pastry and the chaat featuring the usual elements plus pomegranate seeds and spices. The chutney and yoghurt in the chaat complemented the pastry, meaning that the dish avoided being too dry, which can sometimes be an issue with samosas (13/20). “Ghati masala prawns”, named after a range of hills in the state of Maharashtra (which includes Mumbai), comprised prawns fried in cornflour and rice flour with tomato chutney and garlic plus spices. These had quite a spicy kick and were evenly cooked, though the prawns themselves had little flavour, so you mostly tasted the crispy coating of the prawns and the spices (12/20).
Chicken tikka pulao featured fragrant, carefully cooked rice and tender chicken. A paneer meal featured pickles and rice as well as paneer masala, the texture of the paneer quite good and the sauce excellent (13/20). A side dish of dhal makhani was genuinely good, made overnight and dark, rich and slightly smoky in flavour (14/20). Kulcha is a leavened flatbread popular in Punjab, here cooked on a “tawa” or flat cast iron pan. This had nice texture (13/20).
The small kitchen means that it is impractical to make desserts on site, so these were bought in. The pistachio rasmalai was quite good, the pistachio and chocolate kulfi being rather flavourless. Service was very good, with a manager who had previously served me at an unconnected restaurant, the London food world being a small one sometimes. KoolCha was busy tonight, with the diners being almost entirely Asian. The bill came to £33 a head including beer and lassi to drink. KoolCha offers good value food that is of a higher standard than the casual setting would suggest. The rather desolate location of Boxpark means it is not somewhere you are likely to stumble into by accident, but if you are in the Wembley area then it is worth a look.